Oh, Frack!

Unhealthy Drinking WaterFracking. Yes, it may look like a highly controversial typo, but I promise it’s not…a typo anyway. We hear the word tossed around a lot lately, and yet its definition is nearly as mysterious as its environmental implications.

Let’s get technical here for a minute. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses pressurized fluids deep under the earth’s surface to break rocks apart, usually fracturing a sedimentary rock called shale to extract natural gas. That’s the simplest version of it anyway – the geology behind all the politics.

Now, in theory, fracking is a great thing for America. Natural gas (CNG) has been called the “fuel of the future,” so why not take advantage of this otherwise untapped natural resource? Plus it’s in our own backyard; fracking allows for growth of America’s infrastructure and gets us on the road to energy independence.

But is it too good to be true? There are a lot of pros associated with fracking, but what about the cons?

This is where it gets complicated. According to the energy companies, countless policy makers and studies, there aren’t any confirmed problems that go along with fracking. But there in lies the problem – we want energy independence so badly that we’re willing to look past, or at least not investigate, any of the problems associated with fracking.

But the list of unconfirmed problems is endless. All over the country, homeowners in areas subject to fracking have experienced similar side effects. Weakened immune systems, headaches, loss of smell or taste, brain tumors…all of these symptoms have one thing in common – they come from homeowner’s drinking water; the same drinking water that often comes out discolored and in some cases is so volatile that you can light it on fire. How is that legal? Well, as of the 2005 Energy Bill, fracking somehow got itself exempt from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

The earlier mentioned “pressurized fluids” are what’s known as fracking fluids, and they contain upward of five hundred different chemicals. The problem is, not all of the fluids pushed down into the depths of the earth come back up – they sink into the surrounding rocks and, in some cases, the water supplies. Plus, the materials used in fracking don’t biodegrade – once they’re in the environment, they’re not going anywhere.

Now it’s not that fracking is entirely bad. But current regulations need to be altered to protect the American people, not just American energy independence. Stricter regulation of the water in fracking fluids, compliance to the SDWA, CAA and CWA, treating those currently suffering as a result of fracking – those are all good places to start. When it comes to fracking, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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