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Lawmakers Probe Impacts of Gas Drilling Boom

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
12 April 2011, 4:23 PM
Fracking-fueled gas rush is cause for concern
Waste pond at fracking site. Photo courtesy

In a hearing, today, lawmakers on Capitol Hill probed the health and environmental impacts of a gas drilling boom fueled by the controversial gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Using this technique, companies blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force natural gas from underground deposits.

In recent years, oil and gas companies have begun clamoring for access to regions of the country that are unprepared for this scale of industrial gas drilling. Along with this fracking-fueled gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions.
Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, so oil and gas companies are only required to comply with a patchwork of state regulations. And thanks to a loophole in the Clean Air Act for oil and gas companies, drilling areas in Wyoming now have worse air quality than Los Angeles.

Members of both chambers of Congress have introduced pieces of legislation that would close these industry loopholes – called the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act and the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects (BREATHE) Act. (Are your members of Congress a co-sponsor of these important pieces of legislation? If not, they should be. Ask them here.)
The hearing comes one day after Cornell University researches announced a study finding that the climate change impacts of gas produced from fracking are as bad or worse than coal. That’s bad news for an industry that’s billed itself as a clean alternative to coal. As a blogger at the typically sympathetic-to-industry outlet Reuters argues: the gas industry can’t survive without some shred of green cred.
A major point raised in the hearing were the implications of inadequate wastewater treatment oversight -- particularly in Pennsylvania, where gas drillers are generating contaminated water faster than the state’s treatment plants can handle it, and companies are dumping insufficiently treated fracking wastewater directly into rivers and streams.
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg made the argument for federal standards to protect drinking water, saying “Water doesn't recognize state boundaries,” and that people (like say in New Jersey) shouldn’t be punished for lax fracking regulations in neighboring states (ahem,  Pennsylvania).
So true. As this fracking protester in New York pointed out yesterday on her sign. There is no alternative to water.

Maybe I don't live (in California) near fracking, but whether or not, I'm with you with this and other destructive forces that are trying to make the earth a dry, dead cinder. Love your spirit. Keep it up! KES

EVERYONE who lives near a existing or proposed gas field needs to watch Gas Land

Industrial hemp and agriculture wastes should be looked into to satisfy our energy needs. Having been active in both the drug legalization and environmental movements for a number of years I found the the laws that outlawed hemp are the worst laws ever passed. It was one of the main tools of the extractive industries to monopolize our energy, food, and health care industries. It was also a tool to keep certain citizens in their place in society, a place of lack of basic necessities in a permanent underclass. All antidrug laws are based on racism. It is also a tool for re-enforced inequality. Hemp has been made illegal secretly for Hearst's extractive trees for paper industry. DuPont had another influence in the matter, chemical industry (Petro chemical) oil, another extractive industry. I have traveled through towns that had oil refineries. they smell and make chemically sensative sick! I myself grew up in a steel town--there again--extractive industries--Iron-Coal--Mining. Medicines that give relief are outlawed or by prescription only. That right there shuts lots of honest law abiding citizens out of health care due to lack of insurance. Petrochemical plants are concentrated in poor and racial minority neighborhoods.

I saw "gasland" the award winning documentary and it was enoughto make you cry. We all need to do whatever we can, if only to sign a petition, before it is too late. Water is in short supply in more and more places and we can't let the rich and greedy take it all away! It is given by God for all of us. We need to hope that in numbers we can make a difference. Howard Zinn said in his last film (paraphrased) - to be hopeful in the midst of all that is wrong in the world is in itself a great accomplishment. He was an avid proponent of small movements growing and doing big things. A wonderful man.

I learned about this practice a few months ago, and wrote an essay on the subject that points to several other resources, including an award winning documentary about Hydraulic Fracturing. Here it is for those who may be interested:

I agree with the opinion of "Dynamite" above! "To allow fracking without greater safety would be a fracking mistake"!

So we're going to allow our ground water to be poisoned so we can continue to run our dirty vehicles and make lots of money for the oil companies. When are going to wake up and just say, "ENOUGH!" Car companies in my area were testing proto tyes of SUVs that get over 100 miles to the gallon. They also said these vehicles would never be on the market because the oil companies won't allow it. Go figure! They wouldn't make enough money.

I saw a spokesperson for the mining industry on television recently, and he said that he knew of no instance where "fracking" had contaminated the ground water. And I believe him.

Of course, I also believe that the moon is made of green cheese, Smoking Does Not Cause Cancer, and, and, what was it Tommy Smothers used to say? Oh, yeah--that chickens have lips.

I don't beleive anything the mining industry says! They are only thinking about the money they will make!!!! NOT ABOUT ARE DRINKING WATER OR PEOPLES HEALTH!!!!!!

i saw and taped a video on hbo which was originally ran on pbs -wake up call - called gasland = maybe it shd be shown to members in govt

The one thing that all living things besides a camel cannot do without for more than 5 days is water. If fracking will jeopardize that supply it sould not be allowed because even though gas is about 10,000 feet down and our ground water is not below 3000 feet, the use of a massive amount water needed and the chemicalsuse poses a real danger to our surface supply and since the tube used is not a continuous pipe, but a pipe built in sections there is a possibility of leakage or something similar to what happens in the deep oil drilling, it could happen with a gas well that goes that deep and passes through our precious ground water.

To allow fracking without greater safety would be a FRACKING mistake.

.I realize that natural as is the cheapest,cleanest, and more abundant than the alternative of oil and coal to be the intermediate source of energy until we can go from fossil fuel to clean alternate energy source which could take 30-40 years to do, so we must find a way to get the natural gas out of the ground.

The gas and oil companies truly show their contempt for the earth with their "fracking."

Future generations will see these companies as environmental criminals. The people must unite to stop this greed-driven rape of the earth and its people.

Where is the citizen outcry and indignation?

Did you once live in Mantua Twp NJ? Are you living in Mantua now? Do you have cancer or chronic health problems? There are documented health problems with residents linked to environmental contamination in the town. Above are some links to apply for a possible cash settlement

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