Fracking Awareness Grows

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People here and across the country are waking up in increasing numbers to the environmental dangers of fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a drilling process used by the oil and gas industry. In the process, water laced with chemicals and other material is injected by high pressure into rock formations, which create crevices or veins that release oil and gas. Later the wastewater from the process is again injected into the ground by high pressure into what are called disposal or injection wells.

For years, environmental groups have argued that fracking leads to water contamination. Josh Fox’s documentary films Gasland and Gasland Part 2 have documented this in an extremely methodical fashion. Here in Oklahoma and elsewhere, the main immediate problem with the fracking process is that the disposal wells are causing a dramatic surge in earthquakes, according to scientists.

It’s important to achieve fossil-fuel independence from other countries as we continue to develop new renewable energy sources, but fracking poses serious and long-lasting threats to our environment, our health and our property, including our homes. Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry is important to our state in terms of the economy, but it’s become readily apparent that the negative impact of fracking outweighs the benefits in terms of employment and taxation. In fact, the oil and gas industry here was recently given an a huge tax break after multi-millionaire energy executives, including the billionaire Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, successfully lobbied the legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin.

Let’s be clear. Major leaders in the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma and elsewhere don’t want their companies to pay their fair share of taxes and they apparently don’t care if their companies’ drilling processes damage property because of earthquakes or pollute the environment or contaminate the water supply. There are some exceptions, but not enough to make a difference. The free market will not take care of this problem by itself.

Anyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been writing about the real dangers of fracking for years, and I will continue to do so. It’s an extremely important issue that’s now getting more attention here because of the dramatic surge in earthquakes as Oklahoma experiences another energy boom because of the controversial drilling process.

The corporate media here—the state’s two metropolitan newspapers, The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World and the television stations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa—are completely unreliable on this issue undoubtedly because they rely on advertising dollars from the local energy industry and support conservative ideology and initiatives without allowing consistent dissenting viewpoints. The Republican-dominated government here, in general, wants even more deregulation of corporations, not less. It’s a perfect storm that threatens our property, our health and, really, even our lives.

But there is hope. A relatively recent town hall in Edmond about the state’s earthquake emergency and its connection to fracking drew hundreds of people. A group in Denton, TX is now trying to outright ban fracking within the city limits. Lawsuits have been filed against energy-related companies here and across the country because of the residual impact of fracking. I recently wrote about that here. Meanwhile, more and more information about the dangers of fracking is coming to light from scientists and environmental groups.

Here are three new developments—all with local implications—to consider just within the last few days:

(1) A town hall meeting on fracking in which at least one speaker discussed a moratorium on fracking was held in Norman Monday. It was held in the Norman Public Library, according to a news report, and the crowd exceeded the capacity of its venue. This meeting, just like the one in Edmond, shows that people are highly concerned about the impact of fracking on their lives.

(2) A Reuters article published last Saturday pointed out that Oklahoma has experienced 292 earthquakes of a 3.0-magnitude or higher so far this year. That’s an incredible, dramatic number of earthquakes for Oklahoma. The governor and/or federal government should declare it an immediate emergency. Scientists, as we have known for a long time now, believe the earthquakes are triggered by fracking disposal wells. The article pointed out some new reporting regulations for operators of fracking disposal wells are soon to take effect, but these new regulations don’t go far enough.

(3) The Environmental Integrity Project released a report on Wednesday claiming that some drilling companies across the country continue to use diesel fuel in the fracking process, which is illegal. Oklahoma was one of the states in which this occurred, according to a news report. There is some dispute over the legal issues and the definition of diesel fuel by the oil and gas industry, but the report definitely highlights the toxicity of fracking and its potential to contaminate water and damage the environment.

The long-term answer to fracking is to develop more renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. We also need to develop more public transportation systems, such as high-speed railroad trains, and reduce our reliance on the automobile. Obviously, this can’t be done overnight. Fossil fuels will remain a significant part of our energy supply for years to come, but stricter drilling regulations, including bans and moratoriums on fracking, are necessary for the common good.

Does the dirty business of fracking symbolize the last gasps of the Oil Age, which will be a blip in history in centuries to come? Will it do so much damage to our environment in the meantime that future generations will look back on us in horror that we allowed it to happen?