Dangers of Fracking

(Footnotes to sources below)

Fracking is a dangerous drilling method used to extract natural gas from shale rock. It involves drilling pipelines deep underground and pumping a mixture of water, sand and toxic chemicals through them at high pressures to crack apart the rock and release gas packed within. The chemicals used in fracking include benzene and other known carcinogens. Fracking wastewater comes back to the surface loaded with heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials. It poses an enormous disposal challenge.

(1) Methane and the toxic chemicals in fracking fluid have leached into drinking water.

(2) Some gas extraction companies inject wastewater back into the earth, which has dramatically increased the number of earthquakes in these areas.

Fracking Water

(3)  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates each well, per frack, requires 2.4 to 7.8 million gallons of water.  One well fracking translates into roughly 400 to 600 tanker truckloads of liquids to the well, and 200 to 300 tanker truckloads of liquid waste from the well. An eighteen-wheeler weighs up to 80,000 lbs. Day-in, day-out, these trucks destroy roads and bridges, clog roads, create noise, and disrupt lives.

(4) There is a one-two punch for communities with limited water sources drained for fracking, then polluted afterwards with toxic chemicals.

Researchers have found associations between proximity to oil and gas development and increases in birth defects and other adverse birth outcomes.  Other health effects are rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss and more. “In my opinion,” says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning.”

When New York began fighting fracking, there were only about 60 peer-reviewed studies about the process.  By now, there are over 900 studies in peer-reviewed journals, and 85% of them have shown dangers posed by fracking.  The Concerned Health Professionals of New York completed a summary of these studies called “The Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction).”  It is available here:  http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

As fracking harms the health of those near, downwind, or down-water from fracking sites, it harms the health of workers, such as Randy Moyer, former wastewater trucker in Portage, Pennsylvania who has become disabled from handling trucking waste water. He now wants a ban on fracking.

The industry that uses this technology calls its product “natural gas”, but there is nothing natural about up-ending half a billion years of safe storage of methane.

Fracking speeds up human-caused climate change thanks to methane leaks from the drilling process and infrastructure.  Natural gas is composed of methane – a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86-times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period.  Even small leaks can have a large climate impact- enough to gut any benefit to switching from coal-fired power to gas power.

Jobs + Economic Opportunity

The State of Maryland’s own impact analysis predicts that fracking would increase the number of jobs in Alleghany and Garrett Counties by only 2.6-5.2%.  However, these are temporary jobs, and the majority would be filled by transient workers, not by locals.  The temporary influx of workers would result in “Higher rental rates and displacement of already marginalized residents in the most intensely drilled counties…” The report also states that “the presence of natural gas development has the potential to strain hotel and lodging capacity for tourists who are not second-home owners,  limit tourism and recreation by limiting access to tourism destinations, and increase traffic or road damage.

“The presence of natural gas development also has potential to impact firms and businesses by limiting access to and availability of shared resources such as labor, water, and land.”  The report does not estimate the loss of jobs fracking would cause!

Another issue raised is that “with over half of Garrett County’s budget generated by lake area property taxes, and a majority of sales tax revenues generated by tourism, stakeholders are concerned that natural gas drilling in Maryland could be a zero-sum game. If properties around Deep Creek Lake are devalued by the presence of natural gas drilling, the core of the County’s property taxes could deteriorate.” (6)

What can we do?

Thousands of Marylanders supported a moratorium on fracking, resulting in a hold on gas drilling until October 2017.  The gas industry is already maneuvering to put fracking on the fast-track as soon as the moratorium lifts.

We need a ban on fracking in Maryland by 2017.

Prince George’s County sits on the Taylorsville Basin, and it passed a ban on fracking in 2016.  Other Maryland counties and towns are working on their own bans.


Although Harford County doesn’t sit on a shale formation, we can support a ban to protect the rest of our state by asking each Harford County municipality (Aberdeen, Bel Air, and Havre de Grace) to pass a resolution in support of a statewide ban.

A primary reason why N.Y. was able to pass a state-wide ban was that many towns and municipalities had prohibited fracking within their borders, diminishing the economic “benefit” of bringing fracking to New York.

HCCA_Fracking_Brochure for Bel Air
HCCA_Fracking_ Brochure for Havre de Grace

Footnotes – 

  1. Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Duke University study, 2011
  3. Scientific American, Amanda Montanez, June 23, 2016
  4. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 9/30/09
  5. The Downwinders, “Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania, Ellen Cantarow, May 2013
  6. Impact Analysis of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, Sept 22, 2014, pp 14-28