Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

10 Years of Fracking: Its Impact on Our Water, Land and Climate

Energy
10 Years of Fracking: Its Impact on Our Water, Land and Climate

In a single year, fracking wells across the country released at least 5.3 billion pounds of the potent greenhouse gas methane, as much global warming pollution as 22 coal-fired power plants.

The statistic is one of many in a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center that quantifies the environmental harm caused by more 137,000 fracking wells permitted since 2005.

Fracking wells across the country released at least 5.3 billion pounds of the potent greenhouse gas methane, as much global warming pollution as 22 coal-fired power plants. Photo credit: Environment America Research & Policy Center

“The numbers in this report don't lie," Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America's Stop Drilling program and co-author of the report, said. “For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open lands and our climate."

Today's analysis, an update of a similar 2013 study, paints a frightening picture of fracking's harms in addition to its global warming pollution—including toxic chemical use and destroyed land.

“In just the last two and a half years, the number of fracked oil and gas wells has increased by 55,000," Elizabeth Ridlington, policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report, said. “That growth in fracked wells means more polluted water, more toxic chemicals and more communities at risk."

The major findings of Fracking by the Numbers: The Damage to Our Air, Water and Climate from a Decade of Dirty Drilling include:

  • During well completion alone, fracking released 5.3 billion pounds of methane in 2014, a pollutant 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years.
  • Fracking wells produced at least 14 billion gallons of wastewater in 2014. Fracking wastewater has leaked from retention ponds, been dumped into streams and escaped from faulty disposal wells, putting drinking water at risk. Wastewater from fracked wells includes not only the toxic chemicals injected into the well but also can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials to the surface.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, fracking used at least 23 billion pounds of toxic chemicals. Fracking uses of vast quantities of chemicals known to harm human health. People living or working nearby can be exposed to these chemicals if they enter drinking water after a spill or if they become airborne.
  • At least 239 billion gallons of water have been used in fracking since 2005, an average of 3 million gallons per well. Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well—water that is often needed for other uses or to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems.
  • Infrastructure to support fracking has directly damaged at least 675,000 acres of land since 2005, an area only slightly smaller than Yosemite National Park. Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure built for fracking turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.

Given the scale and severity of fracking's impacts, the report says fracking should be prohibited wherever possible and stricter regulations should be enacted to better protect communities already on the frontlines of drilling.

The report also gives lift to the effort to convince President Obama to end new fracking and drilling leases on public lands and in public waters, in order to keep upwards of 450 billion tons of global warming pollution out of the atmosphere.

"From contaminated water, to marred landscapes, to increased global warming pollution, fracking has been an environmental disaster," said Richardson. “The best way to protect our health and climate from this dirty drilling is to ban it altogether and keep fossil fuels safely in the ground."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Peabody's Bankruptcy: A Giant Falls, But Its Obligations Remain

Renowned Turkish Photographer Asks: Will My Country Lock-In a 'Smoky Future' or Break Free?

Maryland's Prince George's County Bans Fracking

Bernie Sanders Calls for Nationwide Ban on Fracking

Algal blooms from fertilizer pollution are among the causes behind global coastal darkening. Gooddenka / Getty Images

Coastal waters around the world are growing darker from pollution and runoff. This has the potential to create huge problems for the ocean and its marine life.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A U.S. Postal Service truck drives down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on April 23, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

The Postal Service is updating its massive fleet of mail carrying vehicles, heralding a significant step toward reducing carbon pollution from its massive fleet while also helping to protect its workforce from climate impacts.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, seen here on December 19, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware, is poised to become the next U.S. Secretary of Interior pending Senate confirmation hearings. Alex Edelman / AFP / Getty Images

After a second day of Senate hearings, Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is poised to become the first Native to serve as Secretary of the Interior (or any such high-ranking cabinet position.)

Read More Show Less
Yves Adams / Instagram

A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.

Read More Show Less
The Crystal building in London, England is the first building in the world to be awarded an outstanding BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rating and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating. Alphotographic / Getty Images

By Stuart Braun

We spend 90% of our time in the buildings where we live and work, shop and conduct business, in the structures that keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.

But immense energy is required to source and manufacture building materials, to power construction sites, to maintain and renew the built environment. In 2019, building operations and construction activities together accounted for 38% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, the highest level ever recorded.

Read More Show Less