We could soon be in a crisis with drinking water and it seems like few of us are paying attention. There is a relatively new technology out there which is being used to get previously unavailable natural gas from tremendously deep and inaccessible places.
Hydraulic fracking is this process. It has been used in Western Pennsylvania for a while now. Why do I know about it? Folks who live in Western Pennsylvania recently came to Baltimore to talk about their experiences with fracking. These opponents claim that the fracking process uses a chemical cocktail to break up shale formations, and that this cocktail contaminates drinking water. They also claim that the majority of this water and chemical combination stays in the ground after the process is complete.
The producers of natural gas are excited about this new process because it allows them to extract larger quantities of natural gas for a lower cost than ever before possible. Many proponents are touting this are a way to gain energy independence from foreign energy producers, and they may be right. This process undercuts the foreign production and shipping costs to such a degree that U.S. produced natural gas could possibly be exported for the first time in many years. Those looking at the economics of this process are working diligently to make fracking a reality in many places in the U.S. But my question is: What are the environmental ramifications of this process?
In early December about 200 people attended Drilling Down, a Conference held at the University of Baltimore. A group of presentations were made about the fracking process. I have to be honest; I went to hear the folks from Western Pennsylvania because I didn’t know much about fracking a few months ago, and I prefer to hear directly from those affected.
I listened to the panel of speakers who talked about how energy companies were very persuasive in making deals to lease mineral rights from these people who have lived on their land for a long time. I also discovered that this leasing effort has already started in Western Maryland. And although several hundred acres of land is already under lease in Maryland energy companies do not yet have a legal right to develop their fracking business in Maryland. They are working tirelessly to bring it about.
Some folks from Western Pennsylvania have been talking about the results of the fracking industry coming to their town. Some are reporting that the water coming out of their kitchen sink is flammable. They showed us video evidence of this peculiar situation. Others have reported feeling earth quakes where earth quakes haven’t happened before. Other showed that the fracking companies are bringing them drinking water because their wells have been bringing up undrinkable water since the fracking began. It appeared that the entire water table had been affected.
So, I went home that day thinking about how this might affect me in Perry Hall. Baltimore County is a long way from the mountains of Western Maryland. I did some further reading and discovered that there is a quantity of Marcellus shale under Baltimore County. At this point in time it is out of reach of current technology. But, who’s to say that newer technology will not be able to reach the Baltimore County shale in the near future? Will we have already approved drilling here? And will it directly affect my drinking water. What about the food supply?
Gasland, a film by Josh Fox explores the various impacts of fracking in the area of northern New Jersey and southern New York. The film brings up a lot of questions about the process. If you might be concerned about the future of your drinking water you might want to take a look at this film.
Delegate Heather Mizuer has introduced a House bill which calls for a moratorium on fracking in Maryland until studies are completed.
For more information go to Cheaspeake Climate Change Network