Ecological Preservation : Stop Fracking Farm lands!

In India, Cold bed Methane extraction process triggered a threat for millions of acres of agricultural lands. Especially in Tamil Nadu Region. Without considering the environmental effects of methane extraction, under just a sheer commercial perspective, the Government has given green signal for this deadly plan to the Great Eastern Energy Corporation, amid of serious protests by lakhs of people and farmers.

This is a subsequent post regarding the issue about hydrofracking and gas extraction from farm lands. Please share this across in your circle.

Hydrofracking is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique developed in the late 1940s to gain access to fossil energy deposits previously inaccessible to drilling operations. The process, “hydraulic fracturing”, literally involves the smashing of rock with millions of gallons of water–along with sand and a undisclosed assortment of chemicals in order to bring gas to the surface.

How Fracking Works

Vertical well bores are drilled thousands of feet into the earth, through sediment layers, the water table, and shale rock formations in order to reach the oil and gas. The drilling is then angled horizontally, where a cement casing is installed and will serve as a conduit for the massive volume of water, fracking fluid, chemicals and sand needed to fracture the rock and shale. In some cases, prior to the injection of fluids, small explosives are used to open up the bedrock. The fractures allow the gas and oil to be removed from the formerly impervious rock formations.

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Risks and Concerns of Fracking

  • Contamination of groundwater
  • Methane pollution and its impact on climate change
  • Air pollution impacts
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Blowouts due to gas explosion
  • Waste disposal
  • Large volume water use in water-deficient regions
  • Fracking-induced earthquakes
  • Workplace safety
  • Infrastructure degradation

Source of Fracking Contamination

Fracking waste water  in Wyoming : toxic waste

Due to the multitude of potential health and environmental impacts of hydrofracking source contamination can be complicated. The well location where drilling takes place is only one piece of the frack puzzle. Since each well can require up to 8 million gallons of water, and up to 40,000 gallons of chemicals, a well site may need up to 2000 tanker truck trips, per frack. A well can be fracked up to 20 times.

Storage for the waste water can take place either on site, in an injection well, or in open air ponds in the surrounding areas. Transport of the waste poses a contamination risk outside the actual well location. Air pollution also extends beyond the immediate drilling site and transportation route, since a by-product of natural gas drilling is methane gas, one of the worst greenhouse gas pollutants contributing to climate change. 

Impacts of Fracking

Fracking_Farmland

Air Pollution

Methane is a main component of natural gas and is 25 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitoring gas wells in Weld County, Colorado,</a> estimated that 4 percent of the methane produced by these wells is escaping into the atmosphere. NOAA scientists found the Weld County gas wells to be equal to the carbon emissions of 1-3 million cars.

A number of other air contaminants are released through the various drilling procedures, including construction and operation of the well site, transport of the materials and equipment, and disposal of the waste. Some of the pollutants released by drilling include: benzene, toluene, xylene and ethyl benzene (BTEX), particulate matter and dust, ground level ozone, or smog, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and metals contained in diesel fuel combustion—with exposure to these pollutants known to cause short-term illness, cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders and birth defects or even death

USA : The Associated press recently reported that Wyoming’s air quality near rural drilling sites is worse than Los Angeles’–with Wyoming ozone levels recorded at 124 parts per billion compared to the worst air day of the year for Los Angeles, at 114 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit is 75 parts per billion. A 2007 report prepared for the Western Governor’s Association, that inventoried present and future nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from oil and gas drilling in the west, projects Montana to experience a 310% increase in nitrogen oxide pollution (smog).

Crystalline silica, in the form of sand, can cause silicosis (an incurable but preventable lung disease) when inhaled by workers. Sand is a main ingredient used in the fracking process. The National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) collected air samples from 11 fracking sites around the country. All 11 sites exceeded relevant occupational health criteria for exposure to respirable crystalline silica. In 31% of the samples, silica concentrations exceeded the NIOSH exposure limit by a factor of 10, which means that even if workers were wearing proper respiratory equipment, they would not be adequately protected.  

Chemical additives are used in the drilling mud, slurries and fluids required for the fracking process. Each well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid containing not only the added chemicals, but other naturally occurring radioactive material, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals. Fissures created by the fracking process can also create underground pathways for gases, chemicals and radioactive material.

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USA : The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) have recently confirmed what residents of Pavillion, Wyoming had been claiming–that hydrofracking had contaminated their groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initially under an emergency administrative order forced three oil production companies operating on the Fort Peck Reservation, to reimburse the city of Poplar, MT for water infrastructure expenditures incurred as a result of drilling contamination. The oil companies appealed the EPA order, but were forced to rectify their violations by a federal judge. 

