The Social Costs of Fracking | Food & Water Watch

The Social Costs of Fracking | Food & Water Watch.

September 24th, 2013

The Social Costs of Fracking

Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom has brought thousands of new gas wells, a number of transient workers and a host of social problems. Food & Water Watch found that traffic accidents, civic disturbances and public health problems in rural Pennsylvania counties have increased since the shale rush began in 2005, diminishing the quality of life for residents of once-bucolic communities.social costs of fracking cover

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Economic downturns like the Great Recession are often associated with negative outcomes, but these social and public health costs increased more in rural counties with the new shale gas wells than in rural counties without shale gas drilling. These negative social impacts were especially pronounced in the counties with the highest density of shale gas wells.

The oil and gas industry has surged over the past decade by employing new techniques and technologies that combine horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to extract gas from shale and other underground rock formations. Fracking injects large quantities of water, sand and toxic chemicals under high pressure to release gas tightly held in rock layers. Fracking has expanded rapidly in areas across the country, but Pennsylvania has been at the epicenter of the nation’s fracking boom, with nearly 5,000 shale gas wells drilled between 2005 and 2011.

The fracking boom has brought heavy trucks crowding rural roads and out-of-state workers flooding small towns, often overwhelming local housing, police and public health capacities. The influx of transient workers with disposable income and little to do in their off hours is a recipe for trouble in small-town America, where alcohol-related crimes, traffic accidents, emergency room visits and sexually transmitted infection have all been on the rise.

Much of the national discussion about fracking has focused on the obvious environmental risks, while the social costs of fracking have been largely ignored. This study is the first detailed, long-term analysis of the social costs of fracking borne by rural Pennsylvania communities.

Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster not just tragedy, but corporate crime | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster not just tragedy, but corporate crime | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

The deeper evidence about this event won’t be found in the train’s black box, or by questioning the one engineer who left the train before it loosened and careened unmanned into the heart of this tiny town. For that you’ll have to look at how Lac-Mégantic was hit by a perfect storm of greed, deregulation and an extreme energy rush driving companies to ever greater gambles with the environment and human life.

The crude carried on the rail-line of US-based company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway – “fracked” shale oil from North Dakota – would not have passed through Lac-Mégantic five years ago. That’s because it’s part of a boom in dirty, unconventional energy, as fossil fuel companies seek to supplant the depletion of easy oil and gas with new sources – sources that are harder to find, nastier to extract, and more complicated to ship.

Like the Alberta tar sands, or the shale deposits of the United States, these energy sources are so destructive and carbon-intensive that leading scientists have made a straightforward judgment: to avert runaway climate change, they need to be kept in the ground. It’s a sad irony that Quebec is one of the few places to currently ban the “fracking” used to extract the Dakotan oil that devastated Lac-Mégantic.

But fossil fuel companies, spurred by record profits, have deployed a full-spectrum strategy to exploit and carry this oil to market. That’s one of the reasons for a massive, reckless increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail. In 2009, companies shipped a mere 500 carloads of crude oil by rail in Canada; this year, it will be 140,000.