5 Weird and Frightening Effects of Fracking You May Not Know About
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This article was published in collaboration with GlobalPossibilities.org.
What comes to mind when you think of fracking? Perhaps it’s images of tap water being lit on fire or stories of families suffering health problems after nearby wells are fracked. Indeed, the health and environmental impacts of fracking are being documented, but it’s important to know that fracking is a catalyst for widespread negative consequences. This list includes five effects of fracking you may not have heard about.
1. Methane Geysers
This past June, a methane geyser was found in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County. Yes, a geyser — shooting methane-infused water 30 feet up in the air.
Once the geyser was discovered, the county immediately turned to Shell, which was drilling in three nearby locations. Shell and the Department of Environmental Protection began investigating, and it was correctly suspected that an abandoned well from the 1930s contributed to the problem. Last week, a new report confirmed that Butters well, drilled in 1932, was part of the chain reaction that triggered the geyser. But the main problem was Shell’s fracking, as it displaced methane pockets underground, which then moved into Butters well and shot up to the surface.
Improperly abandoned wells, like Butters well, are hard to uncover, as they were drilled long before permits were required or any kind of records were kept. With as many as 300,000 wells drilled in Pennsylvania over the past 150 years, it’s unknown how many abandoned wells there may be that could be dangerous. For example, the DEP informed Shell of Butters well, but there was no information on whether or not it had been plugged. Meanwhile, regulators don’t require drilling companies to search for, inspect and plug abandon wells.
Though abandoned wells provide an easy pathway for methane to reach the earth’s surface, once displaced by fracking, the harmful gas can also make its way upward through cracks in the ground. Methane is an odorless, flammable gas that can cause breathing problems at high concentrations and is more than 20 times more effective in trapping heat and contributing to global warming than carbon dioxide.
2. Stolen Land
What happens if you’re a land owner who lives on a profitable mineral site, but doesn’t want corporations fracking on your land? Well, apparently, they will maneuver a way to frack your land anyway.
In a new report published last week, Reuters explored oil and gas companies’ nationwide land grab. The report focused on Chesapeake Energy Corporation, which has become the leader in petitioning state agencies when land owners refuse to sign over their land to fracking or oil drilling companies. In Texas, since 2005, Chesapeake had made 1,628 requests to drill on land that owners refuse to lease— nearly twice as many sought by its rival Exxon Mobil — and the state has only rejected five of them.
Chesapeake has made land-leasing one of its top priorities, controlling 15 million acres and spending more than $31 billion to acquire drilling rights. Playing the land grab game allows corporations to attain prospective drilling locations while locking out competition. With such a profitable opportunity, Chesapeake is making sure it’s getting its way by any means necessary. One employee was even caught saying on tape: “If properties don't want to sign, if we have 90 percent secured of the well that we need, we have the power to put these people in the lease without their permission. …We can do whatever we want.”
When it comes to profit, property rights just don’t seem to matter. And a mix of money in politics, as well as a desire for profit, has weakened regulation.