Fracking Safety: Scientific Truths Are Emerging

This Storify chronicles the ongoing scientific investigation and debate at the front lines of battle over fracking. For the latest updates, skip to the bottom of the file.


  1. The debate over whether fracturing deep shale layers to release natural gas has reached fever pitch in the U.S., and scientists are speaking out. Using chemicals and water to crack a shale layer once, far below ground, to liberate gas may pose little risk to drinking water supplies near the surface. But fracking the layer multiple times from one well site, which is common, raises the chance that drinking water could be contaminated.

    Writer Chris Mooney reveals the scientific evidence for and against claims about the dangers of fracking in his November feature article in Scientific American. But the debate is ongoing. Furthermore, regulators in New York--at the epicenter of argument--are expected by December to lift an existing ban and allow fracking under certain rules, which are currently open to public comment. Test results about potential contamination are also due from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012.

    To bring you the latest news and views, I've started this Storify document. It will update scientific findings, regulatory moves and political decisions that could make or break fracking's future. Come back each week to see the latest.
  2. An animated music video by people outside of Scientific American offers a surprisingly concise summary of the primary concern about drinking water (and it has a good groove):

  3. My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song)
  4. Four hearings on the final New York State rules proposed to allow fracking will be held in November, but Albany is banning fracking within its city limits:

  5. Comments on the NY State rules can be submitted here if you are interested.

  6. The New York Post has no patience for detractors, however:

  7. Word is that the heavy September flooding in New York and Pennsylvania caused open pits that store chemically laden water   from the wells to overflow, spilling into surrounding waterways. Anyone know where to find details? If so, enter a comment at the end of this file, or tweet about it so we can include the tweet here....

  8. Good links in this radio transcript to details about what is happening in New York:
  9. 10-21-11  EPA Plans to Issue National Rules for Fracking Wastewater, to strengthen state-level standards. This is a bit of a surprise.  The industry responds, encouraging EPA to work with states, which have (better) local experience.

  10. Signs and literature against fracking are starting to spread at Occupy Wall Street:
  11. Against Hydro-Fracking
    Against Hydro-Fracking
  12. Here's a video from the gas industry that explains how drillers actually crack the shale below. Not bad. It does note that only "a small amount of chemicals" is used, and it fails to mention that the chemical-laden flowback water is often stored in open pits, not just tidy storage tanks. It also gives the impression that the fractures are only a few feet long. Nonetheless, the process is pretty clear...
  13. EPA just released its final research plan to determine fracking's potential impacts on drinking water. You can download the full report. The plan explains how EPA will look at "the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing, from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal."
  14.  In response, the American Petroleum Institute says it has "concerns" about "the protocols being followed by the Agency to ensure a credible and scientifically defensible result," and spells them out in a formal letter to EPA.
  15. 11-11-11 Uh oh. 
    See this story: EPA Finds Fracking Compound in Wyoming Aquifer:

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency​ finds fracking compounds in environmental monitoring wells

  16. And again, there is the earthquake question....
  17. A new fracking process perhaps? Use fossil fuel to get fossil fuel...
  18. The first big NY public hearing on the final proposed drilling rules is today. Demonstrations are expected. And the debate over job creation and how much gas is really beneath the NY surface has already begun...