Definition. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” refers to the process of extracting natural gas and/or oil from tight rock formations below the surface using fluids, gases, chemicals, and proppants at high pressure to break apart and release hydrocarbons present in the rock. This includes activities ancillary to this process such as lateral or non-linear drilling, wastewater storage, and other well stimulation methods such as acidization, which has been used to illegally frack a well in South Florida by the Dan A. Hughes corporation that has since been shut down. Let’s keep it that way.

Statement of Policy.  The Sierra Club opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).To limit the damage from fracking until it can be ended entirely, the Club calls for prompt closure of loopholes that effectively exempt fracking from important aspects of major national environmental laws.

Rationale. There are no “clean” fossil fuels. The Sierra Club is committed to eliminating the use of fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and oil, as soon as possible. We must replace all fossil fuels with clean renewable energy, efficiency and conservation.Fracking poses unacceptable risks to our communities, our environment and our climate. There is clear evidence that natural gas and oil extracted by fracking are major greenhouse gas contributors. Methane released via extraction and transport is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. The climate-disruption impacts from methane and carbon dioxide emitted by extraction, transport and burning clearly point to the urgent need of keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Fracking has contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Fracking’s physical impacts have devastated thousands of neighborhoods and thousands of square miles of landscapes that are important to people and/or wildlife. Fracking has negative impacts on air and water quality and frequently necessitates unacceptable drawdowns on surface water and groundwater. Fracking and its associated waste disposal can cause seismic events; mining for fracking sand causes air contamination and public-health impacts.

Air: Air pollution is generated at the well site by major truck traffic, diesel generators, gas venting, gas flaring, and leakage of air pollutants. The density of wells in fracked oil and gas fields leads to hundreds of sources of air pollution. Oil and gas operations in the Barnett Shale area of Texas produced more smog during the summer of 2009 than all the motor vehicles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Rural Sublette County in Wyoming, the scene of 27,000 gas wells, has recorded higher levels of ozone than Houston and Los Angeles.

Water: Each natural gas well requires millions of gallons of water to conduct the fracking. On average, 10 to 20 percent of the produced water (water, sand, and chemicals) is returned to the surface and must be disposed of, either by injection or surface treatment and discharge into rivers. Most of the produced water stays belowground, where it becomes increasingly toxic. Some of this water returns to the surface over time, while a large percentage -- up to 75 percent -- stays in the wells. All too often, failed well casings lead to irreversible contamination of underground aquifers -- the lifeblood of our homes, farms, and fisheries.

Well-casing failure has been studied by the industry. In 2010, Pennsylvania drilled 1,454 wells, of which 90 failed (6.2 percent). In 2011, 1,937 wells were drilled and 121 failed (6.2 percent). This data -- consistent with the industry’s own figures -- is for new wells, and well casings are more likely to fail with age. Equally alarming is that we did not see a decrease in well failure even after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) overhauled its well-casing requirements to make them more stringent. Additionally, ProPublica identified more than 1,000 cases of water contamination near drilling sites documented by courts, states, and local governments around the country prior to 2009. In 2010, Pennsylvania’s DEP cited 451 wells with 1,544 violations that harmed water quality.

Climate: Natural gas is also a major threat to our climate. Total greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas are nearly identical to coal, once methane leakage is taken into account -- and newer, more accurate data continues to be collected. Even without accounting for methane emissions, a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) study concluded that a global shift away from coal to natural gas would do little to get us off the path to climate catastrophe. While switching completely to natural gas showed better results than adding more coal to the energy mix, IEA’s analysis shows that the atmosphere would still reach 650 parts per million of CO2 between 2020 and 2060, warming the Earth at least 3.5 degrees Celsius.

Public Health: The scope of the problems from under-regulated drilling, and a clearer understanding of the total carbon pollution that results from both drilling and burning gas, have made it plain that as we phase out coal, we need to leapfrog over gas whenever possible in favor of truly clean energy. Instead of rushing to see how quickly we can extract natural gas, we should be focusing on using less of it -- and safeguarding our health and environment in the meantime by regulating drilling more rigorously. If we can’t drill safely, then we shouldn’t be drilling at all. 

Educational movies about fracking we recommend you, your families and friends watch:

  • Gasland
  • Gasland 2
  • Groundswell Rising
  • Dear Governor Cuomo
  • Fracking Hell
  • Triple Divide

Please support Florida Senate Bill 166 co-sponsored by FL Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard, which BANS fracking. Current proposed legislation only regulates fracking but does not ban it. WE NEED A BAN BEFORE FRACKING DESTROYS FLORIDA’S COMMUNITIES AND NATURAL RESOURCES AS IT HAS OTHER STATES!

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