Fracking By The Numbers — The Damage To Our Water, Land, & Climate From A Decade Of Dirty Drilling

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Proof of the hazardous, risky, severe results from fracking grows. Local communities are at serious risk from the process of fracking. A new report, Fracking by the Numbers, states: “The combination of two technologies—hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—has enabled the oil and gas industry to engage to unlock oil and gas in underground rock formations across the United States.” But that’s just the beginning of the horror story:

“Fracking,” however, has also led to tremendous environmental harm and put the health and safety of communities across the country at risk.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.04.01 PM (1)
“Earthquake damage in Oklahoma in 2011 linked to underground wastewater injection.” Photo by Brian Sherrod/United States Geological Survey


Fracking is simply not natural. It is, in fact, taking the “natural” out of this idea of natural gas. And clear water is no longer free for many because of this unnatural disaster.

ThinkProgress notes that the report “details the sheer amount of water contamination, air pollution, climate impacts, and chemical use in fracking in the United States.” That article adds: “ ‘For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open spaces, and our climate,’ Rachel Richardson, a co-author of the paper from Environment America, told ThinkProgress.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.01.37 PM (3)Referencing data from the report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, the article adds:

“At least 239 billion gallons of water — an average of three million gallons per well — has been used for fracking. In 2014 alone, fracking created 15 billion gallons of wastewater. This water generally cannot be reused, and is often toxic. Fracking operators reinject the water underground, where it can leach into drinking water sources. The chemicals can include formaldehyde, benzene, and hydrochloric acid.”

Everything about this reminds me of Love Canal. Instead of one group led by Lois Gibbs trying to bring cancer-causing damage (of Love Canal) to light (at that time, Gibbs was a homemaker who big business tried to focus on as irrational). Now there are many of us who, likewise, do not want overt carcinogens in our water. The denial, the misinformation, and the health hazards are reminiscent of that story. Now, though, this issue is nationwide — causing deprivation of pure water and clean air.

As ThinkProgress points to, that’s not even the end of the nightmare. “Fracking is also bad news for the climate. Natural gas is 80 percent methane, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year period. Newly fracked wells released 2.4 million metric tons of methane in 2014 — equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 22 coal-fired power plants.”

What will it take to accept that fracking is short-sighted (if not stupid or some form of greedy insanity) and halt it?

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.00.38 PM

Related Stories:

New Fracking Lawsuit Already Nailed By Koch Bros

Why Fracking Was Banned In New York

Fracking Waste: Too Toxic, Even For A Hazardous Waste Site

Images via Environment for America and Frontier Group’s Fracking by the Numbers:

  • Brian Sherrod/United States Geological Survey
  • Fracking Fluids Spill into Buckeye Creek, Doddridge County, West Virginia, 2009; Photo by Ed Wade Jr. and Wetzel County Action Group
  • Table ES-2. Estimated Impacts of Fracking, Selected States. Data are cumulative impacts since 2005, except where noted.

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

Cynthia Shahan has 946 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan

21 thoughts on “Fracking By The Numbers — The Damage To Our Water, Land, & Climate From A Decade Of Dirty Drilling

  • Horizontal drilling and fracturing are no less natural than quarrying or mining, or laying asphalt for roads. They all have impacts both positive or negative. At least fracturing happens underground and with precision.

    Here’s the big picture:

    If you want to solve half of the global warming problem, kill coal.

    Abundant natural gas is killing coal in the US and increasingly the rest of the world., partly thanks to ‘unconventional’ production.

    China burns half the world’s coal. Kill that and you are a long way down the path to a lower carbon future. Its abundant natural gas could be part of this long with renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency.

    Coal is also killing millions globally owing to poor air quality, along with combustion engines and other particulate and noxious gas generating activities.

    Natural gas is not.

    Hysteria over new recovery techniques for natural gas and the clamour for an all renewables future by next Tuesday is making the perfect the enemy of the good.

    Kill coal. Then kill oil. Then I’ll join the clamour to kill gas (once we’ve also worked out how to heat our homes and produce enough fertiliser without it).

