Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Provide more accurate and honest assessments of the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracking
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become extremely controversial as fossil fuel companies invest more and more in the practice. Nine out of ten natural gas wells in the United States now utilizes fracking. But while the industry continues to promote natural gas as “cleaner than coal,” fracking wells may actually produce between 100 and 1000 times the emissions pollution reported by federal regulators.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at methane emissions over wells in Pennsylvania’s much-exploited Marcellus formation. The new figures are alarming not only because they are radically higher than those the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported but also because methane is such a dangerous greenhouse gas: contributing to climate change at a rate up to 30 times that of carbon dioxide.
Officials from the EPA have previously given low emissions estimates based in large part on what the gas industry permits regulators to research. Call on the EPA to more accurately assess the true costs of fracking for our environment and to respond accordingly with strict limitations or even bans on its use.
Dear Ms. McCarthy,
Communities around the United States have rallied to protest hydraulic fracturing operations. Depletion of, and damage to, our fresh water, increased earthquake activity and health risks from toxic spills are reasons enough to oppose fracking. Yet we are told that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to coal.
Research by the EPA has supported this claim by suggesting that gas wells emit methane at relatively low rates. Scientists led by the University of Purdue have released data showing rates 1000 times those reported by the EPA at some sites in Pennsylvania. The Los Angeles Times described these findings as part of “a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations.”
Clearly this is a discrepancy demanding the attention of the EPA. Your agency has a duty to protect the environment, and this is poorly served by taking industry direction as to where and when it can research environmental risk. If fracking produces greenhouse gas emissions anywhere near the levels described in the Purdue study it has no place in American energy policy.
Future generations will pay for our current choices whether or not we want to admit the fact. I call on you to commit your agency to more accurately assessing and addressing the cost of fracking on our environment and to act on this information by severely restricting or banning this destructive practice.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ruhrfisch via Wikimedia