Firewater anyone?

June 17, 2010

Sooo….I’m sure most of our friends would assume that Jay and I are referring to some sort of incredibly strong alcohol filled beverage when I mention “firewater”. Believe me, I wish that were the case. However I am actually going to discuss what could happen, and indeed has happened, to many people’s drinking water. No. This isn’t a good thing, like turning on your tap and having say vodka gush out (or Bombay Sapphire-if you happen to be Jay). No. This is like turning on your tap and having flames shooting out of your faucet! Do I have your attention now? Perhaps you should take a look at this video and if your concerned, then you can read on.

“Wow” huh? You can find many other videos like this from different areas of the country where hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is going on. Hydraulic Fracturing is a technique which was pioneered by none other than Halliburton (is this company like a bad penny or what!!) “Fracking” as it is known in the industry is a method used to access natural-gas reservoirs miles below the earth’s surface. Certain types of rock, like shale, have natural-gas embedded within it. By injecting millions of gallons of water, along with sand or ceramic, and a proprietary mix of chemicals under a tremendous amount of pressure into the rock, tiny fractures are created thereby allowing the gas to escape. Fracking accounts for 15-20% of  U.S. natural-gas production. In light of the recent BP disaster in the Gulf, many people now are expressing a real desire to not only decrease our dependence on foreign oil but to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels all together. (“Drill Baby Drill” not such a good idea after all…) Natural Gas emits less carbon dioxide than oil or coal. So that’s a plus. Furthermore, if the natural-gas industry is allowed to continue with their all out “fracking party”, (currently there are thousands of sites and the industry is hoping to soon have hundreds of thousands of sites), this country could be self-sufficient in natural gas by 2030. Sounds great huh? Not to mention, fracking allows the natural-gas industry to significantly increase production, which keeps the prices low for us. We love that, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that there is increasing evidence that fracking is contaminating our water supplies. The fact that people’s tap water is flaming demonstrates that contrary to the natural-gas industry’s claims,  gas is indeed finding its way out of the drilling sites. Natural-gas laden water is definitely not a desirable thing-just ask the couple in Ohio whose house exploded after their basement filled with gas from their water well. However, it is the proprietary chemicals cocktail which is being used in fracking that is a big concern to environmentalists as well. The industry is not required to disclose what exactly they are injecting into the ground. People around the country near drill sites are reporting various illnesses, skin rashes etc. Sounds like a job for the Environmental Protection Agency to me. Except, rats!…in 2005 the EPA exempted fracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act, so the individual States not the Feds are responsible for regulation. The good news is that the EPA has recently launched an environmental study of drinking water impacts. Hurrah! The bad news is that it is the study will not be done for two years. Boo! Can we really afford to wait? In the meantime, two fracking accidents happened in early June. There was the blow-out of a well in Pennsylvania which spewed 35,000 gallons of water along with the mystery proprietary chemicals into the environment and the explosion of a well in West Virginia which burned seven workers and sent a flare of burning gas 50 feet into the air. As the BP disaster in the Gulf continues to unfold,  many people seem very motivated to change the regulation of our oil industry. Do we need a fracking disaster of that caliber before we act?

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