    Here’s a much more closely reasoned and nuanced view of all this:

    • “Fracturing happens with precision” – that’s so hard to imagine. So they predict every possible crack in earth complicated structure overe miles of land at miles of depth? It’s as hard as weather predicting which has lot to do with statistics but nothing woth prefiction. And of course altering structure of land is safe. That’s so dumb statment.

  • Fruity’s argument, however nuanced, reminds me of the answer they gave us here in Marcellus shale country five years ago. They told us locals not to worry, that the chemicals in fracking water “were no more harmful than the chemicals in shampoo.” In fact, they used to host presentations for the unsuspecting public and they’d dole out gift bags containing…you guessed it, shampoo.

    • Thanks for sharing that. The “presentations” by the fracking promoters sound like the same ridiculous technique the first herbicide manufacturers used to sell their products to skeptical farmers. They used to have their salesmen drink a shot glass full of the herbicide to demonstrate how safe it was. Most of those stupid salesmen died of various kinds of internal cancers within a decade or so.

      • Larry,

        I’m not clear how this statement (is it an observation of fact? If so, evidence please) addresses my argument. Perhaps you can clarify.


        While new gas extraction techniques may have caused some local damage (as alas is the risk with any industrial activity which should all be closely regulated to minimise future damage), please forgive me if I think 10 million premature deaths a year globally owing to poor air quality is a far more urgent problem. Perhaps I’m just weird.

        The good news is that clean, green, ever cheaper renewables are making extraordinary inroads into the power sector, but the fact remains that, imperfect though it is, coal-displacing gas generation is still making by far the largest contribution to cleaner air as well as to lower carbon emissions in the USA and will prove to be indispensable for years to come.

        • My comments were not addressed to You, Fruity, but were a response to Lynne’s comment. The corollary is in the misinformation provided by the promoters of both practices.

        • In the article Fruity cites, the methane leakage problem is discussed. This is a huge problem with gas. I think that alone is enough to keep me at best lukewarm toward more gas infrastructure. To quote the end of the article: “But at least from the climate change perspective, if natural gas is the end of the road, the transition may be a wash”

          • Leaks, at both well and in the distribution system, can be controlled and largely eliminated. The EPA has new regs coming which should help a lot with the leak problem.

          • Clearly, the fossil fuel industry has no intention of being phased out,
            and in fact is seeking to bring about the development of a new era of
            expanded extraction, domestic consumption, and export. And it appears
            that the White House and federal agencies are not seriously
            incorporating the threat of global climate disruption into
            decision-making on such developments. we have no way to know, when these dangerous chemicals could seep into our water supply. Perhaps in 200 years, or a thousand. Using natural gas as a bridge fuel poisons our water, causes earthquakes like in Oklahoma, and isn’t any cleaner than coal when you factor in the methane emissions, and fracking which involves injecting deadly poisonous chemicals underground, which could leach into our water supply in the future. As 2015 was the hottest year on record, and Islands are sinking, we don’t have time for half solutions. we need to instead leave all dirty fossil fuels in the ground and use only true renewables like wind and solar power. Germany has successfully integrated wind and solar power, so we can copy their success.

        • You might want to rethink that bit about Natural Gas lowering emissions.

          “Scientists have found that in the United States, methane leaks and venting have nullified any emissions benefit from transitioning the electricity sector from coal- to natural gas-fired power plants. In fact, the EPA recently found that the problem of escaping methane is even worse than initially feared. The United States currently gets a third of its electricity from natural gas, up from 24 percent in 2010.”

  • Hillary Clinton says its fine…

  • People should look into Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR), which is the most widely used method of fracking, by injecting oil loving genetically modified cyanobacteria that consumes the organic substance in the shale, and farts methane, CO2 and Hydrogen Sulfide, creating massive underground pressures, and oozing out a toxic substance called Kerogen, which is basically worthless for making gasoline, diesel, or kerosene (av gas and JP-8), and only makes Nat gas, which is so abundant, they are shipping it to Japan because they pay more for it.

  • Fracking is at best an odious short term band aid with terrible consequences. I don’t know why coal is always used as a straw man argument to justify alternate between ills.

    – frack wells have a very high depletion rate. As a consequence they require constant new drilling to keep the rate of production up.

