New report raises concerns about fracking

The Associated Press released a new review in which they examined hundreds of complaints regarding water contamination and fracking

By Brittany Hale

The debate over fracking is getting heated. Last week, the Associate Press released a review, confirming that hundreds of complaints regarding water contamination have been filed in four different states.

Fracking is one of the primary ways that we’ve sought to address our dependency on fossil fuels. It’s something that President Obama mentioned specifically in a State of the Union address, promising that natural gas would sustain us into the future.

For those who don’t know, fracking is the process by which natural gas is extracted from the ground underneath our feet. According to USA Today, “Extracting fuel from shale formations requires pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break apart rock and free the gas.” Problems arise when the water and chemicals escape back into the aquifer, polluting the wells that many families rely on.

Fracking was at the center of Gasland 1 and 2, two documentaries directed by Josh Fox that aired many times on HBO. In Gasland, Fox interviews families who are able to light their tap water on fire. These families are frustrated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which seems to be reluctant to declare groundwater contaminated.

The Associated Press’ review appears to confirm what Fox asserted in Gasland – specifically, that families are indeed suffering from contaminated groundwater as a result of fracking. AP requested complaint information from Texas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. They found differences in how states reported on and responded to claims of contamination. In Pennsylvania, more than 100 cases of pollution have been confirmed in the last five years (USA Today).

On the surface, the number of complaints contained within the report seem to be inconsequential. However, the general disorganization and lack of consistency discovered by the Associated Press within each state’s reporting is concerning. With natural gas being hailed as the future source of our energy demands, it’s unclear if serious consideration is being given to complaints of water pollution.

Like most individuals, I agree that public policy should focus on diverting our energy usage away from fossil fuels. However, whether or not natural gas is the answer to our problems remains to be seen. Any practice that has the potential to contaminate groundwater and puts families at risk should be closely examined and regulated.