Oil and Gas Drilling
Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is often promoted as “cleaner” than coal, but which has its own serious environmental hazards. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the practice of injecting thousands, or millions, of gallons of a mixture of water, sand, and highly toxic carcinogenic chemicals (benzene, diesel fuel, etc.) into the ground at high pressures to fracture the rock and force out natural gas. In addition to the chemicals used in this process, there is the problem of what is unleashed from the shale itself, methane and other hydrocarbons, salts, heavy metals, and radioactive elements. The water injected during fracking is not reusable. It is permanently contaminated and disposed of in disposal injection wells. There is considerable concern that this method of disposal is increasing the number and severity of earthquakes. Researchers from the US Geological Survey have observed increased seismic activity near areas where the practice of deep-well injection wastewater disposal has risen. Fracking operations are especially prominent in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, adding yet another insult to the various abuses we ask forested land to withstand.
Oil drilling is incompatible with ecological and recreational values of forests. Surface impacts include drilling platforms, roads, oil storage, transportation infrastructure, and interwoven road systems. Spills of all sizes are everpresent as are large-scale water withdrawals and wastewater pollution. Abandoned wells are ongoing problems as most are unreported and unmonitored and surface pollution is common. Many National Forests manage lands under split estate ownership, where the agency owns the surface but business interests own the subsurface/mineral rights. Our government agencies have thus far abdicated their role to regulate surface disturbances or their environmental impacts.