Fracking is a very controversial topic that is more complicated than people think. During hydraulic fracturing, liquid containing sand and other chemicals fractures rocks by being injected into them at a very high pressure, cracking them, which causes gas to be released. In this report I will go over the consequences of fracking, positive and negative, the effect that fracking can have on society, and what I think Pennsylvania should do regarding fracking and energy production moving forward. I will also discuss how I personally feel about fracking after researching this topic and learning more about it.
Benefits from fracking are mostly economic. The main economic benefits of fracking are revenue and job creation. In Pennsylvania, the taxes on fracking have produced over $1 billion in revenue since 2011 (Jacobs). $900 million was allocated amongst the state counties (67 of them to be exact) and about $500 million went to agencies and natural resource management programs (Jacobs). All of the counties in Pennsylvania have received benefits from fracking and ironically enough, so have environmental organizations because of the money being donated to them. All counties are free to use their money towards anything that they want, for example construction, building repair, tax reductions etc. (Jacobs). Continuing to build and open new fracking sites in new locations across the state would mean guaranteed profits for each county over the course of the next decade. We could potentially view this as an opportunity cost, if we choose to ban fracking it would cost us over a billion dollars over the next decade. All the benefits that the state’s counties are receiving would no longer exist.
The other major benefit of fracking is job production. Since 2007, on average fracking has been able to produce over 5,000 jobs per year (IPAA). Although a lot of those jobs may be seasonal or part-time, it is better than no job at all. According to ipaa.org, the first ten years of fracking created over 2.5 million jobs nationwide, and the oil and natural gas industry is supporting over 10 million jobs nationwide. This website also said that if fracking continues at the rate it is now, 3.5 million jobs will have been created by 2035. Job creation is weighted very heavily when deciding how healthy the economy is, that is because it benefits the economy in every way.
Although fracking has a bad reputation for its effect on the environment, there are benefits that come from it, especially when you compare the effects natural gas has on the environment compared to coal. The main environmental concerns when it comes to fracking are air pollution, water pollution, and earthquakes. There is much speculation that fracking causes the air quality near fracking sites to get worse, possibly resulting in sickness or lung cancer for nearby residents. But, according to ipaa.org, the evidence they have suggests that air quality has actually gotten better since fracking has started. There are regulations when it comes to air quality and if emissions from fracking exceed the public health thresholds then fracking would have to be shut down. Air monitors have been placed at fracking sites and these thresholds have not been exceeded (IPAA). As long as these thresholds are not being tested or exceeded, I believe it is okay to continue fracking. Other scientists who have studied the air quality have concluded that the data is inconclusive and too inconsistent to say that it is affecting the environment in any way (Beard). Another threat from fracking that concerns people is that groundwater can be polluted. There are many studies suggesting otherwise, claiming that studies saying groundwater has been contaminated are greatly exaggerated or are fake altogether. In 2018, the Department of Environmental Protection came out with a statement saying that there is no evidence that water has been directly impacted by fracking (IPAA) . Their conclusion came from studies shown in their annual report. The chances of contamination from gases or toxic chemicals is very low, and if it does occur then there are operators required by law to restore and replace the water supplies that have been contaminated. Lastly, there is speculation that earthquakes are being caused around fracking sites because of drilling. If earthquakes do occur from the fracking process, then they are usually too low of a magnitude for people to notice. These earthquakes rarely occur, and usually do occur from the injection of wastewater back into the earth. If wastewater was taken to a plant to be treated rather than injected back into the earth the small seismic activity that occurs would be reduced. Not all induced earthquakes from fracking are caused by wastewater injection, but the majority of them are (IPAA).
The negative consequences of fracking effect human health and the environment in many different ways. Fracking sites create a lot of noise, trucks are driving to and from the sites constantly. The entire fracking process is noisy. Not only are these trucks loud but the diesel fuel from these trucks gets into the air and pollutes the local air quality as well. Fracking sites require a lot of light. This light is needed in order to perform the fracking operations throughout the night. Nearby residents are forced to deal with constant noise and light pollution, this can cause people stress, disrupt their sleep, and change their quality of life overall. There also seems to be a concern regarding the amount of safety that workers have while working at these fracking sites. Workers that are on a fracking site are much more likely to get injured than in any other job. These sites are very prone to explosions, gas leaks, and spills. Most if not all the blame goes towards infrastructure. These explosions, gas leaks, and spills are not only damaging to humans, but they are also damaging the environment. Gas leaks can release harmful chemicals like methane into the air. In 2015, 100,000 tons of methane was released into the atmosphere at one site, the methane cloud was so large it was visible from space. The sand used on fracking sites is silica sand, which from using it creates silica dust. This dust can get into the lungs of workers and has been shown to cause silicosis and lung disease. Furthermore, the pollution from fracking can get into streams, killing fish and other life in the stream. Birds and other animals have also been killed from drinking water from polluted streams. Overall, fracking is causing air pollution, harm to workers and nearby residents, damaging the climate, causing small earthquakes, and contaminating the water.
In conclusion, I believe that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should continue fracking with regulations and taxes. The profits associated with fracking cannot be ignored. If Pennsylvania is getting over a billion dollars per decade from taxes and fees, I believe it is worth the potential risks of fracking. The money is used to benefit schools, reduce taxes, fix roads and buildings, and much more in order to make Pennsylvania a better place to live. Over $500 million of this money will be given to different environmental organizations as well. Regarding the possible negative effects of fracking, residents of Pennsylvania will be made aware of the water contamination, air pollution, health, and environmental possibilities that fracking can have so that if they notice anything alarming then they can notify state officials and they can fix the problem. From the studies mentioned in this report, it seems that it is fair to conclude that although these forms of pollution are possible, they are unlikely. Moving forward, I believe that environmental agencies should bear the burden of proof. These agencies should have to prove that fracking operations are causing harmful levels of damage or pollution if they want them to stop conducting business. If I were offered any amount over $100,000 per year in order to let someone frack on my property, I would accept the offer. The cost of noise and light pollution, along with obstruction of view would not bother me. I would be able to adjust to the circumstances easily. I would get my water and health regularly checked by a doctor in order to prevent my health from suffering. I think these are the only measures I would have to take and that is pretty much all that would change in my day-to-day life, I do not see any problem with fracking as long as it is not affecting my health.
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