By ALICE BALDYS
As of Thursday, Illinois became one of twenty states in the U.S. to allow hydraulic fracturing. The controversial drilling practice involves the use of roughly four million gallons of water and 167 tons of chemicals per well in order to access previously unreachable shale oil with natural gas deposits below the surface of the ground.
The Barnett Shale deposit in Texas and the Marcellus Shale in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia are two major ‘plays’ in the industry.
Not surprisingly, hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ is criticized for the pollution it causes and its high use of water. The environmental impacts range from the construction of unsightly drill pads to the massive pollution of potable drinking water and the increased likelihood of earthquakes.
Widespread violation of state regulations, such as the 43 percent of drillers found to have violated regulations by the Department of Natural Resources in the state of Wisconsin are becoming more common.
Drilling in Texas has occurred for over fifty years and it is estimated that the High Plains aquifer has declined by some 266 million acre-feet, a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie.
Many U. S. citizens are being forced to examine this issue from either an environmental or an energy policy perspective. Environmentalists and concerned citizens imposed fracking bans in New York and produced controversial films like “Gasland” that explore the negative environmental impacts of fracking.
Proponents of hydrofracking include President Barack Obama, who supported natural gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing in his 2014 State of the Union address, saying, “Natural Gas, if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
While responses to hydraulic fracturing and natural gas extraction in the U.S. have been mixed, it is clear that there is a need for regulation of industry to prevent water pollution. Former Vice President of Mobile Oil Louis Allastadt went so far as to say “Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology or the inadequate regulations being proposed.”
Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial issue for Americans, especially those living in highly populated areas where shale plays are currently housed. In Virginia, fracking has been proposed in the George Washington National Forest close to the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the highly populated areas of Northern Virginia.
Whatever side of the issue you stand on, being informed and actively contributing to the conversation about energy polices could prevent future energy shortages and environmental pollution.