Three States Have Banned Fracking Practice
On April 3, 2017, Maryland became the third state to outlaw the practice of fracture drilling for oil or natural gas – also called fracking. The practice of fracking, which injects millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals, has been found to contaminate nearby drinking water wells.
In May of 2012, the State of Vermont was the first state to ban fracking. The State of New York followed suit and banned fracking in June of 2015. This followed a seven-year environmental impact statement that found fracking resulted in significant environmental damage.
Fracking has become controversial over the past decade due to a number of other environmental reports. These have also fracking operations contaminating wells with chemicals, sometimes making residents sick and well-water flammable.
Natural gas lobbyists worked hard in all three states to prevent the bills from being passed. But sentiment among the people of these states, and their congressmen was too difficult to overcome.
We have also reported that the State of Pennsylvania fined gas operators for poisoning water wells in 2012.
Bush/Chaney Bill eased restrictions
Much of the controversy has been a result a 2005 Bush/Cheney Bill that exempted natural gas drilling operations from having to comply with the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, giving natural gas drillers the ability to not disclose the chemicals they use, and allowing the Environmental Protection Agency little jurisdiction over natural gas drilling operations.
As a result, many states have sought to fill the gap of governance. Both New York and Maryland have placed moratoriums on fracking, awaiting full environmental impact reports. And three states, Wyoming, Texas and Michigan, have passed legislation requiring natural gas drillers to disclose the chemicals used for their drilling operations.
In 2012, Ohio Governor John Kasich sought to limit fracking wastewater dumping, after several earthquakes hit near Youngstown, OH. Since then, thousands of earthquakes have been linked to fracking operations. Scientists have determined that earthquakes are related to pushing fracking wastewater into wells up to 9,000 feet deep.
Fracking and water tables
Earthquake associations aside, natural gas companies argue that they drill far below the water table levels, and their drill casings are tight enough to prevent the chemicals they use from contaminating wells. Their shale drilling operations will go up to 8,000 feet, while the water tables are typically about 1,000 feet. Environmental groups argue that cracks and leaks in the well casings contaminate wells.
According to experts, a natural gas drilling operation will utilize from one to eight million gallons of water with up to 300 tons of chemicals. Less than 50% of the water is recovered from the well. There can be more than 500 chemicals used in a horizontal fracking operation.
Some of these chemicals have been identified as VOCs – volatile organic compounds. VOCs are readily toxic to the environment and can cause major health disorders if consumed with either water or air. Others include rust-prevention and antimicrobial chemicals.