Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting millions of gallons of water with sand and chemicals under high pressure down and across as far as 10,000 feet below the surface. The mixture causes rock layers to crack and open and allow the oil to penetrate the sand particles so the natural gas from the fracture can flow up the well. Natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels like coal and oil, but not by much. It is mostly methane and it traps heat, it leaks readily and like the residents of Dish, Texas complained, “We have unexplained headaches and sickness in people and animals since the drillers came to town”. Air quality tests showed high benzene pollution in the area.
But, the big danger is water well contamination and earthquakes. Thanks to intensive lobbying from then Vice-President Cheney under President George W., Big Oil and Gas is exempt from critical statutes in all major environmental protections, The Safe Drinking Water Act, The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act and laws governing the disposal of toxic waste. Pretty Cushy if you are in the oil and gas business, right? And, frackers are allowed to keep secret what chemicals they are pumping into the ground.
How can that be? It’s true.
Now let’s talk about groundwater, supposedly it belongs to everyone. Like the air we breath, it is a life necessity and no one can buy our air and make us pay for it, and so far, we’ve managed to prevent corporations from buying control of our water. They’ve tried, though. In California, we think of our groundwater as a water savings account. We can always get water, right? That too, is beginning to change with high water crops, walnuts, pistachios, almonds draining away mega amounts of water.
The Western United States is typically dry. Our water supply is used from reservoirs because very few natural lakes exist in California. Reservoirs are man made. We’ve kind of kidded ourselves, or the powers that be have, by damming rivers and reducing them to a trickle. Holding water back worked but it proved to be the wrong way to treat our rivers. And depending on a pipeline that steals water from the north to make the desert bloom in the south, was then and is now a questionable practice. The truth is that California groundwater would always save us in a drought. Now, that water is in big danger, we need to rethink that. Fracking is only part of it. But, it is the most dangerous part of it.