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Fractured Communities - Case studies of environmental impacts

A detailed look at some of the effects of gas drilling on environment, communities and health. Based on investigations, findings, and statements of state and federal regulators.


This report describes hundreds of case studies demonstrating that industrial gas drilling, including horizontal drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, results in significant adverse environmental impacts. These impacts result from changes in land use, roadbuilding, water withdrawals, improper cementing and casing of wells, over-pressurized wells, gas migration from new and abandoned wells, the inability of wastewater treatment plants to treat flowback and produced water, underground injection of brine wastewater, improper erosion and sediment controls, truck traffic, compressor stations, as we ll as accidents and spills.

The studies in this report rely exclusively on investigations, findings, and statements of state and federal regulators in the Marcellus Shale region (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia), the Barnett Shale (Texas), the Fayetteville Shale (Louisiana and Arkansas), as well as regulators in the western states of Wyoming and Colorado.

In the past two years in Pennsylvania, state regulators have found that gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing has contaminated drinking water, polluted surface waters, polluted air, and contaminated soils. In Ohio, state regulators found that inadequate well casing resulted in drinking water contamination and the explosion of a house. In Texas, state regulators found elevated levels of benzene and other toxics in neighborhoods with nearby gas compressors. In Wyoming, EPA has warned residents not to drink the water, and in Colorado,
hundreds of spills have been reported as residents continue to investigate localized health impacts they feel are associated with nearby drilling operations.

At a time when the oil & gas industry should be on its best behavior, the industry continues to operate with impunity and lobby against federal regulatory oversight. Even as the impact of the Gulf disaster continues to shine a light on the true costs of deregulation, the industry continues to cut corners at the expense of workers and communities across America.

No one debates that the gas industry in the United States has long played a fundamental role in our economy and energy production systems. New York State was the first to embrace the industry in 1821 when the first well was drilled upstate – drilling down vertically into a pool of gas. But the lay of the land is quite different now than when traditional gas drilling first began. More and more shale deposits are now in development as a result of emerging technologies, and an increasing percentage of these developments are in nonconventional shales, areas that were traditionally too difficult or expensive to tap. Hydr aulic fracturing, a technology first utilized over 50 years ago, is now employed at roughly 90% of oil and gas wells in the U.S.

But the gas industry has yet to live up to its promise of providing clean energy with minimal environmental impact. Instead of acknowledging risk and undeniable impacts, executives and spokespeople demonize the opposition.

Rather than full disclosure, there is secrecy coupled with empty promises of cooperation.

This needs to change. In 2009, Riverkeeper submitted a Case Studies report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in an attempt to dispel myths from state regulators and gas industry executives that drilling was always safe and that reports of contamination were inaccurate. This report is an update that highlights some of the environmental impacts that hard working Americans have had to deal with as we strive to work with government agencies and industries to take the lead in creating long-term energy solutions and sustainable economies of scale that do not require the sacrifice of clean air and water.

After analyzing reports from state and federal regulators, this report concludes with recommendations that, if fully realized, may help to alleviate some of the problems documented across the country. These recommendations include legislative and regulatory actions that would be necessary in order to prevent and control further environmental contamination.


Download the report here: Fractured Communities - Case studies of environmental impacts



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