Another scenario for contamination to occur is by faulty design or construction of the cement well casings–something that happened in the BP Gulf blowout disaster. Storage of the waste water is currently under the regulatory jurisdiction of states, many of whom have weak to nonexistent policies protecting the environment. 

Soil and Oil Spill Contamination:

According to journalists at Pro Publica, oil companies reported over 1,000 oil spills in North Dakota (USA), 2011, with many more going unreported, state officials admit. The Associated Press also recently reported that the amount of chemically tainted soil from drilling waste increased nearly 5,100 percent over the past decade, to more than 512,000 tons on 2011. Steve Tillotson, assistant director of the North Dakota Health Department’s waste management division, told reporters that trucks are hauling oilfield waste to facilities “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

An ExxonMobil pipeline rupture spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, near Billings, MT. In the aftermath of the spill, ExxonMobil has disclosed that the pipeline has been transporting tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, which is a low grade, more toxic and corrosive type of oil. Regulators had not been informed that the pipeline was carrying tar sands oil and the disclosure was a result of the spill. Tar sands oil was not in the pipeline at the time of the spill, though regulators are investigating whether or not it played a role in causing the pipeline to corrode. 

Earthquakes

Earthquakes constitute another problem associated with deep-well oil and gas drilling. Scientists refer to the earthquakes caused by the injection of fracking wastewater underground as “induced seismic events.” Although most of the earthquakes are small in magnitude (the strongest measured 5.2), their relationship with the storage of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater does little to ease the fears over fossil energy’s long list of externalities.

OilYellowstoneLarryMayerAP

Health Effects of Fracking: (US Based Case)

A 2011 article in the journal, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, examined the potential health impacts of oil and gas drilling in relation to the chemicals used during drilling, fracking, processing,and delivery of natural gas. The paper compiled a list of 632 chemicals (an incomplete list due to trade secrecy exemptions) identified from drilling operations throughout the U.S. Their research found that 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes,and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40–50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.

Health impacts from fracking are only now being examined by health experts, since such large-scale drilling is a recent phenomenon. Exposure to toxic chemicals even at low levels can cause tremendous harm to humans; the endocrine system is sensitive to chemical exposures measuring in parts-per-billions, or less. Nevertheless, many of the health risks from the toxins used during the fracking process do not express themselves immediately, and require studies looking into long-term health effects.

Despite the complexities of the on-site mixtures of chemicals and their specific contributions to health and environmental problems involved in fracking–conventional drilling practices are more old school and do have known health consequences. Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, analyzed existing research of exposure to conventional petroleum hydrocarbons in occupational settings, and residences near refineries, in conjunction with known pollutants associated with fracking (nonconventional), in order to assess health risks to those residents living near fracking operations. Their basic conclusions were: the closer you live to drilling operations, the greater your health risk. Sounds obvious, but if you were to sue an oil company for the suspected killing a loved one via cancer, you would need a little more legal ammunition than “it just makes common sense” against an army of corporate lawyers.

A 2012 paper was published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, examining the composition of state and federal advisory committees tasked to consider the potential environmental and health effects of fracking in the Marcellus shale region. The researchers found that there was not one health expert among the 52 people comprising the various state and federal commissions and boards, even though public health was specified in the executive orders creating the committees.

Prevention or Mitigation

While many state agencies function more as facilitators of fossil energy development than regulators, federal guardians of public health are also vulnerable to ‘getting into bed’ with big business, literally. One need only recall the former federal agency in charge of collecting oil and gas royalties on public lands, the Minerals Management Service. 

Many people concerned by unconventional oil and gas drilling would prefer the US adopt the so-called precautionary principle, which places the burden of proof on industries implementing new technologies and introducing new chemicals into our neighborhoods and environment. If your actions do not poison the water, accelerate climate change, cause cancer to those living near drilling and refineries, etc.—prove it. Current policy inverts such logic, instead forcing the victim (or their surviving relatives) to get into a legal fight with some of the richest and most politically powerful companies.

At a minimum, more stringent regulations should be passed at the national level, including repeal of oil and gas exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Violators of clean water and air laws should be prohibited from obtaining federal and state land drilling leases. Flaring of natural gas should be more strictly regulated. If a carbon tax were to be passed, energy companies would no longer get away with passing their so-called externalities (pollution) on to the community, tax payer, or environment.

Another approach would be the adoption of a legitimate national energy policy that is comprehensive in scope and science-based, as opposed to the current singular focus on short-term profits. Something more in line with what is occurring in Germany–where they have increased clean energy use from 6% in 2002, to 26% in 2012. A clean energy policy propelled by sophisticated technologies that require skilled workers could replace the third world fossil energy model en vogue these days. The spector of climate change makes the acclerated pursuit of carbon based fuel an irrational policy predicted to be far more expensive than the initial costs required to switch to clean energy technologies.

Source and Courtesy : http://serc.carleton.edu/

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