The Case for a Ban on Fracking

Are the adverse environmental and health effects of hydraulic fracturing worth the short-term benefits of having a domestic supply of natural gas?

| February/March 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing

Fracking negatively affects air and water quality.


Natural gas is promoted by some as a promising “bridge fuel” that can help the United States transition from petroleum and coal to cleaner, renewable energy. Its production has increased with new drilling methods that use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract natural gas from rock sources that were previously uneconomical to access, such as shale.

Unfortunately, it’s increasingly clear that the extraction of this “unconventional” gas poses unacceptable risks to the American public.

Unconventional gas production more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, as shale gas increased from 1 to 20 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply. Federal and state regulators largely turned a blind eye to the environmental degradation caused by fracking, and the lack of government oversight facilitated the mad rush to drill. A 2011 Cornell University study found that burning shale gas releases more greenhouse gas pollution than burning conven­tional gas or oil. Methanol, formaldehyde and carbon disulfide are known air pollutants found near fracking sites. Texas regulators found that air samples near wells contained high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens such as benzene. Sublette County, a rural Wyoming community with a high concentration of gas wells, has recorded higher ozone levels than Los Angeles.

Some fracking wells have also polluted drinking water. A 2011 Duke University study found potentially explosive levels of methane in water near natural gas wells in New York and Pennsylvania, and the nonprofit group ProPublica identified more than 1,000 cases of wa­ter contamination near drilling sites in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.

The shale gas rush is not just a danger to human and environmental health, but also to local economies. While the industry promotes job cre­ation and local investment benefits, it does not acknowledge the long-term economic damage and reduced quality of life caused by fracking.

We need to stop destroying public air quality and water in the interest of oil and gas company profits, and instead seek energy solutions that will provide a renewable energy future. For more information and other fracking resources, go to Food and Water Watch’s The Case for a Ban on Gas Fracking.

cameron nicholson
4/12/2013 10:50:15 PM

Yes Robert is correct. We run Surface casing 10% of our vertical depth at least. Then run Production/Intermediate casing, add in a proper cement job and gas migration test/bubble test and you now have zero ground water contamination. Very simple if the Regulators get with the program and take a system that works. By the way I'm 22 years in this industry, and have probably Fractured over 2000 wells at least with zero ground water contamination. So I think we're doing something correct here.

cam nicholson
4/12/2013 10:30:14 PM

I am a proud Canadian from Alberta who directly supervises "Fracing" operations. All the issues being put forward have solutions. We in Alberta have the strictest government regulations in the world for the Oil & Gas Industry. Believe me I have to do the paper work. If your regulators took all the pages from Alberta's rule book. You guys would have no problems. Except with the Environmental Extremists which nothing you do will appease anyway.

robert johnson
5/4/2012 7:00:46 PM

robert johnson
5/2/2012 4:46:28 AM

robert johnson
5/1/2012 12:43:02 AM

The gas in the water issue could be solved by a casing, it is question of whether you trust the driller to do a good job and the govt to enforce it. The state environmental dept would need more budget to make that enforcement happen. As for the surface impacts, the EIS below discusses ways to make the best of it, but even if the driller does all those things perfectly and a conservation officer is there every day checking, you can't duplicte nature. The ground won't be able to filter the water properly and the aquifer will degrade. NYC doesn't want to filter their water. Land owners may assert their "property rights" but then we should send them the bill for the water filtration plant.

robert johnson
5/1/2012 12:12:41 AM

To those who asked for a full independent study of hydrofracking. Here you go: There isn't a way for the fack fluid to get into the aquifer. Natural gas can into the aquifer. That could be helped with a casing. (a casing isn't required in Pennsylvania, which is where most of the press is about the people with the blow torch faucet) There are surface impacts and that can affect ground water quality. Hydrofracking has been banned in NYC's watershed. The MEN article is accurate as they always are. I am not doing it on my land.

