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How fracking can affect food

How fracking works: the underground aquifer is where our drinking water comes from

If you read the news, you’re probably aware of ‘fracking’ aka hydraulic fracturing.  Basically, it’s the process of extracting petroleum (a natural gas) by using chemicals (some of which are toxic) to create pressure fractures in rock.  By doing so, oil and gas companies can speed the extraction process in deep natural gas well drilling.   The concern with fracking is that it can create air pollution and atmospheric emissions, and water contamination (among other consequences) that may have negative health effects.

The University of Texas recently published a comprehensive analysis of the current state of fracking in the U.S.  Their goal was to lay the groundwork for fact-based regulation, not on media hype and unfounded concerns.  The study found that there are risks and potentially damaging effects of nearly every phase of extraction.

As you can learn in Gasland, the Halliburton (one of the largest oil companies in the world) Loophole is the name dubbed for the 2005 energy bill that denies the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  In addition, the Bush/Cheney energy bill exempts natural gas drilling from the Safe Water Drinking Act (which backs the EPA to guarantee that we have safe drinking water).

A fracking waste pit

The implications of this are enormous – if oil and gas companies can operate without being held accountable and without disclosing the chemicals they’re using, there is no guarantee that our air or water is safe.  If farmers begin to use contaminated water, our food system will become a safety hazard as well.

There is an important new bill proposed called the FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act), which would repeal the 2005 energy bill and require that natural gas companies disclose the chemicals they use to the EPA.  The FRAC Act has not yet been approved but it is still on the table.

Of course, the gas industry is against regulation.  It seems to me that the industry should be required to disclose their chemicals to a regulatory agency.  If they’re worried that disclosing the chemicals would cause them to lose proprietary secrets, then I have no problem with an objective third party evaluator to assess the risks without providing the public with their formula.  Besides, if the chemicals are safe, the industry has nothing to worry about.

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