Freaking about fracking

April 16th, 2015


Take a moment and imagine that you’re standing at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. You look up and feel so unbelievably small as clouds drift over, covering the summit. After a moment, you glance up at the mountain and find that a planet has made its home right next to it. Jupiter sits front and center, making the mountain seem miniature. The point is, perception is everything, and society lacks interest in issues that seem smaller because they are at a greater distance. This is what is happening with environmental issues, specifically in regards to the fracking industry.


Fracking is a relatively new drilling technology that makes it possible to enter natural gas reserves; it is also known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing.


Many people, including myself, may not particularly be drawn to such technology. It doesn’t seem as interesting as curing cancer or finding a way to stop global warming, but it is a valuable technology to understand, because it is causing great stress on our very own Ohio environment.


Hydraulic fracking is the use of sand, water and chemicals injected at high pressures to break open shale rock in order to release the gases inside. The problem with fracturing such chambers is that it requires millions of gallons of fresh water, an immense amount of land and the use of many chemicals that can cause serious issues due to harmful air emissions, water contamination and excess waste fluids.


So why have any concern about fracking when it doesn’t seem to be directly affecting us? The truth is that it has progressive potential to impact each of our homes, schools and work places.


Fracking projects impact the quality of well water. If well water is contaminated, residents using the well in that area will not have the same kind of access to drinking water.


It does not only impact water quality, though. In fact, climate change, landowner rights, property values and more are also affected.


Much of the dialogue about  fracking revolves around the impact on water, but there are issues dealing with air quality as well.


It is common for all stages of natural gas production to burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into the air. This fuel includes toxic emissions. Natural gas extraction releases methane into the atmosphere. Emissions of other greenhouse gasses will continue as the process of extracting, refining, transporting and burning natural gas continues.


According to a Quinnapiac Poll taken in January 2012, Ohioans are divided on the issue of shale gas development. Two to one residents say economic benefits of drilling outweigh the environmental concerns. Many people do not see natural gas emissions as an up close issue. To go back to the example in the opening paragraph – the destruction of the environment seems to be a miniscule issue compared to other, more immediate problems.


It is important to note that as shale gas extraction increases the Ohio Environmental Council expects to see an immense amount of harmful impacts to land and wildlife.


Horizontal fracking well-pads are larger than traditional gas drilling pads. They have the ability to release a large amount of sedimentation and can be injurious to rivers and streams. This increases when fracking well operations are not monitored well.


The process also increases noise and light pollution from the drill pad and construction machinery. The pollution impacts both people and animals, and as fracking operations continue more pipelines will be laid across surface water and other areas of wildlife.


Although this seems to be an issue that does not directly affect our communities, specifically the students at John Carroll, I argue that it has great potential to do so. For now, students need not worry about fracking, but having this information will prove to be of great value come post-graduation.


Do not ignore what seems to be a microscopic problem; you never know where you will end up and what will affect your home, family and overall living conditions.