Hydraulic Fracturing Perils: Does your state protects its citizens from fracking?

Worries over the safety of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” as a method to drill for oil and natural gas continue to grow across the United States.

The oil and gas industry loves to say that hydraulic fracturing is safe, as long as the fracking process is done correctly. If this is the case, why won’t they disclose which chemicals they are pumping into the ground?

We believe the status quo on hydraulic fracturing is inadequate to ensure the safety of communities and wild lands. Americans clearly agree.

When Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows was on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show on June 7,  listeners lit up the show’s switchboard with concerns about hydraulic fracking.

People rightly want to know answers to questions like:

  • Will hydraulic fracturing fluids release toxic chemicals and contaminate my drinking water?
  • Can hydraulic frackturing fluids cause illnesses such as cancer?
  • Is the fracking process well regulated?

In fact, incidents of ground water contamination in high-fracking areas have been reported all over the country, in places like Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania.

The controversial hydraulic fracturing process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground in order to release natural gas from rock — yet operators are still not required by federal statute to disclose the chemicals they use.

The Wilderness Society has been working for changes to federal law, but in the meantime states continue to make their own decisions about  disclosures of fracturing chemicals.

To give you more information we’d like to share a detailed look at state-by-state public disclosure laws on chemicals used in fracking. Click here to find out your state’s laws.

What you should also know is that even as some states make progress in demanding disclosure of fracking chemicals, others are wading deeper into the fracking controversy. 

For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently signed a law that made it mandatory for natural gas companies to disclose the chemicals in their fracking fluid. The law’s passage is significant given the state’s heavy oil industry involvement.

Maryland has recently imposed a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing practice altogether until it gets a better idea of how to effectively regulate it. But in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich plans to allow oil and gas drilling in Ohio state parks, a troubling development for all those concerned about safe drinking water in that state.  

There’s also some important activity on this issue at the national level. On May 5 the Department of Energy announced that the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board would prepare recommendations on various issues related to hydraulic fracturing, and recently held a public meeting on the topic at a forum in Pennsylvania on June 13.

Wilderness Society expert Michelle Haefele testified in Colorado on April 25 at a similar fracking forum, sponsored by the Department of the Interior. Haefele, an economist, explained that the Bureau of Land Management should pursue rules for full public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracking, Michelle noted, “If these fluids are so safe, then the industry shouldn’t have a problem disclosing them to us.”

The Wilderness Society will continue to contribute to this debate, and work to protect the lands and waters at stake in the hydraulic frackturing controversy. 

We believe oil and gas development should be done in a way that protects people and wild places. Until this issue is resolved, if you have a hydraulic fracking story, we invite you to share it in our comments section