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Mercury Controls at Last
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A Boom in Fracking Threatens Communities Across America
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Big Oil Won't Let the Tar Sands Pipeline Die
NRDC, Redford Challenge Shell
Don't Frack the Catskills!
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Oil Companies Hijack Canadian Energy Decisions
NRDC Sues to Protect Whales from New Sonar Deployment
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Campaign Update
A Boom in Fracking Threatens Communities Across America
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Photo of a fracking operation in southwest Pennsylvania
Fracking requires the use of massive amounts of water -- sometimes more than 7 million gallons per well -- mixed with sand and chemicals, some of which are toxic or known carcinogens. This fracking fluid is injected at extremely high pressure into a well, where it cracks rock formations under-ground to release pockets of oil or natural gas. As much as 70 percent of the fracking fluid returns to the surface, not only containing the chemicals but also routinely contaminated with toxic heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and, in some cases, radioactive elements. This toxic wastewater is often stored in pits that are subject to leaks and ruptures. The process is prone to other accidents as well, such as blowouts. It is common for the flaring of wells to release dangerous pollutants into the air, and leaks from improperly drilled wells to contaminate drinking water.

"The drilling industry and its political allies hide behind the fact that they are extracting natural gas, which is cleaner to burn than other fossil fuels, such as coal," says Frances Beinecke, NRDC's president. "But 'cleaner-burning' by itself isn't enough. We also must have safeguards in place to make sure that the production of natural gas is not poisoning our water and destroying our communities. Until then, we must say no to fracking."

A peer-reviewed study published last year documented two dozen cases in which people, pets or livestock living in close proximity to fracking operations suffered severe health effects, from upper respiratory and gastrointestinal distress to neurological damage. Ranchers reported dramatic increases in the number of stillborn calves from cattle that had been exposed to fracking waste, and in once instance, 17 cows died within an hour after an accidental spill of fracking fluid in their pasture. "This is probably just the tip of the iceberg, especially when it comes to assessing the health risks to people," says Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at NRDC who has been working on our campaign to impose stringent safeguards on fracking. "When an industry is as poorly regulated as the oil and gas industry, there's a catch-22: The companies aren't required to provide detailed information about their fracking operations, so there's a lack of evidence. Then the industry turns around and says there's not enough evidence to justify regulation."

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A peer-reviewed study published last year documented two dozen cases in which people, pets or livestock living in close proximity to fracking operations suffered severe health effects, from upper respiratory and gastrointestinal distress to neurological damage.


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