WHAT IS FRACKING?
Hydraulic Fracturing or “fracking” is the drilling process the natural gas industry uses to extract natural gas from shale rock. It involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and an unknown (to the public) chemical cocktail into the ground to create cracks in deep shale formations then release the natural gas trapped inside.
Closing Industry Loopholes
The natural gas industry exploits numerous legal loopholes that allow it to ignore basic environmental and health protections. This creates thousands of violations and communities everywhere suffer the consequences. We need to work together to call on the Environmental Protection Agency and our elected leaders to close these dangerous loopholes. Ending natural gas loopholes is vital in the fight to achieve a clean energy future.
Cleaning Up the Mess
Fracking for natural gas damages landscapes, pollutes water and air sources, and can have serious health consequences on local communities. Some of the many problems associated with inadequate safeguards in natural gas development include:
- Water contamination from substandard drill casings;
- Water treatment facilities that are unable to process dirty water from drilling operations;
- Harmful air emissions that pollute communities surrounding drilling operations, compressor stations and pipelines;
- Lack of environmental assessments, monitoring and regulatory enforcement to gauge damages to landscapes and wildlife;
- Few safeguards to protect surrounding communities from accidents and leaks.
The Sierra Club is working to correct these problems and clean up the industry.
Protecting Sensitive Areas
As natural gas exploration continues to boom, the industry has its eyes set on fracking in our most precious public lands, such as national and state parks. In many situations, our public lands are already being tapped for their natural gas reserves below the surface. Exporting gas means an increased reliance on the dangerous drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). For these reasons, the Sierra Club intends to block all LNG export facilities.
The Sierra Club strongly opposes all natural gas fracking in national and state parks. Our national and state parks are irreplaceable national treasures that protect American lands, water, wildlife and heritage. The fracking industry currently has little in the way of safeguards to protect our air, water and communities. Therefore, fracking has no place in our national and state parks. We need to stop dangerous fracking from happening in parks now to ensure that our unique natural legacy can be enjoyed by future generations.
The Sierra Club will work to defend these lands and ensure the most stringent safeguards are put in place.
Preventing Gas Exports
The exporting of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) is dirty, dangerous and must be stopped. The natural gas industry is now looking for additional ways to profit from shale gas even if it means more fracking, more climate-disrupting pollution, and putting more sensitive areas at risk.
While several import LNG companies already applied for federal export permits to develop terminals around the country, the environmental consequences of this is worrisome for the following reasons:
- The siting of LNG terminals requires dredging of sensitive estuaries to make room for massive LNG tankers;
- These terminals would be connected by hundreds of miles of pipelines, crossing state and national forests, wild and scenic rivers, sensitive wetlands, and family farms;
- The energy needed to supercool and liquefy gas to ship oversees makes LNG’s carbon footprint as dirty as coal;
- Exporting gas means an increased reliance on the dangerous drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
For these reasons, the Sierra Club intends to block all LNG export facilities.
Already, the Natural Gas Reform Campaign is seeing results from its hard work to protect our water, air and communities.
State Disclosure Law Enforcement
The Natural Gas Reform Campaign works with Sierra Club chapters in states heavily impacted by the natural gas industry, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, to urge officials to enforce gas drilling regulations, such as fracking fluid disclosure laws. Several states have similar laws and we will continue to push for the enforcement of disclosure and other needed safeguards in all natural gas intensive states.
NPR Story Re: Fracking Studies
In a recent story broadcast on NPR, a report that shed favorable light on fracking is at the center of a controversy at the University of Texas. The head of the school's Energy Institute has stepped down and another professor has retired after an investigation found numerous errors and flaws in the report — and undisclosed conflicts of interest.
A University of Texas study that says hydraulic natural gas fracturing is safe has been withdrawn, and its author has retired and left the university.
In his report, NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who wrote the story, stated, “The fracking study is now a black eye to the University of Texas after an independent review of national experts found it scientifically unsound and tainted by conflicts of interest. The author of the study, Dr. Charles Groat, retired in the wake of the scathing review, and the university announced that Dr. Raymond Orbach, head of the university's Energy Institute that released the study, has resigned his position.”
“The original fracking study concluded that hydraulic fracturing was safe, the danger of water contamination low and suggestions to the contrary mostly media bias. But then it was reported this summer that Professor Groat sat on the board of a natural gas drilling company and received more than a million and a half dollars in compensation. That information was not disclosed in Groat's report.”
“In a statement, the University of Texas said it accepted the findings of the independent review. This is the third time in three months that fracking research by energy-friendly university industry consortiums has been discredited. The Shale Resources Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo was closed after questions were raised about the quality and independence of its work. And an industry canceled their fracking study after professors at Penn State University refused to participate.”
The Sierra Club's Natural Gas Reform Campaign works to promote strong standards within the natural gas industry. Natural gas companies should be subject to additional scrutiny and strong national and state safeguards in order to protect our air, water, and communities. If we can’t protect our health and treasured landscapes from the damages caused by the natural gas industry and fracking, then we should not drill for natural gas.
We must preserve our nation's environmental integrity while developing clean alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.