Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

November 17, 2013

Here is the other short story of fracking

If you hear commercials on the radio or see advertisements online for natural gas extraction then you’re likely getting the pros of hydraulic-fracturing.

Dominion, Cabot, Chevron, and others would have you think that the Marcellus Shale deposit is a simple story of domestic energy, job creation, and clean power.

However, there’s another position frequently too detailed and without the economic catch phrases to be pleasing to the ear or attention span. This is the other short story of fracking.

Fracking is bad. I mean poison your water, pollute your air, make you and your animals sick, and destroy your property value — bad. And the whole mess is boxed up, covered with dollar sign wrapping paper, and sealed with a ribbon of non-disclosure by the gas companies. Let me explain.

Hydraulic fracturing is a natural gas mining technique that forces millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals (some toxic) into horizontal wells thousands of feet below the ground. This explosive pressure fractures the Marcellus shale and allows the natural gas to be collected and extracted.

At the present, fracking is exempt, through the Halliburton Loophole, to the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and at least five other federal laws which allow companies using the technique to act in ways and keep things confidential that other businesses cannot.

Water: The Bureau of Land Management, Duke University, and the Environmental Protection Agency have documented and acknowledged the consequences of hydraulic fracturing on ground and surface water because of leaking gas and fracking fluids, which contain dozens and maybe hundreds of chemicals that don’t have to be disclosed by companies.

Methane concentrations in sample wells have even been positively correlated with proximity to active natural gas extraction. Imagine the plight of those living in Dimock, Pa., where Cabot Oil and Gas delivers them bottled water because of severe local contamination!

Life: Well workers are being harmed by chemicals or explosions, and hundreds of people and their animals are being affected by carcinogenic, teratogenic, and generally harmful chemicals in unsafe levels such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and the zylenes.

Land: Could it get worse? Yes, fracking processes are increasingly thought to be the source for unprecedented seismic activity throughout the country including earthquakes reaching magnitudes of 5.7. With all these troubles you’d probably want to move, but who wants to buy your property if the water is poisoned?

Atmosphere: It’s true, burning natural gas does emit less carbon dioxide than coal or oil. However, it releases much more methane — during the combustion and extraction processes- which doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere but is twenty times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide!

Economy: Natural gas is being heralded as an ideal source for American energy independence yet companies are building plants — like the one proposed in Calvert County — to liquefy and export it overseas to Japan and India!

Studies by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy have also emphasized that the “boom and bust” economic cycles associated with natural resource extraction inevitably leave communities insecure in the long term.

Considering the inherent dangers mentioned above, it would be a grave mistake to allow fracking to threaten the lives of thousands of in the state.

Oppose it in Maryland — vote for a continued moratorium or ban. Oppose the natural gas liquefaction plant (LNG) in Southern Maryland — attend the community meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the New Embassy Theater, Cumberland.

Let’s keep Maryland safe and beautiful; don’t allow fracking!

Ben Brown

Cumberland

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