Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
Politicians and energy industry enthusiasts have touted fracking as the path to US energy independence, while environmentalists have battled against the proliferation of fracking and the resultant damage to the Earth. Despite environmental concerns, 18 states have jumped onto the fracking bandwagon (map.)
Fracking now is being blamed for an outbreak of earthquakes in North Texas, the explosion (pun intended) of crude oil train disasters across the country, and water contamination in four states.
Texas Is Shaking
More than 20 earthquakes have rocked North Texas since October 2013. Seventeen of those earthquakes have hit the small town of Azle, Texas, and residents are up in arms.
Why is North Texas shaking and sinking? Fracking.
North Texans are blaming the earthquakes on the growth of fracking and the proliferation of injection wells in the area. Fracking (AKA hydraulic fracturing) is a controversial technique which involves injecting a highly pressurized slurry of water and chemicals deep into the Earth in order to fracture rock and extract natural gas and petroleum.
According to Dallas/Ft. Worth NBC News report, more than 800 people showed up at a public meeting to complain about earthquakes, sink holes, damaged homes, and contaminated water. Concerned that the Texas Legislature isn’t listening, Azle residents are planning a community bus trip to Austin. (Check out a compilation of stories here.)
Crude Oil Trains Exploding
Remember last summer’s dramatic news stories about the derailment and explosion of a runaway crude oil train that destroyed the downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec and killed dozens of residents? Or the story about the 90-car oil train that derailed and exploded in Alabama in November? Or the December train derailment in Casselton, ND which ignited fireballs and forced the evacuation of town residents during bitterly cold winter temperatures? Or this week’s bridge derailment of a crude oil train that threatened the Schuylkill River, which meanders through downtown Philadelphia?
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), crude oil shipments by rail have skyrocketed by 400% since 2005. For example, fracking in North Dakota’s Brakken shale area has resulted in booming oil production– 1 million gallons per day or 5% of the country’s oil consumption. Ninety percent of Brakken crude is shipped by rail; both the Casselton and Phildelphia trains were carrying crude from Brakken.
This huge increase in rail transportation of crude oil has resulted in a rash of explosive train derailments. In fact, more oil — 1.15 million gallons– spilled from derailed trains in 2013 than in the previous four decades combined.
As a result, the NTSB is calling for tougher regulations, including a prohibition against rail transportation of flammable crude oil through urban centers. (Duh.)
Drinking Is Dangerous
Environmentalists warned us about potential groundwater contamination due to fracking, when the controversial practice was first introduced.
Fast forward a few years, and now the Associated Press is reporting contaminated well water in four states that jumped into the fracking oil boom early on. Hundreds of residents of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas have filed official complaints about contaminated well water, due to gas and oil production.
How much more death, destruction, and environmental damage must we suffer in the name of jobs and oil?
To the 18 states with fracking, how’s that “drill baby drill” workin’ for ya now?
* Bakken (no r)
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