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Fracking is a form of methane gas extraction that uses toxic cocktails of high pressure chemicals and water to fracture underground formations of shale gas, allowing the trapped gas to escape – some of which ends up being pumped out as fuel, and the remainder leaking out into the surrounding environment. Fracking as a process has only been used for less than a decade, and already has been the subject of widespread resistance across the United States and around the world. It leaves a toxic legacy of water and air pollution, and is contributing significantly to the climate crisis.
In Ohio, Governor John Kasich has stated a goal of expanding the number of fracking wells in Ohio to over 4,000 within 4 years. He is a key example of how the fracking industry is exploiting our broken democracy to pollute. Gov. Kasich has received $213,000 from the fracking industry directly, and hundreds of thousands more in other support from the petroleum industry, and in return turned his state into a toxic pincushion for the fracking industry.
There is no safe way to frack, and Gov. Kasich and the Ohio state government should take steps to immediately stop fracking anywhere in the state. Here is why:
1. Fracking pollutes our water and air.
Hydrofracking produces immense amounts of wastewater filled with a secret toxic cocktail, sand and radiation. There is no known way to dispose safely dispose of the toxins in this waste, and it often is found seeping into groundwater, dumped in public rivers, sprayed on roads as de-icer, or stored underground in ‘injection wells’ where it poses a long term threat to human health.
Additionally, as fracking breaks apart rock formations underground, it facilitates the seepage of methane gas into groundwater. In certain places this gas has become so concentrated, that tapwater inside homes in fact can be lit on fire. Methane leaks are a hazard to clean air as well, and one of the key ingredients in forming asthma-causing smog.
All of these health problems are in part created by of aggressive lobbying by the fracking industry to avoid any oversight of their industry. Fracking chemicals are exempt from oversight under the Clean Water Act, thanks to a loophole created by former Vice President Dick Cheney (whose company Halliburton is a major manufacturer of the chemicals) in 2005.
2. Fracking contributes to climate change
Fracking is a major contributor to climate change. First, the methane gas that leaks during the drilling process is a powerful greenhouse gas – many times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which is also produced when the gas is burned. These emissions make gas drilling more dangerous to the climate than other fossil fuels – even coal.
As a result of the gas boom in Ohio, renewable energy projects are being cancelled and their workers laid off. Gas is preventing our state from investing in the new energy that we need for the coming century.
Natural gas drilling will keep America addicted to fossil fuels, and delay the transition to a renewable energy economy, which has the potential to create millions of sustainable jobs, clean our air and address the climate crisis that is triggering extreme weather across the country.
3. The fracking industry corrupts our democracy at every level
The industry spends millions of dollars on politicians and lobbyists to corrupt our democracy and avoid oversight. Gov. Kasich is one of the prime recipients, receiving over 213,000 in contributions from the industry, and benefiting from hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads by the industry on his behalf. Still, it’s the tip of the iceburg: the industry has spent $2.8 million on swaying Ohio’s government, and a startling $727 million nationally on lobbying, campaign contributions and other political expenditures.
The corruption impacts our democracy from top to bottom. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states, this has resulted in severe limitations on local government’s ability to protect their communities. In Ohio, local governments are being barred from passing their own legislation that would regulate the hazards of fracking in their communities.
4. Fracking is a ticking economic timebomb
In areas where natural gas drilling has expanded, traditional industries like farming, agriculture and tourism have been displaced by dependence on fracking. This creates a ticking economic timebomb. Farmers cannot farm using polluted water, and tourism disappears for areas blighted by the rapid industrialization of a gas boom.
The fracking industry is riding a bubble that is waiting to burst. In leaked emails, industry insiders compare the gas rush to the Enron scandal – creative bookkeeping is hiding underlying financial weakness, in particular that reserves are much lower than publicly stated, creating the potential for a huge economic crash. Even during the boom-times, jobs are typically reserved for out-of-state oil and gas workers, and not local workers who need them most.
That means that local economies are left with the pollution, asthma, ruined roads, and local environmental damage, but none of the economic benefits.
5. Fracking is causing earthquakes.
In Youngstown Ohio, an area with no previously recorded seismic activity, there was a 4.0 earthquake on Dec. 31st, 2011 caused by an injection well filled with fracking wastewater. This water was injected at high pressure deep underground where it triggered an unprecedented seismic activity.
Fracking has been linked to 50 earthquakes in otherwise geologically stable Oklahoma, and dozens more in Arkansas. The long term seismic impact of widespread fracking is unknown, but the early indications from activity to date are that this process will pose long term risks that are yet to be discovered.
Ready to step up and tell Gov. Kasich: Don’t Frack Ohio? Sign up to join us here.
“Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge Near Gas Fields” ProPublica http://www.propublica.org/article/science-lags-as-health-problems-emerge-near-gas-fields
“Scientific Study links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking” ProPublica http://www.propublica.org/article/scientific-study-links-flammable-drinking-water-to-fracking
“Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=all
“Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field” Nature http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982
“United State Fossil Fuel Boom Dims Glow of Clean Energy” e360 from Yale University http://e360.yale.edu/feature/us_fossil_fuel_boom_dims_glow_of_clean_energy/2511/
“Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets” Common Cause http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=7868571
“The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom” Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301
“Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/us/26gas.html?_r=1
“Fracking Earthquakes Becoming Serious Cause for Concern” DeSmogBlog http://www.desmogblog.com/fracking-earthquakes-becoming-serious-cause-concern