Last month, seven homes in Wyoming County, PA had to be evacuated when a natural gas drilling rig had a blowout, and gallon after gallon of fracking waste-water began spilling out uncontrollably. Now, not even a full month later, fracking has resumed on the site with the full endorsement of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Even if promises of improved practices are kept, this is a prime example of why there needs to be a moratorium on fracking until it can be researched enough to discover how to do it with guaranteed safety - if it can be done with guaranteed safety at all.
Fracking is the the commonly used term for hydraulic fracturing, which is a process used to extract natural gas that involves drilling as far as 10,000 feet underground and injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to pressure rock into cracking and releasing the gas.
To their credit, Carrizo seems to at least understand how public relations works, and is treating the effected families pretty well. They've been providing them bottled water and are testing their water on an ongoing basis, which one of them especially appreciates in light of having relatives who had much worse experiences with fracking companies. Of course, that means we're relying on the very gas company that caused the spill to tell us whether or not the water is contaminated, so it's far from an ideal situation. According to StateImpactPA, Carrizo has 107 active wells in PA, and has paid a total of $20,000 for nearly 50 violations in the state.
Now, after citing the company for yet another violation for letting spilled fracking fluid "[flow] into a ditch that receives shallow groundwater in a wetland" during this spill, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has given them permission to start fracking at the same site again. They resumed on Friday, April 5, less than a month after the spill. The company says they will be using safer practices in the future per the request of PA DEP, but their announcement doesn't include a single detail as to what exactly they'll be doing differently. As with the water testing, we're expected to take their word on it.
And the situation in Washington Township is a great illustration of the fact that this is a process that isn't sufficiently regulated, so there should be a moratorium while further research is done. It seems to have worked out okay for these families this time, but what if their water had become contaminated? They were provided with good drinking water, but they would be bathing in water laced with chemicals from fracking fluid that could have terrible, life-long consequences for their health. And what if the well had exploded, as workers feared it would? Not only could people have been killed, but the spill could have been much, much worse, with untold damage done to the environment and the people living in it. Things only turned out as comparatively well as they did through sheer luck, and most people aren't going to want to count on sheer luck when the water they and their family drink and bathe in is at risk.