3/29/2012 8:32:18 PM

There are cases all around you Bonnie, as close as catlin hollow road. You dont know about these cases of flaming water because the homes are bought out by the gas co.'s and home owners are paid a premium to sign non-disclosure agreements!!!!!!

peter smith
3/26/2012 1:41:21 PM

Stick to your guns Nancy; you've got it right. The environmental extremists are the ones doing the lieing. Hydraulic fracturing to stimulate and enhance oil and gas production is just "scary" to the uneducated and those gullible enough to believe things like man-caused global warming. Fracking has been safely used on tens (hundreds?) of thousands of wells for at least 50 years.

eric hawk
2/21/2012 10:18:06 PM

I thought I heard we are drilling more than we ever have. Is that wrong according to your info? And doesn't the oil go into a general bank (I don't know what it is technically called). So no one country gets its own oil? What about these studies that show a concern for fracking being involved with 11 earthquakes in Ohio and other places? Are those pro fracking studies from people who stand to make money from fracking? I know of law suits that are still ongoing regarding Julie McDonald's pressuring scientists to alter their reports on endangered wildlife. (she left office under pressure and some reports were found to be rewritten by her) Lots of questions. I hope the powers that be are not just listening to the loudest (monied) voices. We need to look at all info with a critical eye.

t brandt
2/21/2012 8:51:01 PM

I applaud your restraint and request for further studies when it would be so easy to go for the fast buck.(Although there seems to be plenty of studies already saying it's safe.) You're also very clever, because holding out now will mean an even better price & profit for you in the future..... A point everyone calling for "energy independence" seems to be missing is that, for security reasons, we WANT to use up foreign oil FIRST, given that we can't fly battery powered planes or rockets..... Our oil reserve is safest right where it is now- in the ground. When the foreign oil runs out, then we'll still have our own left to pump & defend ourselves and to run our industries. At that point, the price of oil will be very high and at least it'll be Americans making the bigger profits, not our enemies.

a wilson
2/21/2012 3:56:11 PM

It is not just the use of water in the process of drilling, it is the risk to the aquifers and surrounding water supplies. No one really knows the long term risks, and the EPA is already investigating cases of ground water contamination:

a wilson
2/21/2012 3:38:44 PM

I am a land owner in a place that is slated for Hydraulic fracturing, and I will not sign a lease. I know many people in our community who own large amounts of land and are strongly apposed to Hydraulic fracturing for a verity of reasons. I think we could talk "facts" all day, but until there is a full independent study, no one really knows. Remember, they said smoking did not cause Cancer for years, why, because there were making millions of dollars from tobacco sales, the truth took decades to emerge...

eric hawk
2/20/2012 11:28:22 PM

...or mining companies.

eric hawk
2/20/2012 7:06:23 PM

I hope gas companies are more honest than oil companies like BP. Good luck with that.

nancy colburn
2/20/2012 5:08:30 PM

If you research what they are doing, you would find out that they are using far less water than you think they are and they are researching and using gas instead of water so that what is removed from the rock goes right back into the pipline and no water is used at all. Another way is a closed water system where what water comes up with the sludge is effectively spun out and used again and the sludge is sent for disposal. Reuse and recycle.

nancy colburn
2/20/2012 5:02:52 PM

I am so sick of all the negative fracking being thrown around. All the "environmentalists" who don't own land, who don't live anywhere near where drilling is occurring, and who have no stake in the community in which it is taking place needs to butt out! It is none of their business. We who have a stake in the drilling, whether we are already being drilled upon or are waiting for a lease, have researched this deeply. The gas companies are not going to willy nilly drill and contaminate an area that they are then going to have to clean up. That is stupid. They are taking as much precautionary measures as possible to be as safe as possible for everyone involved. We as land owners also drew or will draw up a very tight lease to cover our needs. We care just as much for our land and water and animals. No one is in it just for the money. Everyone loves their land. Many have had it in their families for generations. These articles portray the gas companies and the land owners as money grubbing imbeciles and quite frankly I am offended. Get your facts straight before throwing this kind of article out there.

eric hawk
2/20/2012 4:07:42 PM

With all the facts presented about the decline in the quality of our planet, I hardly think a push back to examine what is going on is called a sky is falling reaction. And, yes it is too bad it is being made a political issue. I will continue to try to be a good steward of my small portion and hope others will do the same.

bonnie richards
2/19/2012 3:17:43 AM

I, too, live where fracing has been used for many years. There is some effect on air quality - about as much as burning natural gas to heat your home and cook your food, which many of you fracing critics are so fond of. But why not get the facts on how the fracing process works before you panic about your ground water? The incidences in Pennnsylvania of flaming water which have been so highly publicised have occured in areas where there is abundant natural gas in pockets where groundwater for drinking has been heavily drilled. It is the saturation of drinking water wells which has actually caused the gas to seep into the water. drinking water wells have a much less reliable casing than that used in drilling for oil and gas. If the drinking water was going to be polluted, it would happen during the drilling process, not during the fracturing. Please do some real reseach before you claim the sky is falling.

