As we acknowledge World Environment Day and World Oceans Day this week – days to recognize the human impact on our environment and discuss the best ways to help protect it – and in Pennsylvania, many are using the week to recognize the impact of fracking.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Oil Is Above $70, but Frackers Still Struggle to Make Money,” reported that of the top 20 oil companies in the United States focused on fracking, only five were able to profit in the first quarter of this year. These companies have been able to survive and continue operations only by taking on massive amounts of debt. It is not our geology that makes hydraulic fracturing production possible, rather it’s our financial markets.
The ramifications of this report could be immense for the natural gas industry, which has found itself opposed by many average Pennsylvanians who believe fracking does more harm than good. Organizations such as Lancaster Against Pipelines, a group which has fought the installation of gas pipelines in Lancaster County, have petitioned Governor Tom Wolf to ban fracking in the state, citing community concerns. A Franklin & Marshall poll from March reported 55 percent of Pennsylvanians believe the environmental dangers of fracking outweigh the economic benefits.
Pennsylvania’s residents are right to be worried. Fracking of the Marcellus Shale results in pollution of our air, soil and water supply. Each well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid, radioactive material, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals, which leech into our groundwater and contaminate the soil. Methane from these natural gas pockets also escapes into our atmosphere during the process.
From 2004 to the end of November 2016, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection received more than 9,000 public complaints about environmental problems in areas that began natural gas development, according to this investigation by the Pittsburgh watchdog Public Herald. Evidently these complaints, and the health of Pennsylvanians, are currently going unheard in Harrisburg.
The neighboring states of New York and Maryland have already banned fracking due to the environmental impact, but Gov. Wolf continues to sit on his hands. With more than 11,000 active oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, there have been more than 4,000 violations during the operation of these wells.
We will never be energy independent if we continue our reliance on fossil fuels, and we must take all the steps necessary to move to a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of life. I’m not suggesting citizens conduct a guerrilla war against natural gas in the state, but with our gubernatorial election closing in this November, it is vital that voters let Wolf know that if fracking is not worth it for the natural gas industry, it’s not worth it for Pennsylvania.