Friday, August 8, 2014

What the Frack?

There has been much hubbub about fracking the past few years. Documentaries and impassioned celebrities have brought much needed attention to the issue. Environmental classes now explore the process and its ecological impact.  Political figures boast of the economic improvement it could bring to their constituency. Everyone ostensibly has a definitive position on it. However, for me at least, hydraulic fracturing remains somewhat of an enigma. Controversial issues such as these present moral dilemmas that often coincide with fiscal constraints and political agendas.

It’s always difficult for me to choose who I fight for. Both sides make appealing arguments that require pragmatism and research to reach a decision. I want to fully comprehend every angle of the matter so I can make the best judgment.
I’ve recently done a bit of Internet sifting and I’ve found various articles that help me get a better glimpse of the fracking situation. Here is what I’ve found:

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is referring callers with complaints of illness due to fracking to the Bureau of Epidemiology whenever buzzwords such as “fracking”, “Marcellus shale”, or “drilling” come into play. It frightens me when health concerns no longer interest our Department of Health. The ethical dilemma involved is the integrity of the department—are they living up to their mission?

NPR (one of my most trusted sources in a sea of unreliable, biased sources) reported last week that oil and gas operations have contaminated Pennsylvanian water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007 (paywall). However, no statistics were given on what companies were involved, what pollutants were discovered, or why these problems transpired. In fact, even the health complaints were not made public unlike in other states that have experienced similar fracking incidences. After reading other articles, there seems to be a trend—no public information.

From my position, the gas industry seems tremendously secretive sitting on top of all this information. Without releasing information, these companies can easily suggest the lack of evidence supporting the health effects that manifest from fracking. From my findings, I see the need for more regulatory measures. Even if fracking was not a health or environmental issue, there still needs to be more accountability and transparency between the public and the shale gas industry.

Currently, House bill 2318 that provides, “a mechanism for implementing citizen participation under the state Environmental Rights Amendment” (the PA Sierra Club chapter director, Joanne Kilgour vocalized this at a hearing) is currently being evaluated. This bill will “empower citizens to have input and some control and discretion over what happens on state lands.” I believe this bill is a baby step in the right direction.

Although I have found information that makes me extremely wary of energy companies and I am the intern of one of the largest environmental grassroots organizations, I still have to acknowledge both sides of the battle. There is no panacea for both the businessmen and the environmentalists. They both have to make concessions and fight to win their cases. That is not to say there is no solution. I think practical measures can and must be taken to inform the public about the risks of fracking, and the answer lies in stricter regulation and greater industry and governmental transparency.

My opinions on fracking continue to grow as I research more. There is a wealth of information about hydraulic fracturing on the web that is expanding and is free for the taking. Please take advantage of this information and feel free to share your thoughts on fracking. We would love to hear your stance on the issue!

Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

1 comment:

  1. Names of companies and some violations with locations and dates are listed on .