Social Justice >> Franciscan Response to Fracking
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October 2020
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The St. Mary’s chapter of Franciscan Response to Fracking (FRF) is a group of people concerned about hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a method for extracting natural gas from shale rock formations. FRF is part of the Social Justice Ministry and is part of the larger FRF ministry of Holy Name Province.
Our objective is to educate ourselves and the public with the evolving facts about the environmental risks of the technology of fracking.



The question arises whether the environmental dangers of unconventional natural gas extraction by "fracking" can be made acceptable by stricter regulation. We think the dangers can not be fully addressed by regulation, even assuming strict regulations will be allowed by the “political strength of the fracking industry.” Problems of this extreme technology can not be regulated away; they are inherent in the drilling operation.

Those problems include the cement sealing of each well bore. The industry knows that cement failures have always existed and they worsen with the age of the well. Cement leaks are a path for gas to contaminate water supplies and get into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming. No regulation can stop cement from cracking over time.

And who will keep watch over abandoned wells for decades to come? Unconventional shale gas operations require many more wells spaced closely to economically extract gas from large areas of shale. Therefore, these cement failures are more damaging to the environment than they were in older conventional drilling. The technology requires thousands of truck loads of material and high-powered pumps, all burning diesel fuel. That’s more CO2 adding to global warming. Regulation can not undo these facts of the technology.

Perhaps the most difficult problem is caused by the toxic waste disposal. Fracking requires chemicals added to millions of gallons of water, and much of that fluid flows back to the surface with added contaminants from the shale. These are naturally occurring salts, heavy metals and radio-active elements. De-contaminating this waste is extremely difficult. And if the toxins are removed, where do we put them? No regulation can eliminate this issue.

Finally, the technology uses our precious water, typically 5 million gallons per well. Some 6,000 wells have been drilled in PA already; that’s about 30 Billion gallons of water taken from us. Can regulation give that water back to us?

FRF will provide source references upon request.