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Hydraulic Fracturing: Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” is a common process used in the extraction of natural gas. This process is necessary to make the wells profitable by increasing yields. However, there is much controversy surrounding the process, which industry experts claim is safe. Oil and gas companies, along with companies that only provide fracking services such as Halliburton and Slumberger, claim the process is safe and there have never been any reported incidents of groundwater contamination during the approximately sixty years the process has been in use. The fracking fluid is made up mostly of water and sand, but also contains a small amount of chemicals, and that is the primary issue with the process.

There have been several incidents of groundwater contamination in Colorado, along with a few other states, but the contamination has never been officially linked to fracking. One argument on why these cases have never been linked to fracking is because companies are not required to disclose what chemicals they use in the process. Each company has its’ own proprietary recipe, and will not disclose secrets. However, there is no law requiring disclosure, so the companies are not breaking any laws. In fact, fracking was excluded from regulation under a 2005 Clean Water Act amendment put in place by the Bush Administration.

One Halliburton executive was asked why fracking chemicals are not disclosed to the public, and he replied with “Asking us to disclose what chemicals we use would be like asking Coke to give up its’ secret recipe.” The difference here is the public knows what ingredients are in Coke because they are listed on the can. The recipe is still secret, but everyone has access to the ingredients. No one in the general public knows what chemicals are used in fracking. All that needs to be done is for the fracking and oil and gas companies to disclose what chemicals are being used. There is no need to provide percentages or amounts of each one, just simply what they are. The public deserves to know.

The documentary films Split Estate and Gasland explain the process in detail and also how property owners are dealing with the situation.

 

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