Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) is a process used to release and extract fossil fuels from deep underground layers of rock.  An example of this is the extraction of natural gas from shale.  The technology was first used to mine natural gas in the late 1940s, but recent advances in pumping equipment, fracturing flFrackinguids, and drilling techniques have allowed the economical extraction of previously inaccessible gas deposits. 

Hydraulic fracturing is controversial due to its negative environmental impacts which include the deforestation of well sites, air and land pollution, contamination of ground water supplies, and a heavy reliance on the use of freshwater in its processes.  With natural gas production expected to grow in the future, and an increasing trend in pursuing unconventional gas deposits, it is important to analyze the potential hazards associated with hydrofracking.  

While the oil and gas boom is providing jobs in the United States, there is some evidence that hydraulic fracturing operations—which can be close to residential areas—are leading to steep declines in property values as buyers worry about environmental contamination, Reuters reported in December 2013. Drilling within a kilometer of a home can reduce its value 16.7 percent if it relies on well water, according to a study by researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund, Duke University and Resources for the Future.

Below are links to resources about hydraulic fracturing and the associated issues.  The first resource is River Network’s 2012 River Voices Newsletter that was dedicated solely to the issue of hydrofracking.  Dig in and enjoy.

River Network (2012) Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction      
      •  Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources (Heather Cooley)
      •  The National Front in the Fight Against Fracking (Nadia Steinzor)
      •  The True Cost of Fracking (Steve Dickens)
      •  The Fracking Frenzy's Impact on Women (Sara Jerving)
      •  When Fracking Comes to Your Watershed (Trent Dougherty & Melanie Houston)
      •  Combing the Power of Science and the Power of Communities (Julie Vastine)
      •  New York State Residents Stand Firm (Hilary Lambert)
      •  Community Organizing for Human and Environmental Health (Tracy Carluccio)

Breaking Fuel From the Rock - National Geographic interactive web feature that demonstrates the process of hydraulic fracturing 

EPA web page on Hydraulic Fracturing 

EPA's Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources (in progress)

Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (Public Act 098-0022) - Signed into law on June 27, 2013

Texas Water News Fracking Page   

Osborn et al. (May 2011) Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing 

Montgomery, Carl and Smith, Michael (December 2010) Hydraulic Fracturing History of an Enduring Technology 

New York Times (September 2012) New York State Plans Health Review as It Weighs Gas Drilling 

Photo Gallery of Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania by J Henry Fair