Saturday, February 18, 2012

FRACKING IS FRACKED UP: What it could do to your water, food, and livelihood in NJ, PA, and NY


This paper was written in December of 2011

Fracking is by far the most unsafe, and underplanned project I have ever seen in terms of natural gas extraction.  There is a definite negative correlation between the good that comes from it, and the astronomically bad effects from it.  Not only does it affect earth's natural flow of energy through breaking into the shale portion of the bedrock, it also affects the drinking water in which we drink as well as the unregulated chemicals you use to do the proper drilling.  Here is my story:

Fracking has become a significant issue in  regional politics of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other northeast states, as well as on a national scale. While fracking is a new industry brought upon the Tri-State area, it has caused much controversy among the citizens of the area as well as companies, workers, and politicians who could benefit from the economically stimulating industry.  The question at hand though is this: How does fracking affect the area economically, socially, politically, and culturally?  There are mixed reviews on the pros and cons of the exploitation of the natural gas from the Delaware River Basin.
The new fracking has been proven to cause small earthquakes in localized regions.  If you did not know fracking is like building a small volcano from the ground downwards, in my personal opinion.  If you upset the earth's bedrock which protects us from the hotter areas of the earth and built up potential energy.  If released, that potential energy turns into kinectic energy in the form of ground vibrations or earthquakes.  For those who felt the earthquake last year in the summer which set all social networking ablaze, maybe you should think about what caused it.  We've never had an earthquake of that magntitude felt in my town for as long as i've been alive, but as soon as we start "fracking things up," the ground starts to shake.  Maybe these oil, gas, and energy companies should open there eyes not just their pockets to the real issues behind fracking.  I'm all about making money, but the utilitarian in me says that this idea is not too smart.  Even though you bring jobs to the area, you still risk the chance of earthquakes. 

            Economically speaking, fracking could lead to a boom in jobs as well as decrease in gas prices because the extraction of natural gas is literally in our backyard.  Private companies are now on track to continue investing billions of dollars in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Natural Gas.  According to studies done on the developing industry, $5.3 billion has been spent on drilling activities in 2009, $11.5 billion in 2010, and another $12.7 billion in 2011.  With investments reaching higher and higher capital levels, the output of natural gas is increasing profitability to the area.  Instead of importing natural gas, Pennsylvania residents could benefit from cheaper natural gas which heats our homes from the gas wells that are now supplying the area.  These natural gas wells can now benefit from exporting the gas to other areas of the country both locally, regionally, and nationally.  The influx of investment to the area also looks to increase job quantity to the area, as well as tax revenue from the fracking industry.  According to The American Natural Gas Alliance who commissioned economic forecasting firm HIS Global insight  to do a study on a study found that, “By 2015, shale-gas extraction will account for 870,000 jobs and $118 billion in economic impact.”(Seaward)  At the same time though, people have no choice but to sell their land to private companies as well as the government, without any real choice in the matter, which could be emotionally damaging to families who must relocate. 

            Fracking has also led many to look into the social effects of hydro-fracking in the Pennsylvania area.    Citizens of the area as well as the EPA have caused a social uproar in the area over the new fracking industry.  Many experts say that the unregulated fracking industry can lead to significant environment issues.  For example, due to the drilling taking place in a flood plain area, effects on the water table are a cause of serious concern.  Fracking could lead to contamination of the entire drinking water supply for the entire area that benefits from the fresh water supplied by the Delaware River and its tributaries.  Fracking also leads to social changes within the areas where it is taken place.  According to dairy farmers French and Carolyn Knapp of Pennsylvania, "it’s tough to watch the land be destroyed by the companies who have to exploit this lucrative business."
           They say the social changes in the job market are only temporary.  Other problems include the influx of traffic to the area that has led to traffic congestion because most of the workers in the area come from out of the area.  Noise pollution is also a factor that is felt by the surrounding area.  Socially positive implementation of fracking could include Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate which holds at 8.1% which is lower than the national average of 9%.  In the end, there are both negative and positive social impacts from the natural gas industry.

            Politics are a very important aspect in any new industry.  Politics can shape the entire project by putting relaxed or strict regulations on the fracking business.  Most politicians agree on the issue of fracking in the Pennsylvania area.  Most of them receive benefits from lobbyists who wish to benefit from fracking.  According to President Barack Obama, he made it clear that he supports fracking as a way to increase energy production and create jobs, but he has been vague on whether regulations of the industry should be moved towards the states which is preferred by drillers or should his administration impose more federal air and water pollution controls on the procedure which is a move environmentalists prefer.  Republicans feel that fracking is a great way to improve upon the nation’s economy by increasing energy production and job opportunities.  The EPA, a government regulatory agency, recently announced plans to require energy companies to clean up any fracking water that is destined for local sewage plants.  Regulators note that those facilities aren’t equipped to filter salts, toxic chemicals and radioactive materials that are fracking byproducts.  The agency also wants the drillers to disclose what chemicals are being injected into the earth, so it can be aware of toxins that could hurt drinking water supplies or prompt the destruction of the aquatic life.  The watershed that is contaminated by fracking provides drinking water to nearly 15 million people.  In the end though, whom ever can throw the most money at politicians will win the fracking campaign?

            Fracking can and will affect the culture of the areas in which fracking has taken over.  For example, the farming industry of the Pennsylvania areas that are affected by the new industry might have to say goodbye to their farms to give way for this new, booming natural gas industry.  People who live in these quiet towns now have to deal with new, widespread change to their communities which will greatly affect the culture of the area.  The job industry will be forever changed by the new industry.  The jobs culture will also be affected.  The new jobs that will be brought in will change the job culture of the region from what it previously was. 

            In the end, fracking is a new hot-topic in the Tri-State region.  This new industry will have a great effect on the present as well as the future.  Many questions must be answered before one can really know the advantages and disadvantages of the natural gas business.  Will the economic boom and job opportunities last, will the fracking industry bring cheaper gas to the region, or will it just ruin the drinking water of millions and just lead to new environmental issues?

Works Cited

Hobson, Margaret Kritz. Environment and Pennsylvania: The Fracking Question. 2011. CQ-Roll Call

Natt, Tedd M. “Effects of Fracking Laid Out: Pa. Farmers Speak During SP Meeting.”  11/12/11. The Pilot.

Seward, Zack. “Study touting economic benefits of fracking skips over NYS”. 12/7/11. Innovation Trail.

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