Hydraulic fracturing, hydrofracking, or fracking is a method of natural gas drilling that involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and hundreds of toxic chemicals thousands of feet underground to release tiny pockets of gas by breaking up the rock where the gas is trapped.[1] Currently, the gas industry is fracking thirty-four states.[2]

  • Across the country, state regulators have documented over 1,000 incidents of groundwater contamination related to fracking. [3] In many cases, water is so polluted with gas that people can literally light their water on fire, right out of the tap! [4]
  • Fracking generates enormous quantities of highly toxic—and even radioactive—wastewater, which is often left to evaporate into the air, or simply dumped into the rivers and streams that supply our public drinking water systems. [5]
  • Fracking has also been disastrous for air quality nationwide. Because of fracked gas wells, rural Sublette County, Wyoming (population 9,000) has ozone levels as high as Los Angeles. [6] The gas production from the Barnett Shale in the five counties near Dallas-Fort Worth is responsible for more smog-forming compounds than motor vehicles. [7] The toxic smog created from fracking contains large amounts of ultrafine particles, soot, ozone, and the carcinogen benzo-a-pyrene. In adults, these pollutants are linked to bladder, lung, and breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, and premature death.  In children, they are linked to premature birth, asthma, cognitive deficits, and stunted lung development. [8][9]
  • Recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that natural gas produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal. [10] Natural gas wells and pipelines leak large amounts of methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. [11][12] And if that isn't bad enough, the International Energy Agency found that even the carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas were more than sufficient to send humanity careening past climate tipping points. [13][14]


[1] "Fracking 101," Earthworks
[2] Ellen Cantarow, "Fracking: It's All About the Water," Mother Jones, January 23, 2012
[3] Abraham Lustgarten, "Drilling Down: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?," ProPublica, November 13, 2008
[4] Abraham Lustgarten, "Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking," ProPublica, May 9, 2011
[5] Ian Urbina, "Regulation Lax as Gas Wells' Tainted Water Hits Rivers," New York Times, Fenruary 26, 2011, accessed February 21, 2012
[6] Barry Estabrook, "What Will Fracking Do To Your Food Supply?," Gilt Taste, May 18, 2011, accessed February 21, 2012
[7] Tom Kenworthy, Daniel J. Weiss, Lisbeth Kaufman, and Christina C. DiPasquale, "Drilling Down on Fracking Concerns: The Potential and Peril of Hyrdraulic Fracturing to Drill for Natural Gas," Center for American Progress, March 21, 2011
[8] "Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution," State of the Air
[9] Suzanne H. Reuben for The President's Cancer Panel, "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
[10] Jeff Tollefson, "Air Sampling Reveals High Emissions From Gas Fields: Methane Leaks During Production May Offset Climate Benefits of Natural Gas," Nature 482 (February 9, 2012): 139-140, doi: 10.1038/482139a
[11] Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea, "Methane and Greenhouse-Gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations: A Letter," Climate Change 106 (2011): 679-690, DOI 10.1007/s10584-011-0061-5
[12] Joe Romm, "Bombshell Study: High Methane Emissions Over Gas Field 'May Offset Climate Benefits of Natural Gas,'" ThinkProgress, February 8, 2012
[13] "World Energy Outlook 2011 Special Report: Are We Entering A Golden Age of Gas?" International Energy Agency
[14] Joe Romm, "IEA's 'Golden Age of Gas Scenario' Leads to More Than 6°F of Warming and Out-Of-Control Climate Change," ThinkProgress, June 7, 2011