Friday, June 5, 2015

New EPA fracking study - the debate continues

Yesterday the US EPA released a draft report regarding the effect of fracking on drinking water.  EPA states that this report is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date on the impacts of fracking on drinking water.  Here is the executive summary for those who don't want to read the whole report.

The bottom line is twofold:

1. "hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources"

2. "there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water."

Basically, EPA found that fracking has led to some damage to groundwater supplies , but the damage is not systematic and it is not widespread.  The number of incidents where groundwater is affected is described as "relatively low" given the number of wells that have been drilled.   In terms of potential impacts, the study suggests that handling the wastewater from fracking will pose more problems than the fracking activity itself.

Given the mixed news, anti-fracking and pro-fracking sides are declaring victory.  

Read about it:

Article at the WP
Article at the NYT
Article and voice-cast at NPR 
Article at the N&O



Erin Tremblay said...

As soon as I read this, I couldn't help but to immediately think of the documentary "Gasland." For those of you who haven't seen it, and are interested in the environmental/health aspects on fracking, you should watch it. Documentaries have a reputation of being biased and aim for skewed opinions, but either way, it's informational. There is also a Gasland II with Yoko Ono in it, along with Josh Fox, the protagonist & filmmaker in the first Gasland.

James Glenn said...

I am in favor of fracking as an alternative to other energy resources, but the process of fracking is not my favorite. I agree with the decision the EPA found in their study, but it does not mean we should not notice the problems that can come from fracking in relation to drinking water. These finding should help use realize that research should still be used to find a safer way to frack or extract natural gas. with the technology that we have access to today there is no reason we should not be able to find a safer way to extract natural gas. This is and important topic because natural gas can be abridge that gives us enough time to find alternative way to produce energy that help to conserve the world we live in.

Olivia Setser said...

I immediately thought of Josh Fox and Gasland myself, with this mixed bag report that plays to both sides of the debate... it'll be interesting to see what Fox comes up with in his third documentary as part of the series. With that being said, I've done some reading on the issue of fracking and what the waste water does... I would like to know where this puts the disclosure issue of the slurry that is the by-product and if they will now make it mandatory to disclose or not. In general, I think that fracking is a temporary fix to the permanent problem of the lack of reliable and renewable energy resources. All the money and time that is going into these fracking wells, that can only be used 18 times in their lifetime before they max out, and all the water-- I just feel like all the effort and they money that goes into the fracking production could be going into actual sustainable energy.That's the ultimate goal, so although fracking is providing us with natural gas... it's going to need a substitute sooner and later and why not start working on that substitute sooner rather than later and get ahead of the game and become the international example and leader that the US could be.

Christina Leeds said...

I attending part of high school in a small town in upstate New York and fracking was a very controversial and prevalent topic in the city. Fracking wells were set up in surrounding towns in 2009/2010 and they had a huge impact on both water and quality of living. Among the problems that city residents encountered was a HUGE influx of natural gas in the air. Many people insisted that health problems like migraines and loss of taste began after this, though no connections were officially admitted through studies done but to have whole communities that are being wafted by this smell/gas to have these same problems occur is rather coincidental. Before Gasland had made its appearance in 2010, I had personally seen multiple houses in cities nearby in which you could light the water coming out of the faucet from well waters. It was unbelievably terrifying. We ended up relocating in late 2009 partially due to these wells being set up nearby. Along with these issues the wastewater from these wells was transported to huge pits in the midst of beautiful hills covered with forest. These trees soon disappeared both due to chemicals being pumped through their ground water and also from being cut down to dig more huge pits. Fracking seems to have a huge slew of problems that follow it wherever it goes. Though there may be sufficient ways of extracting the oil and gas without causing too much damage to surrounding areas, the wastewater and byproducts are not being dealt with properly.

Jawad Dughmush said...

Are there substitute methods of fracking? How long will fracking last? Fracking causes more taxes to be applied because of the incidents fracking can cause such as explosions. But fracking has allowed the US to surpass Saudia Arabia in net energy production.