I am a student at Montana State University. I recently wrote a research paper for my environmental history class on hydraulic fracturing. What I found in my research on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing is truly alarming.
In the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s front-page article “Waiting, Worrying: Bureau of Mines Helps Shields Valley Prepare for Fracking,” the basics of the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing and the concept of “split estate” were covered. However, the extreme health implications and the potential chemicals that are used in the fracking chemical mixture were not discussed. Toxic chemicals are used at every stage of development to reach and release gas. Dr. Theo Colborn, president of the Endocrine Disruption Association and former advising panelist at the Environmental Protection Agency, has collected data on the formerly unknown chemicals used by the fracking industry and the wide-ranging health effects caused by these chemicals. The Endocrine Disruption Network reports that 25 percent of the chemicals used in fracking can cause cancer and 50 percent can affect the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems: “An estimated 30 to 70 percent of the fracking fluid will resurface, bringing back with it toxic substances that are naturally present in underground oil and gas deposits, as well as the chemicals used in the fracking fluid. … In addition to water contamination issues, at each stage of the production and delivery, tons of toxic, volatile compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzine, xylene, cadmium, etc., and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of the diesel-driven mobile and stationary equipment to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone not only causes irreversible damage to the lungs, it is equally damaging to conifers, aspen, forage, alfalfa and other crops grown in the West. Ozone plumes can travel up to 250 miles.”
Do we want to be able to drink our water? In the documentary Gasland, residents of Colorado were able to light their water on fire because of the fugitive natural gas and chemicals now present in their groundwater due to the fracking process. Montana is truly the Last Best Place! We cannot allow our blue-ribbon trout streams, fresh air, abundant wildlife and health and livelihoods in ranching and farming to be desecrated by this extremely toxic and unnecessary process. In hydraulic fracturing, chemicals are pumped approximately 7,700 feet below ground, and there is absolutely no way to clean up a leak after ground and water contamination have occurred.
In May of this year, the state of Vermont was the first to ban hydraulic fracturing. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stated, “This bill will ensure that we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.” The citizens of Upstate New York were also successful in protecting their land and watershed after a massive public outcry and celebrity support—launching Artists Against Fracking to rally celebrities who support a ban on fracking.
How can Sen. Jon Tester, an organic farmer, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a former member of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency, allow this risky and chemically laden process to occur in our great state? We must unite as residents and stewards of these beautiful Rocky Mountains and insist that a ban be placed on hydraulic fracturing on state and county levels.