All it’s Fracked up to be?


Maya Lapp, Obama Eagle Staff Senior Writer

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a major environmental issue in many areas around the country, especially in Pittsburgh due to a recent discovery of a trove of natural gas in this region. Pittsburgh has a history of polluting the rivers and air of this region. We have come a long way since the days of the steel mills when we were one of the dirtiest cities in the country. We have rid ourselves of the steel mills, cleaned our rivers and air, and explored alternative energy sources. The question that has been troubling environmentalists is: could fracking set us back a long way from the road we have traveled thus far? There have even been studies that claim to link fracking to an influx of earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing has been around for a while, but recently it has been combined with horizontal drilling, and there hasn’t been nearly as much research about how this new way to retrieve oil and gas affects the environment.


The Environmentalist View


Preservationists believe that around thirty percent of the undisclosed chemicals used during fracking remain in the ground, intoxicating drinking water and polluting the Pittsburgh rivers that have just been cleaned up. It may cause risks to not only the water but also the wildlife that the land supports. Along with the environmental hazards that fracking causes, it also reduces the number of sustainable alternatives that are explored in an area that is fracked. It produces an abundance of oil and gas, so alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power are not as competitive.

There has been much debate on this topic, and one movie that expresses the conservationist view is Promised Land. This movie was shot in Pennsylvania and depicts the dangers of fracking while maintaining a storyline to interest younger minds in the issue. There are also many organizations that protest fracking. One such organization is Protect Our Parks, a group that focuses mainly on Allegheny county parks and has appealed to county council representatives to protect the parks from future fracking and is creating a petition opposing fracking in public parks.


Pro-Fracking View

Some people, most prominently the fracking companies, believe that the dangers fracking poses the environment are over exaggerated. They say that the largest earthquake cause by fracking would be about the same size as one cause by an apple falling from a tree. They stress that fracking is not a new process at all- it has been around for over fifty years in the United States and there are more than 20,000 wells in Illinois alone. In fact, ninety-eight percent of the liquid used during fracking is water and only two percent are chemicals. To suggest that fracking is toxic is like saying the same about a PB&J sandwich. If you consume kilos of peanut butter and jelly it is toxic, but it does not prevent many children from eating it nearly every day.