Concerning Fracking and other matters

Dear Senator Brown: I am writing you about the technology of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as “fracking”), a mining method for extracting gas from deep in the earth, first drilling down for a mile or more and then angling the drillbore horizontally into shale gas rock.

This method is much more complex than the older method of vertical drilling. Fracking just one well, with perhaps six or more bore holes, requires millions of gallons of clean water, sand, propellants, and chemicals, many of which are consider proprietary information and not available to the public or even to elected officials.

Gas companies have leased up to one-third of the land in Athens County, Ohio, were I live. They have not yet started drilling anywhere in the county but appear poised to do so. I have concerns about this. I know about the research carried out by scientists at such universities at Duke and Cornell, along with hundreds of documented cases by investigative reporters and a large number of civic groups. These groups have substantiated again and again that fracking is responsible for – or often associated with – the contamination of water, air, and/or soil that severely affect the health of people and animals, farms, and flora and fauna.

Additionally, fracking generates tons of chemically-laced waste water and sludge. There is no safe way to dispose of it all. Pennsylvania gas companies have been trucking their waste to Ohio where it is pumped into deep injection wells. But the wells are not well inspected or geologically understood. Just recently injection wells around Youngstown are suspected of being the cause of an increasing number of earthquakes in the outskirts of the city. Even Governor Kasich is concerned.

While we may not be able to keep shale gas mining from happening in Athens, I and many others hope that you will use whatever influence and resources you have available to help ensure that fracking is well regulated to minimize the damaging effects that are associated with it.

At the national level you and your colleagues should consider developing an energy and environmental policy that comprehensively addresses the problems related to fracking, fossil fuels generally, and alternatives to gas, oil, and coal. Here are examples of goals around which reasonable policies could be formulated. First, fracking should not be exempt from federal water and air regulations. Second, the EPA should have the power to enforce relevant federal regulations and sanction companies that violate them. Third, the chemicals used in fracking should be made public information. Fourth, the export of natural gas should be limited so as not to increase prices for this gas domestically. Fifth, you should fight for the end of the subsidies to the gas companies and all fossil fuel companies. Sixth, you should make your colleagues aware that fracking natural gas is not environmentally benign and has long-lasting and harmful effects. Seventh, you should do all you can to promote solar and wind technologies, conservation, and energy and fuel efficiencies.

I admire your long-standing efforts to advance democracy, sustainability, fairness in trade, equitable taxes, jobs in needed industries. Your progressive voice is welcome. Thank you.