Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” is a method used by many drilling companies to extract natural gas from mineral deposits. In short, drilling companies pump millions of gallons of water mixed with other chemicals and sand into the ground to break apart shale and release natural gas to be harvested. However, fracking has been known to pollute groundwater in the area. Pennsylvania is located above a large shale formation and has been experiencing a boom in natural gas mining. As a result, many Pennsylvania residents have experienced polluted wells that are no longer usable. Some people can even set their tap water on fire from the methane that is coming through. This is an obvious health hazard, yet the natural gas industry still claims that fracking is safe and that these incidents are unrelated to drilling.
On the other hand, the boom is creating thousands of jobs and providing a boost to the economy in Pennsylvania. This means millions of dollars in revenue, but at what cost? The new Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, is in favor of drilling and opposed to taxing the extraction of natural gas. Corbett received nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the natural gas industry and appointed the owner of a drilling company to be co-chair of his transition team, and he is able to appoint a new head of the Department of Environmental Protection. Essentially, politicians are in position to support drilling and they are likely to do so. Corbett is already planning to repeal the executive order which prevented new drillers from fracking in state forests. Fracking has also been exempt from the Clean Water Act since 2005, and is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the EPA is in the process of performing a study to determine if pollution from fracking can get into water supplies. Are the revenue and jobs from drilling, which goes untaxed and unregulated, really worth the damage it does to the environment and the people who live nearby?
In my opinion, public health should come first, especially when it is difficult for the affected public to speak out about their concerns. The economic benefits of drilling and influence from big companies could make it very difficult for people to prevent fracking in areas in which they live. Also, the number of people not affected is greater than those who are affected, making this problem out of sight and out of mind for many. If natural gas drilling companies are going to continue as they are now, those companies should either develop safer techniques for drilling or provide just compensation for affected residents. Just compensation may include providing municipal water to these residents, paid for by the drilling companies, or even buying the property and homes at a reasonable rate from residents. Either way, fracking should not be allowed to continue as it currently does, polluting ground water.