The cost of fracking

It’s impossible these days to read, listen to or watch a news program that doesn’t mention hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Stefanie Spear

Troy Media

It’s impossible these days to read, listen to or watch a news program that doesn’t mention hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

The big news last week was the announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it is delaying from 2014 to 2016 the release of its study on the impact of fracking.

In 2010, at the request of Congress, the EPA was mandated to conduct a study to understand the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water and groundwater. The scope of the research is to include the full lifespan of water in fracking.

The delay of this report is significant because many local and state governments have placed a moratorium on fracking while waiting for guidance from the EPA on the impacts of oil and gas extraction.

Communities in states where fracking is already taking place – including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota – are greatly concerned by the delay as reports of water and air contamination, earthquakes and health problems, as well as issues with the disposal of toxic radioactive fracking wastewater, abound.

In Wyoming, residents had a lot to say regarding the delay of the EPA report. On June 21, landowners in the Pavillion area of Wyoming and environmental groups condemned Governor Matt Mead’s announcement that the state is assuming control from the EPA on the investigation into groundwater contamination by fracking-enabled oil and gas development near the town of Pavillion.

In Pennsylvania last week, clean water activists and representatives from Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Berks Gas Truth gathered in the Pennsylvania State Capitol to call on Governor Tom Corbett to speak publicly on the extent of water contamination from fracking for natural gas in his state. Legislatively there was good news and bad news.

The good news came out of Boulder, Colorado, where local residents rejoiced at the decision of the Boulder County Commission to enact a new moratorium on fracking for 18 months. The bad news came out of Illinois where Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a statewide fracking bill. According to the Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, the Illinois fracking bill – SB1715 – was negotiated behind closed doors, and was not based on scientific study, but rather on what was politically possible, regardless of science.

In New York, more than 3,000 New Yorkers rallied last week to send a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to reject fracking and lead the nation in renewable energy.

In Alberta, a game-changing report by environmental consultant Jessica Ernst was released which summarized facts related to the contamination of North America’s groundwater sources resulting from fracking.

In Europe, Food & Water Europe launched a new web site to challenge the fossil fuel industry’s spin that shale gas can be safely extracted. The web site,, takes issue with the industry’s denial of strong links between shale gas extraction and water contamination in the U.S..

As each day brings more fracking news, I hope more people are educating themselves on the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on human health and the environment, including climate change and the well-being of future generations.

As 3,000+ New Yorkers put it so well last week, we are at a crossroads. Are we going to continue to pollute the planet with dirty fossil fuels, or are we going to once and for all support a sustainable energy future and embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy?

Stefanie Spear is founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of EcoWatch. Her column is distributed through Troy Media.