Hydraulic fracking has been linked to a wide range of environmental problems including water and air pollution, earth tremors, explosions and the contamination of groundwater and private wells.
Free Confidential Lawsuit Evaluation: If your air or drinking water has been contaminated due to methane migration or other consequences of hydraulic fracking, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.
Update: Feds Sued Over California Offshore Fracking
November 17, 2016 – Two Santa Barbara environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) attempting to block the agency from issuing new permits for offshore fracking in Southern California, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. According to the lawsuit, an environmental analysis by BSEE concluded falsely that hydraulic fracking poses no significant impact to the environment in terms of air quality, water quality, or endangered species.
What is Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing (also known “fracking” or “hydraulic fracking”) is the process of drilling and injecting water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure in order to recover gas and oil from shale rock. This process can be carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to create new pathways or extend existing channels to release gas. Most fracking wells in use today employ a combination of hydraulic fracturing, which has been in use since the 1940s, and horizontal drilling, a technique that first become widespread in the 1990s.
The Fracking Boom
There were about 276,000 natural gas wells in the U.S. in 2000. That number nearly doubled to 510,000 by 2010, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), and each year about 13,000 new wells are drilled. A 2014 study found that more than 15 million Americans have lived within a mile of a fracking well that has been drilled since 2000.
What’s the Problem?
The fracking process involves mixing enormous amounts of water with various toxic chemicals to produce frack fluid, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). This substance is further contaminated by heavy metals and radioactive elements contained in shale. A large portion of the frack fluid returns to ground level, where it can spill into rivers and other naturally-occurring water sources. Underground water supplies can also be contaminated by fracking through migration of gas and frack fluid underground.
Dangers of Fracking
Environmental problems associated with hydraulic fracking include:
- Air pollution
- Contaminated drinking water / ground water
- Depletion of fresh water
- Toxic sludge and waste
- Animal deaths
- Industrial disasters
- Machinery accidents
- Well explosions
- Tremors / earthquakes
- Chemical spills
- Noise pollution
Illnesses linked to fracking:
- Neurological damage
- Sore throats
- Breathing problems
Hydraulic fracking has been linked to a wide range of environmental problems, but the most pressing ecological concern associated with this form of drilling is methane migration. This occurs when methane seeps into the water supply, and is often a direct result of gas companies’ negligent drilling practices, according to StateImpact.
Drilling companies often try to deny responsibility for methane migration, noting that underground methane naturally travels to the surface over time. However, this normally takes hundreds or even thousands of years. Fracking accelerates this process by creating a path for the methane to escape from underground.
“Natural gas wants to migrate up,” said Penn State geologist Dave Yoxtheimer. “It’s lighter, it’s less dense. And it finds itself getting trapped in these shallower, more porous formations. And during the drilling process you can go down through these shallower formations. As you’re drilling through, suddenly you’ve created a conduit for those gasses to escape.”
North Texas Earthquakes Linked to Fracking, EPA Finds
August 24, 2016 – Federal regulators believe “there is a significant possibility” that recent earthquakes in North Texas are linked to the hydraulic fracturing industry, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual evaluation of how the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) oversees thousands of injection and disposal wells that dot state oilfields — underground resting places for millions of gallons of toxic waste from fracking and other drilling activities.
“In light of findings from several researchers, its own analysis of some cases and the fact that earthquakes diminished in some areas following shut-in or reduced injection volume of targeted wells, EPA believes there is a significant possibility that North Texas earthquake activity is associated with disposal wells,” the agency said.
Fracking May Worsen Asthma, JAMA Study Finds
July 18, 2016 – Hydraulic fracking may worsen asthma in children and adults who live near sites where the oil and gas drilling method is used, according to a study published today in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study found that asthma treatments were up to 4 times higher in patients living closer to areas with more or bigger active wells than those living far away. Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said pollution and stress from the noise caused by the fracking process might explain the results.
