By Amy Reumann, Director, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania
The federal budget matters…in order to preserve clean water in Pennsylvania where a new American gold rush is on. This time it is to mine natural gas trapped a mile underground between layers of shale rock, using a recently developed technology called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Fracking injects huge amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep underground. This action breaks up rock formations and releases the gas which is then brought to the surface.
This new, domestic source of energy is hailed as a cleaner burning fuel and a bridge to more renewable sources. Gas drilling activities provide a boost to job creation and local economies. But the fracking process, which is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, also carries significant environmental risks, particularly for water resources and quality:
Pennsylvania sits atop the Marcellus Shale reserve. The state has welcomed drilling and its benefits, with over 3,300 drilling permits issued in 2010 alone. The state has been slow to evaluate the environmental costs and consequences. Impact on water resources includes:
The drilling debate has been deeply polarized. Opinions for and against fracking both suffer from a lack of information based on solid research. The federal budget matters if we are to forge sound policy to protect and preserve clean water in Pennsylvania. A current EPA study of the impact of fracking on drinking water resources, which includes three Pennsylvania sites, is currently underway. Its findings will provide direction for the oversight of natural gas drilling, and the preservation of water resources in Pennsylvania and the entire nation.