ardelle wachter
2/19/2012 12:52:55 AM

With all due respect, I have lived for years in areas where there has been extensive fracking, water pollution was not a problem. The problems create by tolerating junk science as fact is becoming an expensive side show that blurs the real issues we face.

a. wilson
2/18/2012 7:16:13 PM

With respect, there is no "gardening, seed collection, root cellars, farming, animal husbandry, etc" if we destroy our most precious resource, WATER. We can and have lived for millennia without fossil fuels, but no one can live without clean water. If Hydrofracking is as safe, as some claim, let us as citizens who have enjoyed the bounty of this great land embrace a truly impartial study. That is the least we owe our children.

eric hawk
2/18/2012 6:14:17 PM

Thank you a. wilson for directiong this to a more honest conversation.

ardelle wachter
2/18/2012 5:36:05 PM

Other topics I would like to suggest-Aguaponics and hydroponics for the home with ongoing information. Like where to find shrimp to raise!

ardelle wachter
2/18/2012 5:27:27 PM

During a time when our survival is in jeopardy it is critically important to teach sustainability. We need more information on building housing, barns, gardening, seed collection, root cellars, farming, animal husbandry, storing food and water. Your entire life depends on the oil industry-come to terms with it-privately. We are looking for sustainable living information-that is the real key to using less petrochemicals so we stop funding our enemy's.

a. wilson
2/18/2012 4:43:36 PM

I think a few of you here are being a little short sighted. Fracking is not a political issue, it is an issue concerning our ability to live free with clean water and air. If Fracking is as safe as some advocates would suggest, let's have a long term independent study that factors in environmental impact, human health and long term economic impact. We can not gamble the future for our children, this will effect us all including our "bread and chickens"... Thank you Mother Earth News!

t brandt
2/18/2012 12:13:48 PM

Sorry again. Links never seem to work when posted here. Go to and search for the article"Hockey Stick found in NOAA ice core data" originally posted Dec 9, 2009....To summarize it. we're living in an unusually warm epoch of Earth's history. Any "GW" caused by co2 is not recognizable in the general trend, and even if significant, we should be appreciative of it because we're in the downhill trend overall towards the next ice age....We should be conserving fossil fuels- for conservation sake (why waste anything?) not becasue of some fantasies perceived about pollution.

t brandt
2/18/2012 12:03:43 PM

Sorry, Eileen. I don't like to get personal in these discussions. My facetious comment was just to point out how hypocritical the vast majority of the Liberal Environmentalists are. They apparently don't weigh the risk vs benefit of engineering solutions. I'm quite sure the benefits to civilization of the petro industry far outweighs the little bit of risk to the environment (Heard much lately about all the harm done to the Gulf last year, I mean besides the damage The President did to the fishing & oil industries?)....As far as GW goes, you can't appreciate the Mona Lisa if you stand with your nose on the canvas. Step back a little: to get a little perspective on how much we've warmed (?) over the past 10 millenia & how big that "Hockey Stick" really is.

eileen hawk
2/18/2012 2:42:41 AM

Oh, dear. I fear my opinions have caused the conversation to deteriorate into a joke. I guess I will apologize and get back to eating bon bons and watching soaps while you all get back to your intellectual conversation. smile smile bye bye

eileen hawk
2/17/2012 11:58:58 PM

Ouch, andrew. One out of two anyway. Don't be sad. Have some shrimp.

michael tune
2/17/2012 11:38:46 PM

I regret using the word rag. I do love the Mag. Just not the Greensocialcrap down my throat all the time. I want to be independent of oil & electric company's. Only at my own cost though & at your own cost. I don't want to be made to pay for other peoples crap. I don't care what a woman does with her body, it's none of my buisness. If she makes mistakes she will answer for them but not to me. I want a smaller friendlier Government. I want low taxes, I want a clean environment but want the EPA reeled in. (FYI Our environment is a hell of a lot cleaner since any of us have been alive. Remember the trash that used to be on the highways. Well that was our generation that cleaned it up & made us aware. We have come so so far & are heading in the right direction, we will get there but not at the highest cost. America is Great & she is good because she is great.. I want to be free in a free country... if not here then please tell me where?

