Fracking well close to home
A fracking well close to privately owned land.

What is Fracking?

Relatively new drilling technology - high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) - now makes it possible to reach natural gas reserves that underlie much of the eastern part of Ohio.

Hydraulic fracturing is the use of sand, water, and chemicals injected at high pressures to blast open shale rock and release the trapped gas inside. Horizontal drilling (also called "directional drilling") is just like it sounds: after the well drill reaches a certain vertical depth in the ground, the well is then drilled horizontally.

As with any industrial activity, the development of oil and gas involves risks to air, land, water, wildlife and communities.

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The oil and gas drilling industry argues that horizontal fracking is safe because it has been around for 40 years, but that is not correct.

While the use of hydraulic fracturing to drill vertical wells has been around that long, horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing is very new and only began in Ohio in 2011.

Horizontal fracking graphic

The use of horizontal fracking requires millions of gallons of fresh water, acres of land per well pad, and the use of undisclosed chemicals.

As this new combination of drilling technologies has ramped up nationwide, communities have seen a corresponding increase in harmful air emissions, water contamination, and serious problems associated with the disposal of horizontal fracking waste fluids.

For this reason, the Ohio Environmental Council calls for a "time out" on developing new deep-shale horizontal fracking wells until the public health risks are fully known, regulatory safeguards are in place, and systems are in place to protect and compensate communities from the local impacts associated with this development.

Study of Fracking on Drinking Water Sources

The OEC urges the Ohio General Assembly to take into consideration the U.S. EPA study of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water sources.

The scope of the research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal.

A draft report synthesizing research findings is expected to be released for public comment and peer review in late 2014.

However, on June 18, 2013, the Akron Beacon Journal reported that the final study won’t be completed until 2016.

Bob Downing reported that “[the] assessment came [on June 18, 2013] from Jeanne Briskin, coordinator of hydraulic fracturing research at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She was among the speakers at Shale Gas: Promises and Challenges, a two-day conference staged by the National Academy of Engineering in June 2013."

You can find more about the study here.

U.S. Map of Suspected Water Well Impacts

The US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts is a project that will attempt to piece together recent complaints of well water quality impacts that people believe are attributed to unconventional gas and oil operations. Research has demonstrated potential risks to ground and drinking water posed by faulty well casings, surface spills, and hydraulic fracturing.

From across the country, in areas where gas and oil development is occurring, accounts of possible well water contamination have been reported but not been collected all in one place – yet. The FracTracker Alliance, which includes the Ohio Environmental Council, is providing that opportunity. Learn more.

Industry Accountability

The OEC has called for greater accountability of the shale gas industry by recommending an increased number of inspectors, strengthened penalties, an impact fee on drillers to cover externalities or damage associated with drilling, and by passing a citizen rights amendment which would allow for citizens to have the right to know about, comment on, and appeal shale gas permits. 

General members of the public, adjacent property owners, and even leasing landowners do not currently have this right.

And it’s not just OEC who is calling for strengthened regulations: the Ohio Attorney General also has called for strengthened penalties on operators for violations, full disclosure of chemicals, and increased landowner rights.  

The Economic Realities of Fracking

Video from the 2013 Unconventional Shale Drilling Conference.

More Fracking Reading & Resources

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Water Impacts & Testing Resources

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