Jury Still Out on Fracking Safety Issues

New York, New Jersey and Maryland, have had or currently have moratoriums on drilling for gas using the controversial technique known as hydrofracking, or "fracking."

But in Texas, the fracking frenzy continues.

Ohio recently had an earthquake where no earthquakes have occurred before; some experts are citing fracking as the cause. People in Ohio and across the country are rightly concerned that fracking may be harming local residents, animal life and the environment.

What is Hydrofracking?

Hydraulic fracturing is a process used to drill for natural gas that lies underneath shale rock formations. Specifically, fracking involves injecting thousands of gallons of pressurized water and chemicals underground, which causes the rock formation to crack and allows natural gas to flow out.

Energy companies have used the fracking process for a long time, but it has grown exponentially in the last few years, as technology has improved. Texas, Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana have been fracking for natural gas for several years. Since the discovery of large amounts of natural gas in the Eagle Ford Shale and Barnett Shale formations in South Texas, fracking activity has gone up - and so have fracking-related oilfield injuries.

The Documentary "Gasland"

But there are other problems that appear to go beyond injuries to oil and gas workers. (After all, oil and gas jobs have always been dangerous.)

In the Oscar-nominated documentary "Gasland," the filmmaker documented cases of people getting sick and animals dying because of consumption of contaminated water. In what was probably the most dramatic moment of the documentary, a stream of contaminated tap water is lit on fire.

The industry argues that fracking is safe. The industry argues that fracking is not inherently dangerous. The best explanation the industry has offered is that in some limited incidents, the companies have used faulty casings in their wells and these casings have leaked, which may have contaminated the ground water.

A National Moratorium?

Experts from the CDC have called for a fracking moratorium until possible health and environmental effects are known. But while the CDC, the EPA and several states continue to evaluate the impact of fracking, the business of getting fossil fuels from the ground will just keep on going.