Fracking risks

Affirming what environmentalists have long charged, a new study finds that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may be polluting the air, water and wildlife in California – and scientists say state leaders are not doing enough to protect residents from the toxic side-effects of the controversial drilling practice.

The California Council on Science and Technology has released its long-awaited final assessment on well stimulation in the state, which found that a lack of adequate testing and data have made it nearly impossible for regulatory agencies to understand what effects fracking has on the environment. The council is an independent body that advises the state government.

But while the study could not irrefutably find a cause-and-effect between fracking and pollution, it noted that some of the chemicals used in the process are hazardous to human health, wildlife and the environment, among other issues.

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Operators have unrestricted use of many hazardous and uncharacterised chemicals in hydraulic fracturing”, the report states, adding that “no agency has systematically investigated possible impacts”.

More than half of waste water from fracked oil wells in the state is disposed of in more than 900 open pits throughout the state, which could pollute groundwater, the report found.

Other findings in the report include: fracking uses chemicals such as strong acids, biocides, and solvents, which present “significant hazard to aquatic species and other wildlife, particularly when released into surface water”; the health and environmental impacts of the wastewater dumped into open pits throughout the state “would be extremely difficult to predict, because there are so many possible chemicals, and the environmental profiles of many of them are unmeasured”; and offshore oil operations are dumping wastewater directly into the ocean.

The science clearly identifies numerous threats from fracking and other oil-production activities that California’s laws, 
regulations, enforcement and available data do not adequately address. The Scottish Government should take note of this report and make its moratorium on fracking permanent.

Alan Hinnrichs

Gillespie Terrace