Reader Stephen R. Knowles, P. Eng. (Ret.) recently submitted the following thoughts on the impact of fracking (the drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing), including the truck traffic associated with this activity, a drop in property values for nearby communities and the fact that fracked natural gas is a dirty fuel.
The impact on a community near a fracking operation is considerable. One drill pad with 12 wells that are each fracked three times will require 180,000,000 gallons of fresh water in 36,000 tanker truck loads. There will also be a similar number of truck loads of flowback water and produced water to be removed for disposal and there will be a large number of truck loads for the largely toxic chemicals, the sand and the drilling equipment. The huge spike in traffic takes its toll on local roads (repaired at taxpayer expense) and creates massive disturbances in quiet rural communities. Temporary workers flood the area looking for fast cash; traffic accidents increase, crime increases; drug use increases; local services, both municipal and private are strained. Fracking changes everything.
One effect of fracking that is often forgotten is the drop in property values. Banks become reluctant to loan money to build homes in a fracking area, particularly if the water has been contaminated. One Colorado resident indicated that his property value dropped from $559,000 to $280,000 after a fracking operation was set up adjacent to his property.
The argument that fracked natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal has recently been disproved by a Cornell University study. Largely because of the leakage of fracked methane during production and transport, the energy consumed in its production and the predominant use of methane as a domestic and industrial heating fuel, the green house gas contribution of fracked gas exceeds that of coal.
Josh Fox is a landowner in northeastern Pennsylvania. Before allowing fracking companies access to his land he investigated several rural communities in the USA that have ongoing fracking operations and made a film entitled Gasland documenting what he learned about air and water contamination. You will find the film shocking. You can rent the DVD or purchase it at amazon.com.
In 2005 hydraulic fracturing was exempted by the US Congress from 7 Federal Statutes, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, the so-called “Haliburton Loophole.” Without these exemptions the process may not have been financially viable. In Ontario the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Gord Miller, recommended in his 2010/11 annual report entitled Engaging Solutions that MNR and MOE review and publicly report on the sufficiency of the regulatory framework to protect water resources and the natural environment from shale gas extraction. In October 2012 an application was made to the ECO by Ecojustice to review three specific environmental regulations with respect to their applicability to the new technique of hydraulic fracturing. The MNR and MOE have agreed to conduct both reviews but no date for completion of these reviews is available.
One can only hope that the MNR and MOE and the Ontario Government realize that the risks of fracking far outweigh the benefits of this method of extracting natural gas. Surely we can drive our energy future in a more promising direction. Once the ground water is contaminated with fracking chemicals it is lost forever. Moratoriums and bans are being called for all across Canada (particularly in Quebec) and the United States now that the risks are becoming known. Please call upon your MP, your MPP and your local municipality and urge them to ban fracking in Ontario.
Submitted by Stephen R. Knowles, P. Eng. (Ret.)