EWG on Obama’s Natural Gas Policy – What the Frack?

The Environmental Working Group isn’t thrilled with the emphasis Obama put on Natural Gas production in his state of the union address.  The problem is that almost all current Natural Gas production requires the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells (fracking). Some background on on fracking from Earth Friendly Shopping

In a hydraulic fracture operation,  water and a mix of chemicals are pumped at high pressure into the formation where the gas is stored  At some point, the formation is no longer able to absorb the liquid and fractures.  The gas will flow more easily through the fracture and into the well.

Among the problems with this procedure is that chemical companies do not release the list of chemicals that they use, considering them proprietary.  While we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in the mix, we do know that some of them are highly toxic, and some have shown up in underground drinking water supplies near fracking sites.

Meanwhile, evidence is growing that water supplies have been compromised in at least six states from hydraulic fracturing operations.   In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded in which residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes

EWG did acknowledge that the President wants to require companies to disclose the chemicals that they use, and they welcome his leadership in that regard.  but

 that isn’t going to be enough to satisfy grassroots outrage about the David versus Goliath battles in which local communities find themselves pitted against giant drilling companies. People are worried about their water, their health and the value of their property after drilling. They are beset by frenzied leasing requests from natural gas “land men” and in some cases, experiencing drilling-related earthquakes. These communities have deep, long-term concerns about the environmental and financial impacts of natural gas drilling in key battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina. Yet it seems to us the White House has missed this political reality in its fervor over natural gas drilling.

…This natural gas policy may undermine what the President says is the most important mission of our time – ‘the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.’ Ask the folks with whom EWG has spoken – and they’ll tell you what happened to them — unregulated fracking destroyed that promise.

Natural gas does certainly burn cleaner than most other fossil fuels, but it crucial that we not overlook the problems, and that we use natural gas as no more than a bridge to get us to truly clean and renewable sources of power.

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