    – they frequently result in earthquakes with damage to local residences

    – so much methane is leaked, and methane is such a potent GHG, that it’s carbon emissions are not as good as expected. The gigantic leak at an underground site in California is an example.

    – turns out, the chemicals are toxic

    – it uses vast quantities of precious water in dry or drought areas and contaminates the aquifers depriving us of even more valuable water.

    – it acts like a Ponzi scheme, with companies having to drill ever increasing amounts of wells to maintain production. The result: bankrupt companies that leave states and the public with the job of cleaning up the mess.

    • Earthquakes have happened. But they are a much lower risk factor than particle emission from coal plants.

      Leaks are happening but they can be greatly reduced.

      Let’s make sure that we don’t avoid an improvement simply because it’s not a perfect solution.

      • Yes. We need to get active on reducing fugitive emissions.

      • Sure, tell that to Oklahoma, which has experienced a 300% increase in earthquakes. Go to Pennsylvania, and drink the water, then tell us leaks are no concern. Natural gas is just as bad as Dirty coal, when you factor in the fracking, and methane emissions. Your defense of natural gas is flawed. Germany is quickly replacing natural gas with wind and solar, so we can do the same thing. Intermittency is overcome by ramping up wind and solar, along with energy storage. NG is no longer needed as a bridge fuel.

    • Correct. Natural gas is to dangerous to use as a bridge fuel, and no cleaner than dirty coal, when you factor in the fracking, and methane emissions. Bob need to go to Oklahoma and experience their 300% spike in earthquakes. We can meet all our energy needs with wind and solar power as Germany is trying to do. We don’t need dangerous natural gas.

      • Brian, I’m fed up with your crap.

        If you want to lie then take it elsewhere.

        • Bob, France and New York state have banned fracking. Zachary Shahan, the lead author of this site, disagrees with NG fracking. Bill Mckibbon, the author, educator, environmentalist, and Co-founder of is against fracking. If you want to call me a liar, then prove natural gas is safe.

  • Here’s the important advantage for natural gas, IMHO. Natural gas generation is highly dispatchable.

    Let’s say we want to close down a coal plant. Can’t do that with solar, wind or a combination of the two because, even combined, they are not 24/365.

    But add in NG generation and we get ‘always available’ electricity.

    40% of our electricity directly from wind (it blows a lot of hours).

    30% of our electricity directly from solar (the Sun shines during high demand hours).

    30% from NG.

    Natural gas emits about 50% as much CO2 per MWh as does coal. That means that a 40% wind, 30% solar and 30% NG mix would emit only 15% as much CO2 as coal.

    If we don’t control leaks then NG has about the same GHG impact as coal per MWh generated. 40% wind, 30% solar and 30% NG would emit on 30% as much GHG as coal.

    A drop from 100% to 15% or 30% is an incredible gain. (And coal does very nasty things to our water supply plus using a lot of water in both fuel processing and plant cooling.)

    • Your post are total NG propaganda. Even as the price of solar panels has dropped, inexpensive fracked gas
      reduces the incentives to convert to sun and wind. And once you’ve built
      the pipelines and gas-fired power plants, the sunk investment makes it
      that much harder to switch: Suddenly you have a bunch of gas barons who
      will fight as hard as the coal barons Obama is now trying to subdue. Using NG as a bridge fuel prevents us from moving as quickly as we can into wind and solar power. We also create greedy NG barons who try to keep the dirty industry afloat like the billionaire Pickens. As it turns out, economists have studied the dynamics of this transition, and each time reached the same conclusion. Because gas undercuts wind and sun just as much as it undercuts coal, there’s no net climate benefit in switching to it. For instance, the venerable International Energy Agency in 2011 concluded that a large-scale shift to gas would “muscle out” low-carbon fuels and still result in raising the globe’s temperatures 3.5 degrees Celsius. The biggest single modeling exercise on this issue was carried out at Stanford in 2013, when teams from 14 companies, government agencies, and universities combined forces. They concluded that, in the words of analyst Joe Romm, “from a climate perspective the shale gas revolution is essentially irrelevant—and arguably a massive diversion of resources and money that could have gone into carbon-free sources.” And that study didn’t even look at the impact of leaking methane.

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