Should We Allow Such Freedom in the Wild West?

Jake Hughes
The Paw Print

In recent years, our environment and the way we have been treating it has been a heated topic that many say should be a top priority. Another controversial subject parallel to that is, of course, finding a clean, renewable energy source that doesn’t cause more damage to the environment and everything around it.

Hydraulic fracturing, which is a process used to extract natural gases and petroleum out of the earth by vertically or horizontally drilling down and pumping numerous unspecified chemicals into the ground, is widely stated to be a huge contributor to our environmental problems. In light of the recent earthquake in China, hydraulic fracturing is said to have numerous environmental implications (like earthquakes), and is also widely stated to cause water contaminations in underground wells.

Hydraulic fracturing is coming to Rio Grande and San Luis Valley. In fact, as of April 11, a group called First Liberty started drilling at Old Women’s Creek near Del Norte. After the salmonella outbreak in Alamosa a couple of years ago, many residents have expressed their concerns about possible water contaminations.  Fears that hydraulic fracturing companies are operating in a Wild West environment with little regulation have prompted political action. In June, the group Don’t Frack Ohio led thousands of protesters on a march to the statehouse, where they declared their commitment to halting hydraulic fracturing in the state.

Legislation banning the process has been considered but is now on hold in California. However, New York – which sits atop a giant natural gas reserve – has a statewide hydraulic fracturing moratorium; pending policies would allow the process only where local officials support it. One of the most explosive issues, literally, is whether hydraulic fracturing introduces methane into drinking water wells at levels that can make tap water flammable or build up in confined spaces and cause home explosions. Studies are few, but a recent analysis suggests a link. Scientists who sampled groundwater from 60 private water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York found that average methane concentrations in wells near active fracturing operations were 17 times as high as in wells in inactive areas.

Methane naturally exists in groundwater – in fact, the study found methane in 51 of the 60 water wells – but the higher levels near extracting sites raised eyebrows. Many studies have also found a direct correlation with hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, which has led countries like France and Bulgaria to ban the technique, while states in the US continue to use this method.                       Whatever the weather, hydraulic fracturing does have some implications, although the subject attracts a diverse range of opinions. However, one thing we do know is that hydraulic fracturing needs firmer and tighter regulation, with correct and suitable research that isn’t conducted in house by fracking companies. With the correct monitoring by the government and state officials there could be room for hydraulic fracturing, but until then, the complications and negative results only hinder this form of energy farming.

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