Recently, my son wrote an essay about hidden costs. He discussed the heavy toll that certain industries, like factory farming and clothing manufacture, take on humanity and our environment when they externalize their true costs. Naturally, it got me thinking about the external costs of fracking.
One of the biggest hidden costs of Marcellus shale gas development will be a significant reduction in the number of clean, fresh drinking water supplies for future generations.
PA watersheds have endured a history of environmental degradation from a variety of sources such as logging, agricultural run-off and acid mine drainage, to name just a few. But while it’s true that many threats to our water supplies are long-standing, we can’t ignore the fact that they now face a much more serious, imminent threat.
The instances of fresh water contamination in Pennsylvania have increased dramatically since hydraulic fracturing began.
As fracking booms, waste spills rise — and so do arsenic levels in groundwater, Reporter: Reid Frazier, Writer: Adam Wernic, Living on Earth, Public Radio International, November 18, 2014.
How can we not worry? The business of shale gas is predicated on taking public risks for the purpose of private gain. All it requires, apparently, is a pricey ad campaign and couple of slick publicity stunts.
The merchants of doubt work hard to further misinformation about shale gas development and groundwater contamination. They sow the seeds of uncertainty. Their goal, it seems, is not to convince people of the safety of fracking, but to make us question our valid concerns over extreme extraction in general. The real objective appears to be to keep the clock running, so their clients can keep on drilling.
That bit where the company executive drinks “frack water” is a perfect example. I don’t know about you, but I’m instantly suspicious whenever I see that much PR slathered all over a thing. You need only to note that the frackers are drinking the fluid they inject into the wells, not the flowback which returns to the surface from the subterranean depths. That stuff is so briny, it could kill you on the spot.
What the Frack is in Pennsylvania’s Drinking Water? “The point of seeing executives and politicians drinking fracking fluid was deception,” according to Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University. Published by Vocativ, September 3, 2014.
Even PA DEP acknowledges the fact that fracking has polluted Pennsylvania groundwater supplies. Recently, they confirmed more than 248 cases of water well contamination from drilling activity. Now we know it’s not only possible, it’s happening.
Pennsylvania Finally Reveals Fracking Has Contaminated Drinking Water Hundreds of Times, Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress, August 29, 2014.
Paying the ultimate price for shale gas extraction won’t be limited to brook trout and box turtles. The water controversy continues to divide people living in drilling regions. Ohio and Oklahoma have been rocked by earthquakes caused by frack waste injection wells. Webs of dangerous high pressure pipelines now criss-cross the state, and aged, obsolete LNG tanker trains slice through our cities and neighborhoods. Nationally, fatal fracking-related accidents have been increasing at an alarming rate and, sadly, The List of the Harmed has reached 7,157.
If you wanted to do a real cost analysis of fracking in the United States, you would quickly determine that the true price is simply too great.
Pennsylvania is adding shale gas wells at a rate three times faster than average.
“What goes down the well is not nearly as important as what comes up the well,” states Ingraffea, adding that flowback includes “Salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, that have been stored safely underground for hundreds of millions of years, and now are being brought to the surface and to the human environment.”
You don’t have to be a scientist, a geologist, or even a parent, to recognize that this industry is leaving a legacy of groundwater contamination for future generations, one that includes arsenic and radon.
Fresh drinking water is but an externalized cost to drillers, and to the shameless shale gas promoters who’d like to see Philadelphia transformed into a dangerous LNG export hub.
Factor that in, and fracking is a bad deal for every generation.