How often do you think about the source of your natural gas – the gas that powers your stoves and heaters? I know I never gave much consideration to my natural gas heat source – that is until I watched the documentary, Gasland, which explores the method of extraction, hydraulic fracturing, and how it has impacted communities thus far. I was shocked to find out that this ‘clean’ fuel was extracted in a way that risked damage to the environment and health so I began researching this extraction technology further.
Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas known as ‘fracking,’ has manifested as a growing environmental health risk in the U.S. (Manuel, 2010). This is a growing risk because of the increase in drilling activity as part of the U.S. goal of energy independence and the movement towards clean burning energy (Manuel, 2010). This method of extraction began in the U.S. and has now spread to other countries around the world, such as Ireland and South Africa. It has also grown as a point of controversy demonstrated by and the recent ban in France.
Fracking has recently been scrutinized for its potential and, in some cases, observed environmental health effects on nearby surface and ground water sources (Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, 2010; Manuel, 2010). Despite possible risks, many natural gas companies continue to drill with low safety regulations because the companies were exempt from the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act in the United States in 2005 (Manuel, 2010).
By Christa Lane Hooper
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