Chet Nagle, director, Black Bear Energy Corporation - 05/02/13 10:45 AM ET
In 2012, National Geographic told us, “Unlike CO2, methane affects human health, because it is a precursor of smog.” Now the Environmental Defense Fund tells us, “... each pound of methane is 72 times more powerful at increasing the retention of heat in the atmosphere than a pound of carbon dioxide.” So, what is this toxic greenhouse gas, methane? It’s natural gas, that stuff we get from “fracking.”
To be fair, good things come from the fracking boom like jobs drilling wells, new industrial plants, and the hope America may be energy independent one day. But Sherry Vargson is not enthusiastic. Chesapeake Energy fracked her Pennsylvania farm and now her tapwater fizzes with twice the methane that could cause an explosion. Chesapeake gives her bottled water, though that might end soon since gas production on her farm dropped dramatically and her monthly royalty checks have fallen from $1000 to $100. If that’s just natural, as Chesapeake says, let’s examine some other facts.
Energy companies get methane by drilling horizontally for a mile or more into deep shale and injecting chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water. That fractures the rock and releases gas, hence the name, “fracking.” One problem with this process is that fracking chemicals can enter drinking water wells. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes are already in the gas deposits and may also be in fracking chemicals. VOCs create ozone and cause headaches, loss of coordination, liver and kidney damage, respiratory and immune system damage, adrenal and pituitary tumors, and joint pain -- symptoms many have who live near gas wells in states like Colorado, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania.
Then there is leakage. Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell was first to study the impact of fracking on