michael tune
2/17/2012 11:22:24 PM

Andrew what do you know about it? We have very very low levels of CO2 compared to earths history. Was once over 7000ppms. Did man cause that? Hardly. Co2 makes plants grow faster stonger & produce way more fruit. There has historically been much more CO2 in our atmosphere than exists today. For example, during the Jurassic Period (200 mya), average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 ppm or about 4.7 times higher than today. The highest concentrations of CO2 during all of the Paleozoic Era occurred during the Cambrian Period, nearly 7000 ppm -- about 18 times higher than today. The Carboniferous Period and the Ordovician Period were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today-- 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming. So Andrew, do you really know much about it? I can say without any shame I don't know everything but something is not right with this Global warming agenda. It does not add up in my lil brain. Co2 make plants grow like crazy. Bigger production in fruits & veggys. Plants make Clean fresh oxygen. It seem like a balance perhaps is being obtained? I don't have the all the answers but behind the retoric & the agendas there is the truth. We can see from history that high CO2 levels & I mean High has little to no effect on tempuratures. So either we are missing something or we are not being shown all the cards. I think the later is true. So go easy on Eileen, & I aplogize if I was snipy with ya but when you attacked my Tooth Fairy I just say red. Viva LA Tooth Fairy!!!!

t brandt
2/17/2012 11:17:16 PM

Now, now, now..This GW is a serious thing: if it causes all the sponges in the coral reefs to die, then they won't be there to soak up all that water and sea levels will rise and we'll all drown!....All us people who want bans on fracking, drilling, etc never ever drive cars or use products delivered by trucks or trains or made from petro chemicals. I do get lonely, hungry & cold living under this rock , tho.

michael tune
2/17/2012 11:06:04 PM

Well now it seems the good ole moderator is Censoring our conversation. Is it just me or is this Rag becoming more & more Socialist? It seems that is the position taken when they can't have a rational open discussion. At least they dont give up. LOL. Never let a little thing like the truth or facts get in your way must be this guys motto.

andrew smith
2/17/2012 10:59:12 PM

Eileen, you probably also believe in man-caused global warming and the tooth fairy. So sad.

eileen hawk
2/17/2012 10:47:19 PM

University of Texas!! Read all the information you can before you decide. Be careful. Some have also told us to come down and eat that wonderful Gulf shrimp and other seafood I used to love to eat when it was safe to do so. I don't think I am ready to do that yet. Or that sugar is sugar so eat high fructose corn syrup (says my corn farmer friend). Read how fructose is produced. Then decide for yourself. I'm just sayin'.

andrew smith
2/17/2012 10:34:05 PM

Some information for those who care about the truth: MSC Statement on New University of Texas Report Confirming Fracturing's Safety Record Canonsburg, PA – A new report commissioned and funded by the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute provides further, science-based confirmation that hydraulic fracturing “has no direct connection to reports of groundwater contamination.” The group of independent academic experts, along with input from the Environmental Defense Fund, also determined that “Media coverage of hydraulic fracturing is decidedly negative, and few news reports mention scientific research related to the practice,” which is tightly regulated. Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) president Kathryn Z. Klaber issued the following statement regarding the new fact-based study: “Entirely too often, the debate surrounding the responsible development of shale gas is clouded by rhetoric that is unsupported by the facts, proven data and substantiated science. This new study, however, aims to objectively separate fact from fiction, and does so effectively. “Not surprisingly, though disappointingly, the study also captures the negative and one-sided nature of the media coverage surrounding shale gas development. Nonetheless, and as laid out in our Guiding Principles, our organization will continue to ‘encourage spirited public dialogue and fact-based education about responsible shale gas development.’” NOTE: Click HERE to view the Energy Institute’s press release and HERE for the full study

michael tune
2/17/2012 10:08:38 PM

You are so right Sharon, Also where does that electricity come from to charge those cars?? How is it made? Not with wind, or solar. (which I do love both of those but I want to buy them if I want them not tax payers)

john & virginia ledoux
2/17/2012 9:51:35 PM

Maybe we have a problem with 5 to 10% with fracking I don't know. Every time that MEN reports something about energy it's always negative to fossil fuels.Is MEN getting donations from the extreme left-wing inviro-wacho organizations?

