A modern-day process was introduced in the United States, it is known as Hydraulic Fracturing, known more commonly as Fracking. This controversial process, which was previously unobtainable to us, it is used to extract oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy. “A ‘surface casing’ is then inserted, which usually runs from the ground surface to the bottom of any underground source of drinking water, the surface casing is then pumped full of cement, as required by most states” (Zoback et al. 2010). During a process that sends high-powered blasts of water, sand, and chemicals into the earth to break apart shale deposits very deep down and extract the natural gas, oil and geothermal energy stored beneath several layers of the earth, this product is available thanks to the species that have deteriorated with time.
“It has proven to be a major powering force behind the oil and natural gas industry, which supports 9.8 million U.S. jobs and represents 8% of the country’s economy” (Statesman). This was a great discovery of all times as the United States has tried to move away from reliance on foreign energy sources, hydraulic fracturing has provided the opportunity to produce a domestic energy source that helps to meet the country’s energy needs. “Boom-bust cycles should also be considered when looking at the economic gains of a community from the hydraulic fracturing industry” (Barth, 2013). The process of fracking has unfortunately become the apparent cause of many environmental and social issues, making it the topic of much debate due to the impact this has created in the land, air, and water resources.
As a new production resource, the Fracking process lacks regulations at the Federal level. “The practice lacks regulation by the federal government, is exempt from many existing environmental laws, and is almost completely overseen at a state government level, which often may fail to regulate every issue. Many views natural gas as one of the cleaner sources of energy that we use, much cleaner than oil and coal” (Howarth et al. 2011). A growing number of communities in Texas have banned fracking altogether. In Denton, citizens came together and started an initiative against the industry demanding answers and clarity of its fracking and flowback process.
The citizens are very concerned because the Shales are taking over their City, and it seems to have no signs of slowing down. “A City of Denton Fracking Ban Initiative ballot question was on the ballot for Denton voters in Denton County, Texas, on November 4, 2014. It was approved. The initiative was never enforced, however, and on June 17, 2015, the Denton City Council voted to repeal the initiative entirely. The initiative banned all hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, in the city limits of Denton, while still allowing other oil drilling methods under city regulation” (Ballotpedia).
Involvement of community members made a huge impact in ultimate decisions regarding flowback water management and the strengthening of health environmental protections. However, this movement of the citizens did not go to well with local and federal government, even though they do not always agree on policies they came together for this issue. Abbott has always been at odds with the federal government, he is known to have sued the federal government, most of his campaign money comes from the oil and gas industry so it is inevitable that he would side with them no matter the cost to the environment. Opinions have been expressed from different entities of the positive impact and the usefulness of shales and its positive impact to the development of federal standards. In response, industry advocacy groups and state leaders mean the many level of regulatory updates occurring since the increase of the shale boom, still as a robust safety record with limited or minimal occurrences of contaminations or well issues of safety. “House Bill 40 does a “profound job of protecting private property rights.”(Abbott)“Intended to clarify where local control ends and Texas law begins, the bill is the most prominent of the flurry of measures filed in response to Denton’s November vote to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits”(Malewitz).
This is an ongoing issue that could not be resolved, so it has been passed on to the entity in charge of oil and gas regulations the Texas Railroad Commission who in return has made a website which offers transparency in the concoction of ingredients that goes into the fracking process, but with a law in place that allows companies to not disclose all of its ingredients, this is pretty much another loophole of the industry. Fracturing has been exempting from the water act regulations, thus allowing it to continue pumping all the harmful chemicals onto our surface above ground, this is a threat to our water resources above and under our ground. Laws and regulations are now being passed on a state-to-state basis, but still, they do not fully protect people and the environment from potential dangers.
Waste from oil and gas are exempt from federal requirements of hazardous waste handling and disposal, so even if the fracking flowback is considered to be dangerous, there is no legal tie to the federal safety standards that would control the handling and treatment of the waste. This is why it is important that Texas steps up for its people by the least providing transparency of the process, the chemicals used, the reports and by allowing non-governmental officials to have a hand in, since it is not for its benefit. By the least minimum, the citizens should have access to all information on the amount of wastewater that is generated, its contents, and how it is stored and disposed of.
With the government benefiting greatly from this industry it seems as if there are more setbacks than improvements in this industrial war. These discriminatory impacts may be reduced by decreasing the number of wastewaters produced, using fewer toxic substances, mandating the utilization of improved technologies to forestall releases of pollutants, and increasing the space between injection wells and personal water wells. “Texas House of Representatives passed a Bill HB2771 that would allow companies to dispose the wastewater in surface water bodies which are the main source of drinking water for Texans. The bill states the water must be treated before disposed, however there are no standards set in place that would regulate this process. Texas law allows companies to keep secret the names of many of the toxic chemicals in fracking fluids, independent testing and tracking of pollutants is difficult” (Lozano).
Fortunately for the citizens the government cannot decide alone on policies and they have to work together with other entities, with global warming nearing more entities have stepped in and worked together for a solution that can be beneficial for all. The concerns are over the direct pollution of water from flowback of the fracking fluid, this is accompanied with concerns of the air quality, due to the release of gases into the air and underground from fractures in shales. The federal government is attempting to regulate oil and natural gas production following rules of the Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency. The proposed regulations have raised concerns with the citizens who are the most affected. Further, the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations seeks to audit state regulations and propose potential improvements to keep pace with emerging and innovative regulatory structures.
As this is not the cleanest source of energy it is what is available for the time being as we transition into a clean, renewable energy using nation. “Natural Gas Exploration and Development has contributed, in large part, economic benefits to landowners, farmers, laborers, municipal and county governments, and cities and communities along the eastern seaboard. First, large land owners, mostly those in the farming community, received bonus lease payments for the use of their property…Many aging farmers can now make a living and continue to farm, [while] receiving lease and royalty payments to augment farming activities…As of 2013 almost $4.3 billion have been distributed to landowners through natural gas royalties” (Stolinas, 2015).
Renewable energy is the new path of power in Texas it has shown substantial progress in the technological sector however it has yet to experience the boom like the shale gas did. Texas solar industry has lagged in comparison to other states maybe because Texas has proven track record of having a late start to tendencies but catches up at a faster rate than other states at a more efficient outcome. The Fracking industry has been through a huge debate over recent years due to its link to global warming. The attempts at energy independence has come at a cost to our environment, water resources, and people’s health. When posting arguments of the industry supporters of the industry will argue that shale regions bring economic relief, and many job opportunities, and prosperity. When it comes to regulating, fracking has been fortunate to be exempt from federal regulations.
This had a negative impact on the environment for it to be an issue, as the fight continues to be the people against the government. Federal Government removed themselves from having to place regulations, this industry is a huge supporter of the Government. It seems that fracking poses more risks than benefits, natural gas may not be as dirty as coal or other conventional sources, but it is no way any cleaner Industries should focus on working towards a harmless process full responsibility should lie on the industry and more specifically gas and oil companies should negative consequences be found. Energy goals should be moving toward more renewable sources so that we can maintain a clean and healthy air and water quality system.