John M. Rhude 2013-01-16 04:05:34
What does your neighborhood gas pump, Hurricane Sandy and the persistent severe illnesses of Americans that stretch from the east coast to Colorado have in common? In the world of personal injury claims and concerns, the answer is not only simple, it’s beginning to gain widespread national attention: fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves creating fractures in layers of shale far below the Earth’s surface in order to obtain access to oil or natural gas. The process requires deep drilling, then fracturing the shale with a high-pressure stream of water and fracking fluid, delivered to the site in large commercial tankers. The process has become increasingly popular with energy companies as they attempt to tap into deposits of natural resources that, until very recently, had seemed unreachable. Simply put, the fracking process allows energy companies to reach oil and natural gas deposits that have sat trapped in a layer of bedrock, inaccessible to drilling operations since the first mining operations in this country began. A time-consuming effort The fracking fluid, made up of a mixture of water, chemicals and sand, makes it possible to fracture the shale in order to gain access to the fossil fuels that lay deep inside the Earth’s crust. The sand in the mixture is known as a “propant” because it props open the cracks made in the shale. Fracking is a time-consuming and large investment for energy companies. It takes up to one month just to dig the well used to access the layer of shale where the oil or natural gas is trapped. The actual fracking process can take up to 10 days to complete and uses a total of three-to five million gallons of fracking fluid in the process. Some of that fluid flows backward from the fracture and is collected in tanks to be shipped from the site once the operation is complete. Given the industrial nature of the hydraulic fracturing operations, it’s no surprise that claims of environmental pollution are being lodged against fracking companies. In Pennsylvania and Colorado, advocacy groups and environmentalists are voicing strong objections to the operations, claiming that they are both bad for the environment and potentially harmful to the nearby population. Health and safety concerns arise The Denver Post recently published an opinion piece from Colorado State Senator Morgan Carroll and State Representative Rhonda Fields objecting to the minimum distance drilling rigs must be from residential communities. Currently in Colorado, fracking operations must be 350 feet from any homes. The legislators argued in their opinion piece that the minimum distance should be increased to 1,000 feet, citing health concerns. Complaints of toxic emissions from fracking operations have sent residents near such sites to personal injury lawyers, claiming that the operations have created and exacerbated pre-existing health conditions. In addition, a series of fracking incidents in Pennsylvania have also created personal injury claims. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at least nine of the chemicals currently used in the fracking fluid pose a threat to humans and the environment. Many personal injury lawsuits in the state are claiming that the fracking operations are polluting drinking water and poisoning grazing cattle. Finally, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy this fall put the spotlight on the open-air pits where the fracking fluid overflow is stored. Along the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania, the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy created concerns fracking fluid could be released into the water and surrounding soil. As personal injury lawyers, the questions raised by fracking and the suspected injuries caused by the process seem to be increasing on a daily basis. As fracking operations continue to expand in the U.S. and more evidence is gathered regarding the possible adverse health effects caused by the mining operations, one thing is certain. The controversy and personal injury claims involving fracking operations and the wastewater associated with such operations will most certainly increase instead of drying up.
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