Shaky Ground (Part I in a series on fracking)

by Jonathan Barnes

“Fracking,” also known as “hydraulic fracturing” refers to “the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil buy generic viagra online or gas.”discount cialis fracturing” target=”_blank”> Oxford Dictionaries.

Sam Lane was watching TV and his wife was in the bedroom with their two-year-old son when the earthquake hit. The house shook so violently his wife grabbed their son and she and Sam ran for the door.

The Feb. 27, 2011 quake registered a 4.7 on the Richter scale and was the largest in Arkansas since the 1960s. Lane is a resident of Greenbrier, population 6,000, and he has seen his hometown, which is a bedroom community of Conway, Ark, change drastically since the area began having earthquakes in mid-February 2011. The quakes were so frequent that he took all of the pictures and mirrors off the walls of his home, because he feared they’d fall and hurt someone.

By March of last year, Stop Arkansas Fracking, of which Lane is a member, had been formed. Even with the pressure put on natural gas drillers by the advocacy group, there have been more than 1,000 earthquakes in the state, and they continue.

Across the country, critics of hydro-fracturing—the process by which energy companies force natural gas from deep underground and often force the used wastewater from the process thousands of feet back into the ground to discard it—are increasing in numbers. Critics say because of fracking, they’re living on shaky ground. The naysayers include rural retirees whose water wells were ruined, parents transformed into activists, scientists and others.

While proponents say fracking can help solve America’s energy

woes, evidence is accumulating that there are environmental

problems with the process.

Arthur McGarr, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA, points to the recent New Year’s Eve quake and others around Youngstown, OH, as a clear case of fracking causing earthquakes. “They were dispersing huge quantities of wastewater, so it wasn’t surprising that online casino money it led to the earthquakes in 2011,” McGarr said.

Injection deep into the earth is a common means of disposal of used fracking fluid, which is a combination of water, sand and hundreds of chemicals. In Youngstown and elsewhere, the wastewater injection part of the process is believed to have caused or to be causing earthquakes.

In Greenbrier there’s now a moratorium on injection wells and much of the used fracking fluid from Arkansas is being shipped to Oklahoma for injection. But it’s tough fighting what you can’t precisely define. Of 360 chemicals used to frack, more than 60 are exempted as trade secrets, Lane said.

“The problem is the burden of proof is on the people. It’s hard to prove there are chemicals in the water when you don’t know what the chemicals are,” Lane said.

A similar situation exists in Pennsylvania, where “trade secret” chemicals used in fracking, even if they are believed by doctors to be harming the health of children, cannot be divulged after the company has passed the information to a doctor. Critics say the bottom line of oil and gas companies is superseding the need to protect public safety and drinking water.

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About Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes is an award-winning Pittsburgh freelance writer who has written thousands of newspaper, magazine, and news service stories. He is a longtime correspondent for Reuters and Engineering News-Record, and a stringer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has contributed to Fortune, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday and other publications. His personal essays have been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ENR, in magazines, journals and on his blog, Barnestormin: