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Unit 2: Context Note

Hydraulic Fracturing Debate

This document is meant to be an article published in an environmental journal to
contradict the mainstream ideas portrayed by all of the articles, journals, and other
scholarly media. The information challenging the fracking process is not strong enough
to prove the unhealthiness of it. With my article, I plan to give the opposition of the
typical perspective on the much-debated topic to the audience who is not used to reading
the differing positions.
An environmental journal, like Nature, tends to give information about a potential
environmentally harmful method and it takes the side opposing the possibly harmful
action. I plan to publish my article in Nature, because it is has the largest audience that
would care about the topic. The audience of such journals tends to have the same ideals:
challenging anything theoretically detrimental to the environment. The main audience
includes environmentalists, engineers, geologists, and biologists, all of whom are very
interested in improving our world by making it a healthier place. The audience should
know the basic knowledge of fracking like: it is a way to obtain fossil fuels from the
ground by creating cracks deep down in the earth from which the fuels are extracted.
Although it is a summary or a literature review, I take a stand on what I believe
about the subject. I decided to fight for the side that seems to not have as many sources
arguing its position. The persona is a formal and educational voice, yet it is assertive in
uncovering the true details and evidence.

The Honest Truth: Fracking in Our Community
Stephen OConnor

This article reviews the literature regarding the debate on whether or not hydraulic
fracturing is environmentally safe. It examines the information used to prove statements
made on each side of the argument. The article delegitimizes the claims brought up by
those who vilify the fracking process and justifies those who defend it.
In recent years hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has become a popular
topic of debate in the scientific community due to the discovery of multiple large reserves
across the United States. Because fracking is a relatively new method used in the fossil
fuel industry, there hasnt been enough time to develop any concrete long-term evidence
proving its destructive consequences. Peer reviewed journals only began to publish
scientific information about the environmental costs in 2011; therefore, there isnt enough
substantial evidence proving fracking to be harmful to the environment.
For this reason,
the scholarly articles contesting fracking do not have enough quantifiable evidence to
prove their standpoint, so they use personal stories to sway their audience. Hydraulic
fracturing has become the future of energy, but there is debate on whether or not it is
environmentally safe, and those who oppose fracking are flooding the public with
unsupported evidence.

Using Anecdotal Evidence to Support Water Contamination:
There is an overwhelming amount of journals, articles, and other scholarly
sources that claim that fracking is harmful to the environment by using examples of
personal stories, but the quantitative evidence ends up delegitimizing these personal
accounts. Rather than relying the quantitative evidence of contamination or chemical
facts of the fracking process, articles like Cracks in the Faade
Will Canadas Water Be Protected in the Rush to Develop Shale Gas?
anthropological studies telling stories about the personal impact on families living near
fracking sites.
In West Virginia, a couple claimed that their home was unlivable since the
fracking in their area started. The couple claimed that in 2008, youd get in the shower
and when you got out, youd be sick, and that the wife developed a rash. After
receiving this claim, the state tested the water to determine whether or not the water was
in fact contaminated. Although this family believed that their water was polluted, the
tests proved that the water was not contaminated. This article continues to explain this
familys troubles as if the indisputable evidence was non-existent due to the fact that one
of the tested chemicals is biodegradable and could have been there at some time between
the fracking and the testing.

In Alberta, Canada a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas
industry [noticed] that [her] skin was burning in the showerthen my dogs suddenly
refused to drink the water. There was a fracking site nearby that was reportedly
extracting from a shallow deposit, which is thought to have contaminated the freshwater
aquifer in that area. This source, instead of proving that there was in fact contamination
directly related to fracking, concludes that this womens account of her experience
supports the need for effective regulation to protect groundwater and domestic wells
from the impacts of fracking.

The lack of sturdy evidence that links fracking to the proposed issues, while
bombarding the reader with possibly relatable information, is a common occurrence in
these types of persuasive articles. These stories seem to be the only method to get people
seriously interested in this issue, but it is against all proper methodology for science to
rely on anecdotal evidence to make conclusions.

