Drill Happy

Article excerpt

There are many reasons why you wouldn't want companies extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") near your home. As Pennsylvania residents unlucky enough to have drilling operations open shop next door so poignantly describe in this issue, it means living with constant, sleep-disrupting noise and breathing noxious fumes thanks to the massive diesel trucks that accompany the operations. But what's going on beneath the surface is even more unsettling. Hydraulic fracturing involves millions of gallons of water being injected at high pressure, along with a mixture of thousands of chemicals, into rock shale formations to get at the gas. This poses a grave worry to drinking water supplies (there are 3,751 such horizontal wells in Pennsylvania alone), made worse by the fact that gas companies undertaking such fracking are exempt from most of the major environmental laws that might protect consumers, including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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It hasn't been easy to prove a definite fracking-to-contaminated-water link, in part because many homeowners who experienced problems made non-disclosure settlements with gas companies. In New York, where fracking is under consideration and the subject of intense controversy, there are efforts to provide a buffer zone to protect watersheds, parks and other sensitive areas if fracking is allowed. …