The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has plans to study the environmental impacts of natural gas, specifically the modern technique of hydraulic fracturing. Known as “fracking” for short, it is a natural gas industry technique that shoots copious amounts of water and chemicals thousands of feet below the surface in an attempt to set natural gas loose. It is considered a controversial method of extracting natural gas because of the potential to contaminate ground water resources.
Last Thursday in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the EPA held a meeting to draw advice from industry stakeholders. A thousand people showed up to offer more than just advice. Many claimed government negligence throughout the years, while others told stories of contamination in local waterways. Hydraulic fracturing has been used for the last sixty years, but has received greater criticism of late because people are concerned exploration will threaten their health and livelihoods.
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Virgina residents all sit above the Marcellus Shale, which is considered a major source of natural gas, meaning a huge boon to the industry. Residents are concerned. The industry says there has been no clear evidence linking fracking, and the chemicals involved, to water contamination. The EPA even concluded in a 2004 report that there was no link between fracking and underground water contamination, Although thousands of CBM wells are fractured annually, EPA did not find confirmed evidence that drinking water wells have been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing fluid injection. Due to the uncertainty inherent in this practice, the EPA’s goal for their $1.9 million, 2-year study is to determine if there is in fact any correlation. The study is expected to be complete in 2012.
Natural gas has been promoted as an important alternative fuel source because of the environmental benefits it offers, when compared to gasoline and coal. Natural gas is considered the cleanest of all fossil fuels, emitting fewer greenhouse gas emissions when burned. Furthermore, natural gas is abundant and inexpensive.
Are you buying natural gas?
Press Release: EPA Initiates Hydraulic Fracturing Study: Agency seeks input from Science Advisory Board