The petroleum industry is good at three things; extracting natural gas from deep below the surface of the earth, finding crude oil and refining it for multiple uses, and lying to the American people.
It is nearly impossible to name one entirely safe method used by the oil and gas companies; but one is by far the most dangerous to the environment and the people who live near the wells. It’s called ‘hydraulic fracking,’ or simply ‘fracking.’ What is fracking? It’s the process of extracting natural gas from shale deep under the ground. It is accomplished by forcing thousands of gallons of water, mixed with as many as 600 chemicals and sand, under high pressure, into the well and breaking up the shale. Many of the chemicals used in fracking are dangerous, and some are carcinogens.
Not only does the process have the capability of causing irreparable damage to underground water, and to the soil, it is also responsible for causing earthquakes in areas where few or none formerly occurred.
Recently e-mails were obtained exposing pressure placed on geologists working for the state of Oklahoma to cease its investigation regarding the possible link between the increased number of earthquakes in the area where fracking wells are in operation. These e-mails came directly from upper echelon executives of the oil companies operating the wells.
The time frames coincide. Over one year ago the wells were put into operation, and the earthquakes began.
When the United States Geological Survey issued a report in 2013 stating that the act of ‘wastewater disposal’ could be the cause for the earthquakes, the oil executives panicked and the e-mails began.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey has long suspected that fracking could be the cause of increased seismic activity. However, it decided not to publicly acknowledge that fracking and earthquakes were related until the USGS became involved.
The USGS report linked the growing number of earthquakes with the creation of fracking wells in the area. On one graph, the pattern of seismic activity is California is relatively stable. A darker blue line represented Oklahoma. Before 1980, and until 2010, which coincides with the beginning of fracking operations, the line is at zero, or barely above. In 2010 the number of earthquakes per year spiked to more than 300.
The apparent cause of the earthquakes occurs during the extraction of the wastewater, not during the fracking itself. Although most of the quakes are small, there are fears that they are forecasters of a larger one.
This simply adds to the alleged dangers of this process. Scientist’s original fears regarding pollution of potable water, and soil invasion from caustic chemicals have become a reality. Pipelines have been constructed in many areas to remove as much of the toxic waste as possible. A leak from these pipelines could render the drinking water for an entire community dangerous for consumption.
The battle between environmentalists and the oil and gas companies rages on. The problem is that the petroleum business has millions of dollars to pay lobbyists; environmentalists generally depend on Congress to pass sensible legislation. At the moment money trumps the future of the planet.
By James Turnage