2/17/2012 7:49:45 PM

Are you saying that horizontal high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades, with the current chemical mixtures, and in the same areas? Because I don't think that is a fact. The facts include contaminated water and sick people - that's why a ban is needed.

eileen hawk
2/17/2012 6:25:49 PM

"Fracking" needs to be reported in all media. We need to pay attention to the actions of those with agendas that are not beneficial to the planet. I do not want to be cared for by Daddy Fed, but I do expect to work, garden, and recreate in an environment that is not contiinually being so very polluted. Will we wait until we all can light our running faucet water on fire with a match? Simplistic but true.

steve stevens
2/17/2012 6:22:53 PM

I prefer to get facts rather than opinions. This article doesn't quote sources and it takes an all or nothing approach. Fracking is not a new technology, oil and gas drillers have been fracking for decades. Drilling for oil & gas is risky and dangerous. Responsible development is a reasonable approach until something better can replace it. These wells should not be done in an urban setting or in places that would cause more harm than good. However, banning it completely is not a reasonable approach.

a thomas hawkins
2/17/2012 5:36:46 PM

I just looked up and read some of the UT's report and find myself more than a little confused. "UT Austin study says fracking hasn’t contaminated groundwater" reads the headline in but when you read the quoted text of the reports you see statements like "The study reported that many problems blamed on hydraulic fracturing are related to processes common to all oil and gas drilling operations, such as casing failures or poor cement jobs." which to me translates into "they did it first", it doesn't say that it doesn't cause the problems just that the problems are common across the industry. It also says "University researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale gas drilling, rather than from hydraulic fracturing, Charles “Chip” Groat, an Energy Institute associate director, said in a statement." which to me just says that the problem is sometimes above grove rather than below, but there is still a problem, "“These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing,” he said." which is an admission that there are problem but that they are, again, industry wide when it comes to resource extraction. In short the report doesn't, as the headline claims, say that fracking isn't the cause just that it's not unique in being the cause and that it may be the cause in ways other than we expect. As for Mother Earth sticking to making bread and compost, you couldn't be more wrong. Any site that inspires people to look into things and learn more about them should be applauded, I for one welcome the fact that Mother Earth has chosen to add their voice to this debate.

sharon andrew
2/17/2012 4:13:38 PM

Totally agree with Micheal and yes stick to Talking about gardens and chickens. We can't afford the little green car that only runs for 30 miles and then needs a charge,nor can we to have any more of Obamas Solandras thats taking my money without asking.

andrew smith
2/17/2012 4:12:22 PM

Well said Michael.

michael tune
2/17/2012 3:32:06 PM

P.S. I highly recomend a doucumentary by a brilliant man that once lead the charge on the radical green agenda. He as sense seen the light & come up with real true practical impacting plans that make treamendous finacial sense & complete real Change not fluff & lies that only rob from us & our grandchildern. "COOL IT" is availble on Netflix. Its great for the thinking person.

michael tune
2/17/2012 3:17:23 PM


michael tune
2/17/2012 3:16:55 PM

That article seems a bit short sited & simplified. Fact the US is on the verge of the biggest oil & Natural gas boom in it's history. Our gas consumption is down by 47% from it's all time high in 2003 I believe. A new fuel is hitting the market across the US. Trucking company's are converting their fleets to run on Eagle Diesel. It is a natural gas based liquid fuel that has very reduced emissions & will cost much less & is produced 100% in America. Last year we exported more oil & gas then we imported for the first time in decades. We need to become independent with our fuel consumption while free market works develops affordable alternatives. (not our movement of waste & failure) When it comes to Fracking, there is way too many conflicting data. It seems everyone that comes out with a report is clouded with personal agendas. It's a sad state indeed when we cannot trust our government to be honest on basic issues such as this but instead push agenda's. The same holds true for the supposed unbiased on the University studies. Both sides obscure any truth that conflicts with their agenda. The fact is we can do this. We can make positive changes while we preserve our economy & our way of life. Let's produce our own resources both technological & natural while at the same time getting off the Crack oil from Iran & Venezuela & enemy's of America & Freedom. What good is any of this if our children's children will be slaves to debt? Yes it would be great to live in a utopia where we all could frolic with nature & not have a care in the world because Uncle Fed is going to take care of your every need. However this has never worked in history & it goes against the very Foundation of what it means to be an American. America is not perfect by far However it is the best place in the world to live still when it comes to freedom. I realize that some would like to be cared for cradle to the grave & not have to think for themselves. No more war for oil. God Bless America!

lloyd lewis
2/17/2012 2:46:29 PM

Mother Earth needs to stick with making bread and compost. You have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Oil Fracking. Read UT's report on fracking dated 2-17-2012.

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