By Sharon Wilson and Alan Septoff
The earthquakes you may have heard about—the 30 tremblers that have struck north central Texas since Nov. 1 and have damaged many homes. The quakes are most likely being caused by underground disposal wells used to get rid of wastewater generated during fracking operations. “Frackquakes,” some are calling them.
The quakes you probably haven’t heard about are political. They’re caused in part by the frackquakes, and in part by other environmental, social and public health impacts of fracking-enabled oil and gas development. And they seem to be changing Texans’ opinions about fracking.
The oil and gas boom sweeping through the U.S. is occurring because horizontal hydraulic fracturing makes it possible to extract previously inaccessible oil and gas locked up inside the pores of shale rock thousands of feet underground.
Well, by drilling a well down to the shale deposit; taking a right turn to horizontally extend the well for thousands more feet through the shale layer, and then injecting millions of gallons—two to eight millions gallons, depending upon the area—of water laced with tens of thousands of gallons of toxics at such high pressure that the shale rock breaks (fractures). The water and toxics (called flowback fluid) are then withdrawn back up the well, and the released oil or gas follows. MORE