New Mexico Fracking Explosion Highlights Dangers of Fossil Fuel Industry
July 15, 2016 – A fracking site in San Juan County, New Mexico, erupted into flames this week, causing 36 oil tanks to catch fire and the evacuation of 55 residents. The fire broke out around 10:15 PM at a site owned by WPX Energy, setting off several explosions and forcing the closure of highway 550. The site — known as the “550 Corridor” and located in the Mancos shale deposit — contains 6 new oil wells and 30 storage tanks that hold either oil or produced water. All 36 tanks caught fire and burned, according to EcoWatch.
Study Finds Fracking in California Groundwater Supply
June 28, 2016 – In California’s agricultural heartland, up to 1 in 5 fracking projects occurs in underground sources of fresh water, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Most of the activity was minor, but in Kern County, the hub of California’s oil industry, 15-19% of oil and gas activity occurs in freshwater zones, according to the researchers.
Fracking Banned in Germany
June 27, 2016 – Germany’s coalition government has agreed to outlaw fracking for shale gas in the country after years of debate over the issue, but environmental groups said the ban does not go far enough and vowed to fight it. Under the new agreement, test drilling will be allowed but only with the permission of the respective state government, according to Reuters.
Fracking Ban Proposed in California
June 17, 2016 – A number of environmental groups scored a victory this week in Butte County, where a ballot ban on hydraulic fracturing passed with over 70% of the vote, according to Politico. Monterey County, one of California’s largest oil-producing regions, will vote on a similar ballot initiative in November to ban fracking. The anti-fracking group Protect Monterey County wants oil wells in the area to be sealed off permanently, which may be more likely after this week’s vote in Butte County.
Massachusetts Senate Proposes Decade-Long Moratorium on Fracking
June 14, 2016 – The Massachusetts Senate is backing a 10-year moratorium on fracking in the state, according to CBS News. The bill, which was unanimously approved last week, would also bar the disposal of wastewater from fracking.
There are currently no fracking operations underway in Massachusetts; however, critics hope to ensure that no drilling occurs around the Hartford basin, a rock formation in the Connecticut River Valley that may contain shale gas and/or oil deposits. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.
EPA Releases “First-Ever” Rules on Methane Emissions
May 13, 2016 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the final version of its first federal regulations (PDF) intended to curb emissions of methane, a toxic greenhouse gas released during the fracking process. The agency said the new rules are part of President Obama’s efforts to reduce methane emissions by 40-45% from 2012 levels by 2025. EPA expects the regulations to cost about $530 million in total, which it expects to be offset by $690 million in environmental benefits.
$4.2 Million Verdict in PA Water Contamination Lawsuit
In March 2016, a Pennsylvania jury handed down a $4.24 million verdict in a lawsuit filed over water contamination from negligent shale gas drilling by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. in Dimock, PA. The jury ordered Cabot to pay plaintiffs Nolen Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely $1.3 million each, and an additional $150,000 for their 3 children, and to pay Ray and Victoria Hubert each $720,000, plus an additional $50,000 for their child.
Because the scope of the complaint was dramatically narrowed before trial, the plaintiffs were unable to pursue Cabot for any harms done to their health, but only for property damage and the personal nuisance that the water contamination caused.
“This is a huge victory for the people of Dimock, but it’s also a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration for failing to fully investigate threats posed by fracking and dangerous drilling to water supplies in Pennsylvania and across the country,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Because of the EPA’s disturbing history of delay and denial, it took a federal jury to set the record straight about the natural gas industry’s toxic threat to our water.”
In 2012, Cabot reached a settlement with roughly 40 other Dimock residents, but the terms of that agreement were never made public and included a “non-disparagement” clause that prevents those who settled from speaking publically about their experiences.
Millions at Risk for Man-Made Earthquakes, USGS Finds
The U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS) in March 2016 published an earthquake hazard map of both natural and “induced” quake sites. The map and an accompanying report show that portions of the central U.S. now face a risk of temblors equal to that of California. About 7 million people live in places vulnerable to fracking-induced earthquakes, according to the study. States at the highest risk include Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Alabama.
Do I Need a Fracking Lawyer?
The Workplace & Environmental Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in fracking lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently investigating potential settlements in all 50 states.
Free Confidential Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one has been the victim of water or air contamination caused by fracking, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.