5 Reasons Fracking Should Scare the Absolute Hell Out of You


On the eve of the biggest anti-fracking protest rally in history—Saturday, July 28, from 1:30 to 3:30 PM on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.—the list of concerns about the still-experimental extraction process grows.

Dubbed "Stop the Frack Attack," the national day of action is supported by more than 100 community groups and organizations from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Maryland, Texas, Wyoming, Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Idaho, Virginia and North Dakota. For a full list of participating groups check out Earthworks.

With tens of thousands of wells already drilled and potentially hundreds of thousands to come, now is the time to stop and make sure all of that extraction is being done safely, for the sake of the land and water and the millions who are already or who may soon be living next to a natural gas well pad.

MORE: Pete Seeger on NY Fracking: "No Question It Should Be Banned"

While protest against fracking in individual states is growing, organizers felt it was important to present a united front in the nation’s capitol, reminding the President and Congress that the issue will definitely be front and center come election day.

To-date Congress has exempted the oil and gas industry from seven laws that usually serve to protect communities surrounding fossil fuel extraction sites. Those laws include the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and have left communities fighting fracking with little or no protection from contamination despite widespread evidence of dangers.

After the rally, protestors will march to the headquarters of the pro-fracking industry groups, the American Petroleum Institute and American Natural Gas Alliance.

“Now is the time for all of us to unite and demand that the nation take action to move toward a clean energy future,” said Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of Dish, Texas, who quit his job and moved his family over health concerns caused by local fracking. “Drilling that harms our health, water and air isn’t acceptable. Americans deserve better, and we expect to get it.”

The rally follows two days of training and workshops in D.C. and a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Thousands are expected on the west lawn—arriving by bus, train and even bicycle (the so-called Tour de Frack, or Freedom Ride for Awareness & Community Knowledge)—including a plethora of environmentalists and celebrities long-committed to the fight. They are Mark Ruffalo, Gasland’s Josh Fox, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, Cornel West, James Hansen, and Ann Chin, board president of the Sierra Club.

If you’re close to D.C. and can get there, or can somehow support the effort from a distance, here are 5 frightening problems that come to neighborhoods that allow fracking:

1) Fracking is making people sick. There are reports of increases of everything from asthma to nausea to organ failure in neighborhoods where fracking chemicals have already been exploded underground and leaked into the air.

2) Groundwater is being poisoned, and it’s not just evidenced in the explosive methane pouring out of people’s taps that Josh Fox’s Gasland so famously disclosed. Underground aquifers are being silently tainted forever by the explosion of a toxic blend of water-chemicals-and-sand shot deep below the ground to help “free” the natural gas that is locked in rock and shale.

3) Even the natural gas industry admits that 20 percent of its wells will fail, in most cases meaning the cement casing that is supposed to contain the chemicals will crack and leak. (Remember the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf? Also, a result of cement casing failure.)

4) If fracking comes to your town, an industrial wasteland will certainly follow. Explosions, truck traffic, foul-smelling air and depleted water sources will become your daily headache and the local infrastructure—roads and bridges—taxed and destroyed. If the moratorium is lifted in New York state and fracking is allowed, it’s anticipated that somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 new wells will be drilled. Each will require an access road, a five-acre well pad, a spider web of pipelines to help deliver the gas once its above ground, 50,000 gallons of chemicals, 4.9 million gallons of water and a thousand diesel truck trips (thanks to my friend environmental biologist Sandra Steingraber for those numbers).

5) Wastewater is left behind. Those five million gallons of water and 50,000 gallons of chemicals that go down into each well don’t stay underground—most comes back out in a messy toxic sludge, which then has to be stored... somewhere. Often it is pumped into a nearby holding pond, maybe buried, and in some cases trucked to another county, or another state (see Pennsylvania and Ohio), where it is injected underground to poison for a second time. Uggh.

How worried are you about fracking? Tell us in the comments.

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A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon Bowermaster has spent the past two decades circling the world’s ocean, studying both its health and the lives of the people who depend on it. He is the author of 11 books (his most recent, OCEANS, Threats to Our Seas and What You Can Do to Turn the Tide, was published by Participant Media) and producer of a dozen documentary films. His blog—Notes From Sea Level—reports daily on issues impacting the ocean and us. Follow Jon on Facebook. @jonbowermaster  |  Email Jon | TakePart.com