Elise Champe

Is fracking really safe?

On April 30, Katherin Engelhard touted the safety of fracking. From her self-proclaimed “extensive research” she quoted, “In 65 years of hydraulic fracturing of 1.2 million wells, there’s no proven case of its contaminating drinking water.”

However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reports that between Aug. 28, 2003, and Jan. 5, 2012, there were 427 incidences of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas wells in Weld County alone. Groundwater contamination of this magnitude definitely poses a threat to drinking water.

A serious, more immediate safety threat Ms. Engelhard fails to mention is the air pollution documented by many new studies being released, such as the 2012 NOAA study demonstrating that, from 200 fracking wells, Erie’s air has more methane, propane and ethane than Houston, Texas. Another recent study (March 2012) by the Colorado School of Public Health at CU concludes that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations are 250 percent more likely to have chronic health impacts and 60 percent more likely to develop cancer mainly from exposure to airborne benzene, a known carcinogen associated with the more modern, “unconventional” fracking.

Fracking is astoundingly exempt from regulation by the EPA, Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act. Ms. Engelhard refers to the fracking her father did “in West Texas 40 years ago,” but this is definitely not your father’s fracking. Modern “unconventional” fracking (less than 10 years old) is considerably different and involves far more health, safety and environmental impacts due to the additional chemicals, newer technology and vastly greater allowable number of wells per pad. A quote Ms. Engelhard uses from the EPA claiming safety around this industrial activity was from 2004, when there was very little information on the impacts of the new “unconventional” fracking.