Fracking the West Coast - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Fracking the West Coast

Fracking is the new face of natural gas extraction and it’s being done more often than ever before. On a continent like North America, natural gas is becoming an increasingly valuable and commoditized natural resource. It is into this insatiable need for energy that mining processes like fracking are born.

Since forms of energy are becoming less available and more difficult to reach, new means of extracting the resource are needed. The process of fracking is quickly replacing that of mountaintop removal practices currently rooted deeply in hard-hit Appalachian states like Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

So what is fracking and why are energy companies and politicians trying so hard to ensure the process continues its operation?

The obvious answer to the latter is profit. Natural gas companies currently operating in California, like Venoco, Occidental and PXP need this resource in order to survive and in the name of profit nearly anything is allowable. This makes sense when taking into account the fact that California is home to the largest concentration of shale in the country, the Monterey Shale.

As for the former; fracking is the invasive mechanical process of drilling into the earth, usually into a mountain or a similar area containing natural gas, and injecting a highly pressurized chemical cocktail known as fracking fluid into the ground via a previously drilled well in order to create small fractures within the surrounding rock. The fracking fluid that is injected at the site is comprised of numerous dangerous chemicals.

Anti-fracking protesters outside a fracking site. (Photo provided by Moose)

Anti-fracking protesters outside a fracking site.
(Photo provided by Moose)

Common ingredients in the mixture include lead, mercury, uranium, formaldehyde, and radium to name a few. These toxins are highly pressurized and injected at depths of around 10,000 feet in order to do their job. Natural gas then seeps through the created fissures allowing it to be extracted and collected.

The process however extends well beyond just the actual mining. As always many moving parts make up the machine. Tankers, around 400 of them, are needed to transport anywhere from one to eight million gallons of water to and from the fracking site. That’s just the amount needed for one fracking operation.

When this is multiplied by the numerous fracking sites currently open and operating in this country, the estimate is around 500,000. But there are many more undocumented sites so the numbers become astronomical.

When all of this water makes it to the fracking site it is then mixed with large amounts of sand and the previously mentioned chemicals, along with many more, to make the fracking fluid.

Once a well has been successfully opened that same site can be legally fracked up to 18 times. This hardly fits in with the ideologies of “going green” and further depletes the fleeting resource of water.

Fracking is also inherently destructive to the earth in ways other than wasting water and polluting the air with massive amounts of burned fuel from tanker transports. The fracking sites also directly contaminate the groundwater in and around the open wells, which often leak, in as little as three years.

With so many chemicals being injected deep into the ground one might not be surprised to find out that levels of methane concentrations are much higher in drinking water wells around these sites. In these areas there have been frequent and persistent instances of water contamination cases filed.

People suffering the effects of these reckless companies experience sensory, respiratory and neurological complications. One needs only to become aware of the Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia to see evidence of this.

To add insult to injury only about half (and that’s being generous) of the fracking fluid being injected is actually being removed from the site, meaning that most times over half of the fluid is being left behind. This carcinogenic cocktail remains in the earth, unable to biodegrade, for many years.

Fracking operations are directly poisoning the populations living within the surrounding areas of their mining sites.

The question is this: if we are truly living in an age of supposed social and biological consciousness, why as a species have we not realized that just as putting dangerous chemicals on our hair is detrimental to a body’s overall health, that much is the same for the land we live on?

Fracking has caused earthquakes. In Great Britain  tracking operations were halted after two tremblers hit Lancashire in 2011. The energy company, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted the quakes were caused by tracking. Pictured here is the San Andreas Fault. it could be the epicenter of an earthquake induced by tracking, according to experts. (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

Fracking has caused earthquakes. In Great Britain tracking operations were halted after two tremblers hit Lancashire in 2011. The energy company, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted the quakes were caused by tracking. Pictured here is the San Andreas Fault. it could be the epicenter of an earthquake induced by tracking, according to experts.
(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

It’s not only the groundwater that’s being affected by fracking, the air that every living organism on this planet breathes is being compromised as well. The fluid that is deemed unusable is left in large pits. These pits are highly exposed resulting in a release of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the air supply. These chemical clouds eventually lead to acid rain as well as create ground-level ozone, a main component of smog.

Many of these companies claim to provide jobs for the communities in which they are operating and boast about the many job opportunities they are able to provide.

Operating under the false pretense of stimulating the local economy, these companies are allowed to set up shop. The companies more often than not bring their own workers and hardly hire within the local community to stimulate any actual job growth.

The companies then drain the natural gas from the surrounding areas and contaminate the community’s water and air while poisoning the inhabitants and compromising their overall health. Once this is completed and the well is closed and left leaking into the groundwater for years to come the companies leave, taking their workers and jobs with them.

There are many groups resisting these companies in every area they invade but much of it seems too little and too late. This resistance usually operates within the confines of the already backed-up legal system. The victories that are won are short-lived and merely circumvented by the natural gas corporations.

It would be naive to continue living under the assumptions that corporations are looking out for anyone but their own profit margins and that they have the ability to tell the truth or even stop themselves. The mechanisms have been broken for a long time and are reeling out of control.

It would also be naive to continue believing that a Band-Aid solution, such as passing a new bill demanding companies disclose the contents of fracking fluid, would heal such a large festering sore.

Destructive mining practices will only stop once the resource is no longer available, meaning the Earth will have spiraled further into becoming an open air dead zone. Are we going to wait for that to happen?

About the author


Moose is a California native with separate roots in Baltimore, Maryland. He has studied writing and literature and enjoys both in his spare time. He often travels and practices sustainable farming. He has spent time in the rolling mountains of Appalachia as well as many states within North America. He is an avid cyclist and lives in Southern California. Contact the author.

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