Health/Environmental Concerns Related to Natural Gas Extraction
Hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as hydrofracking or fracking, is a technique of releasing petroleum, natural gas or other substances from shale rock formations deep in the ground. This form of natural gas extraction involves drilling vertically and then horizontally and injecting pressurized fluid into the area. Injecting fluid in this way opens new channels within the rock, allowing for a more rapid extraction of gas. Fracking may take up to a month at a specific location. The well, which may be more than a mile deep, will then be cased with cement and the shale will be fractured with water or other fracking fluids.
Fracking Concerns & Environmental Risks
There are several environmental and health concerns related to natural gas drilling. These are well-founded, considering the fact that the chemicals used in fracking may include benzene or lead, both of which are known to cause serious health problems and even death. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists four known risks associated with natural gas and shale gas fracking.
- Water contamination, including contamination of underground drinking water and surface waters resulting from spills and leaks or other releases of fracking fluid, chemicals or toxins
- Air Pollution
- Stress on surface and underground water supplies due to the large volume of water used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing
- Adverse effects from disposal or discharge into surface waters or wells
Clean water is one of the most valuable resources on the planet. Without it, humans, plants and animals would not be able to survive. When fracking contaminates groundwater or surface waters, all living things in the area may suffer. Let’s take an example of a house in Ohio that exploded due to a buildup of methane in the water supply, or 16 cattle in Louisiana that died after drinking from a pool of fracking fluid. More than 1,000 cases of water contamination near fracking operations have been documented across the U.S. Cancer, neurological disorders and other serious health problems may be linked to contaminated water and air pollutants.
Do you have a case? Talk to an environmental litigation lawyer.
When environmental laws and regulations are violated, the various hazards associated with fracking are well-documented. Even so, an individual, business owner or community affected by a hydraulic fracturing operation will need to prove that their injuries or losses were caused by these violations, whether they stemmed from negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Proving water contamination, air pollution and other problems caused by fracking can be complicated and difficult. That is when working with a competent lawyer may make all the difference.
Our attorneys have more than 150 years of collective experience, have recovered in excess of $3 billion in compensation for clients, and are regarded as leaders in the field of environmental claims relating to fracking and groundwater contamination. If you have been negatively affected by a fracking operation in your area, an environmental litigation attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC may be able to help. Your initial consultation with a professional at our firm is free and confidential. We can answer your questions and provide guidance as to your options and legal rights as they relate to your potential lawsuit. If you have grounds for legal action against the company running the fracking operation, we can file on your behalf and will handle all aspects of your case while you focus on rebuilding and recovering.
The Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water
The EPA is currently conducting a study on the impact that hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water and ground water resources. Although a final draft of a report related to this study is not due to be released until 2014, an initial report was released late in 2012. This study, which was conducted at the request of Congress, focuses on the impact that the following aspects of fracking will have on surface and underground water resources:
- The withdrawal of large volumes of water;
- Spills or leaks of hydraulic fracking fluid;
- Injection of fracking fluid into wells;
- Spills on or near well pads of flowback and produced water; and
- Inadequate or improper treatment of hydrofracking wastewater.
Water plays an important role in fracking. From the time it is acquired to the time it is disposed, certain measures must be taken to minimize adverse effects on the environment and the people living in the area. The outcome of this study may have a direct influence on new regulations or standards set forth by the EPA on fracking and the acquisition and disposal of the water and chemicals used in this form of gas exploration.
Of particular concern to the global community are the potentially devastating impacts of fracking on the environment. The most serious environmental effects include:
- Air emissions and climate change;
- Water contamination;
- Over-consumption of water;
- Risk of earthquakes;
- Noise pollution;
- Soil erosion and runoff; and
- Land use issues.
Despite concerns about these and other potentially permanent impacts that hydraulic fracturing could have on the environment, only a few states, including New York, have permanently banned the practice.
The extent of the effects of fracking on the health of nearby residents, workers, and wildlife are largely unknown. However, there is evidence that gas emissions and water contamination lead to increased respiratory problems and other health issues, like migraines, in areas located near digging sites. Additional hazards include:
- Exposure to chemicals;
- Inhalation of dust containing silica;
- Exposure to lead and radioactive materials;
- Disrupted sleeping patterns; and
- High stress levels.
Of particular concern are the chemicals that are added to the water used in hydraulic fracturing. Such additives include: biocides, proppants, and emulsifiers. While many of the chemicals utilized are safe, others, like silica, benzene, and boric acid are potentially toxic to humans.
Less studied than either environmental or health impacts are the effects of drilling on local economies and social institutions. However, initial studies indicate that in areas where gas drilling operations are hastily assembled, social problems frequently result, including:
- Increased crime;
- Decreases in property value;
- Increased consumption of drugs and alcohol; and
- Decreases in available affordable housing.
Poor air quality, vibrations, bright lights, and heavy noise are all contributors to the decreased value of real estate surrounding natural gas wells.
A series of federal regulations address concerns about hydraulic fracturing. The rules:
- Allow government workers to inspect the safety of concrete barriers lining fracking wells;
- Require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals they use;
- Set safety standards for storage of chemicals on-site; and
- Require companies to provide detailed information on well geology to the BLM.
Additionally, most states have enacted legislation concerning fracking. The laws most often concern the disposal of waste, the composition and volume of fracking fluids, and safety standards.
Taking Legal Action: Discuss Your Options with an Attorney
If you live near a fracking operation and have experienced any type of property damage or adverse health effects, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against the drilling company. In addition to stopping continued contamination of the air and water in the area, you may be able to recover financial compensation for the injuries or property damage you have experienced. Scheduling a free consultation with an attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC can help you determine what options you have at this time.