The world’s quest for cheaper fuel in the form of natural gas is coming at a much higher price than fossil fuel industry officials want to acknowledge.
It’s due to water depletion, polluting chemicals, complacency about contaminated waste and potential hazards that could adversely impact many living things within the scope of the fracking project.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is now being utilized in close to 3 million projects worldwide, with over a million located in the US.
The process utilizes a high pressure technique in which water and chemicals are injected forcefully through a wellbore to create small fissures in rock that allows access to shale gas.
According to a report by the Natural Resources Development Council, fracking has caused contaminated air and drinking water in “Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.”
Fracking can devastate entire stream and riparian systems, which sustain wildlife and often provide drinking water to nearby towns.
A report released this week in the UK entitled, Are We Fit to Frack?, studied the impacts of the extraction process on the environment and wildlife, which was reviewed by the Center for Ecology and Hydrology.
"We have found that there are serious potential risks to the environment from fracking,” Harry Huyton head of energy and climate change told BBC News. "There are risks associated with using lots of water, with causing the accidental contamination of water, but also from the infrastructure that is required by the industry. This could mean lots of well pads all around the landscape. All of these could have an impact on wildlife.”
In addition, the 24/7 noise and bright-light disturbance has a negative impact on migratory birds, geese, waterfowl and other forms of wildlife ranging from bats to amphibians.
Huyton recommended that fracking be banned in sensitive and vulnerable sites to minimize potential damage to rivers, lakes and wetlands.
But officials of the Onshore Operations Group disagreed with the report and said they already do enough to ensure environmental protection.
Wildlife conservation and environmental groups in the US have been against fracking for years since the practice developed newer techniques than originally used in 1949 when it was first developed.
Center for Biological Diversity has filed lawsuits to restrain fracking in California near habitats of endangered species as well-pads and trucking routes are carved through sensitive areas.
The Center maintains that threats from fracking, not only have potential to harm humans and wildlife, but domesticated pets and livestock as well.
The following are just a few of the dangers posed by fracking cited in the Center’s litigation:
- Fish kills in Pennsylvania have been associated with the contamination of streams, creeks and wetlands by fracking fluid.
- Farmers, pet owners and veterinarians in five states — Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have reported deaths, serious illnesses and reproductive problems among wildlife, as well as horses, cattle, cats and dogs exposed to fracking infrastructure or wastewater.
- Withdrawing water from streams and rivers for fracking can threaten fisheries.
- Birds and other wildlife have been poisoned by chemical-laced water in wastewater ponds and tanks used to dispose of fracking fluids.
Proponents of fracking say that natural gas is cheaper and burns cleaner than coal, but taking into account the cost of potential hazards for human health, the environment and wildlife, opponents say it comes at a much higher price than shale gas supporters want to admit.
It’s really a no-brainer, say critics; more safeguards are needed to protect systems that support all life and biodiversity, while increased investments are needed for sustainable, renewable energy sources that are free of threats to the natural world.