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Op-Ed: Fracking Affects our Community

by: Olivia Policicchio

Photo Courtesy of Paul-Alain Hunt on Unsplash

Fracking is a corrupt and dangerous industry. It is destroying the environment in permanent ways that not only impact our generation, but the future as well. Vulnerable and minority populations fall victim to the environmental injustices of fracking. 

The definition of fracking is”the extraction of natural gas and oil from shale.This occurs in Pennsylvania. Fracking well pads endanger communities, affect public health, and damage the environment. Fracking well pads are disproportionately located near poor and minority communities; therefore, minority communities are exposed to harmful toxins and are victims of environmental injustice.

The fracking process consists of a water and chemical mixture pumped thousands of feet beneath the ground to fracture the shale rock formations where the natural gas is trapped. Fracking sites produce multiple types of waste. Waste facilities have significant issues such as toxic leachate, radioactive sediments, and inducing earthquakes. 

In Pennsylvania, oil and gas operators started the drilling process for 616 fracking wells in 2019. Pennsylvania drillers report 65 million barrels (2.7 billion gallons) of liquid waste and 1.2 million tons of solid waste collected in 12 months. 

Fracking pollution is linked to respiratory problems, problems during pregnancy, noise pollution, increased stress, sleep deprivation, and exposure of the body to toxic chemicals have long-term impacts. 

Because fracking well pads are disproportionately located near poor and minority communities, therefore minority communities are exposed to harmful toxins and are victims of environmental injustice. 

Ogneve-Himmerlberger and Huag researched certain demographic populations affected by fracking toxins and pollution in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The most concerning environmental injustice occurred in Pennsylvania.

Fracking wells in Pennsylvania statistically showed a large cluster of well density occur in areas of poverty. This means that poor residents in Pennsylvania are exposed to toxins and pollution at a higher rate. Vulnerable and poor communities are being poisoned with chemicals. 

Since fracking is economically stimulating, the costs are often overlooked. The industry will pay community members to frack in their neighborhood. The industry employs about 24,000 people and contributes $583 million to Pennsylvania’s economy

On the account that fracking waste is highly toxic, the economic benefits fall short of the long-term environmental impacts. The economic growth that comes from fracking is outsourced, not supporting the community. After drilling, 98% of shale gas jobs dry up, leaving those unemployed, and not holding a long-term economic promise. 

But we do not need to accept our fate. Public Participation allows for the public to challenge the industry by highlighting major issues. Community organizations such as Protect PT, an environmental justice nonprofit located in Harrison City, keep oil and gas operators accountable for complying with the law and fight for small victories in our community. 

Small organizations fighting a billion-dollar industry does not stop fracking, but prepares the community for the potential environmental degradation. Small victories, such as increasing the distance from home and schools oil companies can operate, protect our communities. 

Challenging authority and educating ourselves on fracking helps legitimize our efforts. By joining a local organization and signing petitions, we can stand up to the industry and protect our neighborhoods. Forming citizens’ groups and standing up against environmental injustice is our way of creating change for a safer future. 

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