Americans across the country are feeling the dangerous impacts of hydraulic fracturing—known as fracking—and its related infrastructure, including the industrialization of thousands of communities and previously rural landscapes. Gaping loopholes in federal environmental laws, as well as inadequate state rules and enforcement, leave communities exposed to hazardous pollution that can cause respiratory and neurological harm, birth defects, and cancer. Meanwhile, ongoing investments in fracking technology and infrastructure threaten to prolong our nation's dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
NRDC exposes the threat that fracking poses to people’s health. We shine a light on the growing body of research showing dangerous levels of toxic air pollution near fracking sites, as well as evidence of threats from groundwater and surface-water contamination.
Our Community Fracking Defense Project uses our decades of policy and legal expertise to help communities protect themselves. We help craft effective local anti-fracking laws and go to court to support citizens' rights to limit oil and gas development in their towns. Hundreds of communities—big and small—have already taken action like this, and NRDC has worked with many of them all across the country.
Where fracking bans are not in place, we're pushing for state and federal safeguards to provide a last line of defense for Americans currently at risk. NRDC helped secure a statewide ban on fracking in New York. And in states from California to Pennsylvania, Illinois to North Carolina, we are supporting local calls for a moratorium while also working to immediately strengthen safeguards where that has not yet happened. And to move our nation away from dirty fuels, we are advancing clean energy solutions by promoting energy-efficient technologies and broader clean energy infrastructure.
Fracking has also unleashed an energy boom in North Dakota’s Bakken formation, one of the largest extraction sites of tight oil and gas in the United States. By 2007, the region had drilled 457 wells. Seven years later, by mid-2014, 7,526 wells were operating in the Bakken, producing 1 million barrels of oil and 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day. Experts predict that 35,000 to 40,000 new wells will be drilled and fracked in the region over the next two decades.
In response to the staggering scale of industrialization in the area, NRDC is pushing oil and gas companies to reduce their impact on human health, the local environment, and global climate. We draw attention to fracking's potentially enormous impact on the region's waterways—one North Dakota county alone used a billion gallons of water to produce 100 million barrels of oil. In addition, there have been an increase in oil and liquid waste spills, which flow out of well pads and coat the land or seep into groundwater, wetlands, and streams. In 2013, 1,700 spills were documented in North Dakota. NRDC is pressing for stronger state and federal safeguards to protect the area’s precious water resources. At the same time, we are calling on oil companies to hold themselves to higher standards.
We identify industry best practices for reducing water use, preventing spills, and keeping toxic chemicals from seeping into water supplies. We also urge companies to stop burning off natural gas, releasing potent climate pollution into the atmosphere.