The rapid expansion of a natural gas drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” over the last decade poses a serious risk to human health and the environment, and threatens to derail the growing movement to shift the United States to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.
Fracking involves drilling into shale layers deep underground and injecting large amounts of water mixed with sand and a brew of toxic chemicals under high pressure to release natural gas. In recent years, the industry has begun horizontal fracking to extend the wells, sometimes for miles.
Increasingly, studies show that fracking operations have contaminated drinking water wells, depleted water sources on which communities depend, caused air pollution, and triggered earthquakes. There’s a strong correlation between fracking sites and deteriorating health among nearby residents.
Burning natural gas for electricity has lower smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide than burning coal. But the drilling process releases large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Moreover, experts say the meteoric rise of natural gas runs counter to the carbon reductions we must make to keep climate change in check.
Clean Energy Future
The dramatic growth of natural gas also threatens to derail the progress America is making on shifting to truly clean, less carbon-intensive sources such as energy efficiency, and wind and solar power. Not only do these energy solutions translate to cleaner air and more protections for our water resources, they create new jobs and tremendous economic opportunity.
We can’t afford to invest in new natural gas drilling operations, power plants, pipelines or other infrastructure that would lock us into decades of relying heavily on fossil fuel and short change investments in cleaner energy.
The Issue In Appalachia
In 2014, North Carolina lifted a long-standing state moratorium on fracking and developed regulations for the industry, paving the way for natural gas production. But the rules are wholly inadequate to protect communities or the environment; they allow gas wells closer to occupied buildings than most other states, and don’t address air pollution. Additionally, North Carolina law makes it a criminal act for anyone to disclose the chemicals used in drilling.
In Virginia, three massive natural gas pipelines are being proposed that could threaten private property, water resources, and historic and natural heritage sites, as well as seal the industry’s hold on the region’s energy future. All three would originate in West Virginia and cross into Virginia, and one, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would extend into North Carolina.
Appalachian Voices is working with citizens, community groups, and state and national organizations to raise these concerns, oppose the expansion of natural gas drilling and infrastructure, and call for significant investments in clean energy.