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Truth About Fracking

“Fracking” is the hydraulic fracturing process that involves injecting liquids into shale deposits deep underground; the intent is hydraulically fracture rock formations and release oil and gas found there. The process is accompanied by “horizontal drilling,” a relatively new process that enables drillers to get to shale deposits in a direction other than straight down from the drilling rig.

As a growing number of energy companies pursue this process to get to formerly-unavailable energy deposits deep in the earth, local communities are becoming more familiar with fracking and are responding to the practice. The growing public debate – at both local and national levels -- is in part about getting at domestic fossil fuel sources and lessen dependence on important oil and natural gas. And about creating new jobs and economic benefits in the regions where shale drilling takes place.

In some instances after the private property owner signs leases with oil and gas companies the after effects – the presence of drilling rigs, pumps and the like appearing on leased private property, at times too close to dwellings – has caused issues with landowners. To be sure, some landowners are happy to accommodate drillers and enjoy a cash stream of royalties. Farmers and ranchers look forward to these new revenue flows to cushion economic blows due to weather, downturns in commodity prices, or in 2012, and the possibility of reduced federal subsidies.

But other individuals and community leaders are looking not so positively at the presence of oil and gas drilling on their land and in their community.  And this is especially true in areas where public and private water supplies may be threatened by sloppy processes, as has occurred.

Also, public land leases are being sought, which raises the level of debate in certain regions…”who” actually owns public lands such as parks, preserves and sanctuaries that may have shale deposits beneath the ground?  What is the right of the public to be involved in decisions regarding leases?

Lately with media stories looking more closely at fracking, the public awareness of the liquids being pumped into the ground under pressure are also raising alarm – liquids used may or may not include hazardous waste chemicals, diesel oil and other unwanted substances in the local ecosystem.  Greater transparency on the part of the industry would address these concern. Chemicals used in fracking can and may have entered public water supplies. (Mostly, we are told, possible because of improper cementing just below the ground where there are water tables present.)

Questions are being raised about the potential impact of fracking on human and animal health, on agricultural products (including surface crops as well as grape vines and other deep-rooted plant life).

Naturally, oil and gas industry leaders have responded, usually with arguments the growing need for domestic oil and gas resources, and the jobs that fracking will create or preserve (you’ve no doubt seen the advertising on national and local TV by industry associations).  There is much less public communication from industry about the safety of fracking processes and the steps companies are taking to protect the ecosystem.

Energy industry experts point out that done properly, fracking should not affect water tables as the shale levels are deep beneath the ground; also, most chemicals used are not toxic waste.  There are pro and con arguments about these positions.  The fact is there are thousands of fracking wells drilled in the USA and in other countries.

The public debate on fracking in the USA now involves state regulatory officials, members of congress and other elected officials, public health professionals, environmentalists, academics, civil society organization leaders, industry oil and gas executives…and more. 

The regulatory framework to oversee fracking is not necessarily clear. Recently The New York Times reported on the growing focus in Congress on fracking in a recent series.   Part of the publication’s concerns are about permitting fracking near New York City’s upstate water supplies – in December 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering a “yes” or “no” in allowing fracking in New York State’s section of the Marcellus Shale deposits.  Public rallies in upstate New York State areas attracted hundreds of local citizens in November, reflecting the local concerns about the practice.

Proponents of fracking were encouraged by the nomination by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences nomination for the 2011 Academy Awards (the “Oscars”) for the anti-fracking documentary, “Gasland,” which is about fracking and human and community impact in the Marcellus Shale area (stretching through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and into New York State).

This Hot Topic focus has been expanding as energy companies step up efforts to find new sources on US lands – mindful of exogenous events such as the cut-off of Middle East or other foreign oil that would put pressure on all sides as the nation’s leaders in the public and private sectors seek alternative energy sources.

The editors are collecting comments on Fracking (and other Hot Topics) from a wide range of sources in a best attempt to help our readers access as many views (perspectives) as possible.  We welcome commentary on fracking, especially from local civic leadership, and from industry managers.  Send comments to:


December 1, 2011



Featured Fracking Commentators

Michael P. Benard Columns
Speaker, Writer, Coach on Communications Issues
Blogger on Property Rights & Energy Industry
Former Director, Communications and Public Affairs, and Vice President, Eastman Kodak Company

Latest on Truth About Fracking

March 27, 2013 Fracking vs. Democracy: State Laws Subvert Home Rule and Property Rights

Source: Huff Post

One of the most fascinating and disturbing issues that comes up again and again around fracking is the multitude of exemptions and entitlements that have been handed to the industry at the expense of citizens. Exemptions from the...

March 26, 2013 New panel to advise EPA on ‘fracking’

Source: The Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday announced the formation of an independent body to peer-review that agency’s research on hydraulic fracturing, as the Obama administration weighs new regulations.

March 26, 2013 Newspapers seek release of shale settlement

Source: Reuters

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter have returned to court to force the release of the confidential settlement ending a claim by a Mount Pleasant family that Marcellus Shale gas development damaged...

March 25, 2013 Sand found in Black Hills could aid oil, gas fracking

Source: Argus Leader

RAPID CITY — Western South Dakota could play a key role in energy development in North Dakota and elsewhere because of special sand used to help extract oil and gas. The South Dakota Geological Survey is investigating whether...

March 22, 2013 Environmentalists, Drillers Reach 'Truce' For Fracking Standards - text/audio

Source: NPR

A group of environmentalists and drilling companies has crafted a truce of sorts over the rapid spread of natural gas production in the Appalachian Basin. Four major drilling companies and several environmental groups have agreed...

March 21, 2013 NY appeals court to consider local fracking bans

Source: WWLP

ALBANY, N.Y. — A state appeals court was to hear two cases that pit the right of towns to control land use through zoning against the drilling industry and landowners who say state law trumps local authority when it comes to oil...

March 21, 2013 Pennsylvania Judge Orders Records Opened in Fracking Case

Source: Bloomberg

A Pennsylvania judge, handing a victory to local media and health groups, ordered documents unsealed in a settlement between gas-drillers and homeowners who accused the companies of contaminating their water.

March 20, 2013 Sewage plants struggle to treat wastewater produced by fracking operations

Source: Reuters

When energy companies extract natural gas trapped deep underground, they’re left with water containing high levels of pollutants, including benzene and barium. Sometimes the gas producers dispose of this contaminated water by...

March 19, 2013 Saudi Arabia to Drill Seven Shale Gas Wells: Al-Naimi

Source: Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, will drill about seven test wells for shale gas this year, according to Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. “We know where the areas are,” Al-Naimi said at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment...

March 19, 2013 Cheap US energy sparks datacentre rethink

Source: ZDNet

Low energy costs are making the US a more attractive location for new datacentres than Europe, where power prices have soared over the past decade.

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Latest Tweets on Fracking

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  • RT @kuminaidoo: Native Americans Launch ‘Love Water Not Oil’ Ride To Protest #Fracking Pipeline @greenpeaceusa http:…
    joanne barker
  • Re- #fracking old wells produced with inferior technologies sees surge as industry looks to cut costs. via @reuters
  • RT @kuminaidoo: Native Americans Launch ‘Love Water Not Oil’ Ride To Protest #Fracking Pipeline @greenpeaceusa http:…
  • RT @kuminaidoo: Native Americans Launch ‘Love Water Not Oil’ Ride To Protest #Fracking Pipeline @greenpeaceusa http:…
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