• Expert Panel Calls for Public Health Research on Fracking

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    Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.

    Studies estimate that up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing to properly complete well setup. Horizontal drilling is a key component in the hydraulic fracturing process.

    In short, this makes it possible for shale oil extraction to produce oil and natural gas in places where conventional technologies are ineffective. Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of water pressure to create fractures in rock that allow the oil and natural gas it contains to escape and flow out of a well. This process takes places under tight regulatory control.

    Groundwater and air quality testing before, during, and after natural gas drilling – which includes hydraulic fracturing – should be key components of efforts to ensure the safety of communities near these sites, according to an expert panel convened to weigh in on public health research needs associated with unconventional natural gas drilling operations (UNGDO).

    The Inter-EHSCC Working Group concluded that a potential for water and air pollution exists that might endanger public health and that the social fabric of communities could be affected by the rapid emergence of drilling operations. The working group recommends research to inform how potential risks could be mitigated.

    Some of the key suggestions are:

    • Baseline ground water quality data should be taken before drilling begins and be monitored over the lifetime and abandonment of the gas-producing well.
    • Ambient and occupational air quality should be measured at active drilling sites and be compared with baseline measurements in adjacent areas …

    Public opinion is turning against fracking. That is unfortunate, because more natural gas could benefit everyone. With basic precautions, we can enjoy both cleaner energy and clean water.

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