Environmentalists call for national ban on fracking

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

A coalition of state-based environmental groups are calling for a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The proposed fracking ban is based on claims that the drilling practice imperils public health — based on exaggerated claims, according to critics.

“States should prohibit fracking,” according to Environment America. “In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.”

According to their report, U.S. fracking operations create 280 billion gallons of toxic waste water last year. Since 2005, fracking has used 250 billion gallons of fresh water, degraded nearly 60 acres, and released 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the air.

The report also claims that state data confirms “more than 1,000 cases of water contaminated by dirty drilling operations.”

“The numbers don’t lie — fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse,” John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America, said in a statement.

Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break up tight rock formations to extract oil or gas. The drilling practice has been hyped up by environmentalists to imperil drinking water and air quality.

However, critics have accused the report of over-hyping the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing.

“Mr. Rumpler is right on one thing (and probably only one thing): The numbers do not lie. But Environment America did its best to try to make them as confusing and meaningless as possible, while ignoring all the numbers that actually matter,” writes Katie Brown with the industry-backed Energy In Depth.

The Obama administration has not been able to link groundwater contamination to fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to link fracking to groundwater contamination in three separate studies and, earlier this year, the Energy Department also found that fracking is safe when done properly.

“To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in August.

Dozens of state regulators have also found no evidence of groundwater contamination from fracking operations.

Brown also points out that in order to get such large pollution figures from fracking operations, the report’s authors expanded the definition of fracking to include “all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market” and not just the impacts of the drilling technique itself.

“Unable to defame hydraulic fracturing based on actual, objective terms, Environment America decides here to invent its own definition of the process — essentially erecting a strawman of its own creation and then dutifully tearing it down as if its definition of the process were actually valid,” Brown writes.

The Obama administration is ostensibly in favor of the drilling practice, but has opted to create the first ever set of federal regulations on fracking. The move was initially welcomed by environmentalists.

“It’s time for our federal officials to step up; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and away from our parks, and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law,” said Rumpler.

But environmentalists soon expressed their dissatisfaction with the federal fracking rules, arguing that they did not go far enough in regulating the drilling practice.

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