ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In a single year, fracking wells across the country released at least 5.3 billion pounds of the potent greenhouse gas methane, as much global warming pollution as 22 coal-fired power plants.
The statistic is one of many in a new study by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center that quantifies the environmental harm caused by more 137,000 fracking wells permitted since 2005.
“The numbers in this report don’t lie,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director Environment Florida. “For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open lands, and our climate.”
St. Petersburg City Councilmembers Darden Rice, Steve Kornell, and Karl Nurse spoke today on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall about the city’s pending ordinance banning fracking and fracking wastewater. Local doctors, business owners, faith leaders, and over a dozen other concerned residents joined Environment Florida and the councilmembers today to release the report.
“Fracking and the storage or transportation of fracking wastewater is not compatible with our city’s commitment to sustainability, our commitment to completing a Climate Action Plan, our commitment and responsibility to building a resilient city, and even our beginning efforts to divest our investment portfolios of fossil fuel funds,” said Rice.
The report, an update of a similar 2013 study, paints a frightening picture of fracking’s harms in addition to its global warming pollution -- including toxic chemical use and destroyed land.
“In just the last two and a half years, the number of fracked oil and gas wells has increased by 55,000,” said Dr. Les Cole, long-time St. Petersburg physician. “That growth in fracked wells means more polluted water, more toxic chemicals and more communities at risk.”
“As a local business owner here in St. Petersburg, I need clean water to operate,” said Rick Hamilton, owner of Creative Soul Studio. “Water contamination from fracking pollution could put me out of business.”
The major findings of Fracking by the Numbers: The Damage to Our Air, Water and Climate from a Decade of Dirty Drilling include:
- During well completion alone, fracking wells released 5.3 billion pounds of methane, a pollutant 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years.
- Fracking wells produced at least 14 billion gallons of wastewater in 2014. That’s enough toxic wastewater to fill Tropicana field 22 times! Fracking wastewater has leaked from retention ponds, been dumped into streams, and escaped from faulty disposal wells, putting drinking water at risk. Wastewater from fracked wells includes not only the toxic chemicals injected into the well but also can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials to the surface.
- Between 2005 and 2015, fracking used at least 23 billion pounds of toxic chemicals. Fracking uses of vast quantities of chemicals known to harm human health. People living or working nearby can be exposed to these chemicals if they enter drinking water after a spill or if they become airborne.
- At least 239 billion gallons of water have been used in fracking since 2005, an average of 3 million gallons per well. Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well - water that is often needed for other uses or to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems.
- Infrastructure to support fracking has directly damaged at least 675,000 acres of land since 2005, an area almost the size of Big Cypress National Preserve. Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure built for fracking turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.
Given the scale and severity of fracking’s impacts, the report says fracking should be prohibited wherever possible, and stricter regulations should be enacted to better protect communities already on the frontlines of drilling.
The report also gives lift to the effort to convince President Obama to end new fracking and drilling leases on public lands and in public waters, in order to keep upwards of 450 billion tons of global warming pollution out of the atmosphere.
"From contaminated water, to marred landscapes, to increased global warming pollution, fracking has been an environmental disaster,” said Rubiello. “The best way to protect our health and climate from this dirty drilling is to ban it, and keep fossil fuels safely in the ground. That’s why we’re thankful that St. Petersburg is leading the way to protect our health and our community by joining cities across the country in banning fracking and fracking wastewater altogether.”