Report | Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center

Fracking Failures

Fracking is dirty. From the very beginning of clearing a site for drilling, through extraction, transport and delivery of finished products, fracking poses significant risks to our air and water and to human health. People who live and work near fracking sites are at greater risk for respiratory and neurological diseases.

Oil and gas industry spokespeople routinely maintain that the risks of fracking can be minimized by best practices and appropriate state regulation. Not only is this false – fracking is harmful even when drillers follow all the rules – but drillers also regularly violate essential environmental and public health protections, magnifying the risk. A look at recent data from Pennsylvania, where key industry players pledged to clean up their acts, illustrates the frequency with which companies still break the rules.

In Pennsylvania, fracking companies violate rules and regulations meant to protect the environment and human health on virtually a daily basis. Between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2014, the top 20 offending fracking companies committed an average of 1.5 violations per day.

Fracking operators in Pennsylvania have committed thousands of violations of oil and gas regulations since 2011. These violations are not “paperwork” violations, but lapses that pose serious risks to workers, the environment and public health, including:

  • Allowing toxic chemicals to flow off drilling sites and into local soil and water. In July 2012, for example, Chief Oil & Gas was cited by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) when the company allowed 4,700 gallons of hydrochloric acid to flow off of its drilling site in Leroy Township, Bradford County, and into nearby Towanda Creek, causing a fish kill.
  • Endangering drinking water through improper well construction. Well problems, including leaks, contaminated drinking water supplies in as many as 243 cases across Pennsylvania between December 2007 and August 2014 – 81 of them between 2011 and 2014. In one such case Carrizo (Marcellus) LLC was cited for failing to properly restore a water supply its fracking activities had contaminated.
  • Dumping industrial waste into local waterways. One operator, EQT Production, was cited twice in 2012 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for violations at a well in Duncan Township, Tioga County, that polluted a local stream.
  • Otherwise disposing of waste improperly. In one 2012 incident at an Exco Resources well in Bell Township, Clearfield County, the company was cited for contaminating underground drinking water supplies as a result of leaks from a well drilled for the specific purpose of injecting toxic waste underground.
Report | Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center

Shalefield Stories

Across the country, fracking is contaminating drinking water, making nearby families sick with air pollution, and turning forest acres into industrial zones. We believe it is vital for the public to hear directly from people living on the frontlines of fracking, and so Environment America Research & Policy Center is supporting the Shalefield Stories project—a booklet designed and published by Friends of the Harmed, group of volunteer citizen-journalists committed to providing support to affected individuals and families living in the shalefields of Western Pa.