Addressing the Technological Issues:
The sources claiming to have factual evidence attempt to prove that fracking is
detrimental to the environment incorporate one of two arguments. Either the groundwater
is contaminated due to wastewater leakage or seepage through damaged equipment, or
there is an overload of greenhouse gas emissions.
Published in the environmental journal Nature, the article Should Fracking
Stop? outlines the two main zones where the risks of water contamination are. One risk
of water contamination comes from the flowback fluids leaking into the water in the areas
surrounding the drill sites. It is also possible that the cement seal between the well and
the bedrock might allow methane from shallow sandstone layers to seep up into
groundwater. This article, rather than giving evidence of leaks in an actual system, only
gives theoretical problems. The lack of real events gives weakens the authors argument
because theory and fact are not interchangeable.
In response to the fear of groundwater contamination, chemical engineers at the
University of Texas in Austin have created a membrane-based filtration system to
improve the efficiency of treating and safely reusing water used for fracking. The filter
can produce up to 50 percent more water for reuse, which lowers the demand for fresh
water. The filtration system utilizes a patented coating to make the membrane more
resistant to damage by contaminants. Not only does the filtration system save and reuse
water, but it also reduces disposal costs significantly because the waste material has a
considerably smaller amount of water. With new filtration technology allowing water to
be recycled, a smaller amount of water is contained; therefore there is a smaller chance of
leakage and contamination to the environment.
J. David Hughes explains that 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas
production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well,
and continues to prove that methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon
dioxide due to its global warming potential. This is undoubtedly factual evidence that
fracking leads to environmental issues and is a concern that must be acted upon. This is
not a problem with the fracking process; it is a problem with the ventilation technology
used at the drill sites.

Engineers around the world are working on ventilation systems not only for
fracking, but also for numerous different industrial uses. The invention of a foolproof
ventilation system will make fracking a considerably safer method of fossil fuel

The Claims and the Rebuttal:
Along with the disposal of wastewater, skeptics believe that aquifers are being
contaminated from below, but geologists prove that the layers of rock separating the shale
layer and the aquifers are dense enough and large enough to successfully cease any
movement of contaminates. In a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory,
hydraulic fracturing simulations were conducted in order to determine the probability of
harm due to the seismic disturbance caused by the fracking process. The study
determined that if the seismic events caused by fracking were to create the maximum
magnitude of activity, the affects on the aquifer and the earths surface were nearly
negligible. Even with the largest rupture lengths, the creation of new flow paths to the
groundwater is remote. Although the study proved that the pressures currently used in the
hydraulic fracturing method are safe, they suggest that care should be taken while
inducing seismicity throughout the process to detect any possible problems. This source
contains concrete evidence supporting the environmental safety of fracking, but because
there are still studies to follow, it doesnt deny the critics of their right to oppose.
For those who demand change to the fracking process due to the contamination of
groundwater, a study was performed in southern Colorado to determine the impact of
fracking on the environment surrounding multiple fracking sites. The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) disclosed the study by Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc.
providing evidence that after about 12000 fracking stages executed since 2001, there
have been no cases where the fluids or pressures used impacted the underground sources
of drinking water. The study includes information about the pump jobs that were
interrupted due to problems with pressure, machinery, or materials. Providing the
information about interruptions proves that there is no contamination even with
malfunctions in the process, and it shows that the standard operating procedures
implemented for the fracking process have proven to be successful in protecting the
health of the surrounding environment. This source gives quantifiable evidence
supporting the fact that fracking in fact does not hurt the environment around the drill

Future Recommendations:
Most scholarly sources, whether they are for or against fracking, include insight
on how to fix the problems they have found, rather than simply rejecting the possibility of
fracking in the future. This demonstrates that the sources are not completely one sided
and that they accept room for improvement and innovation.
In an article reproduced from the United Nations Environment Programme Global
Environmental Alert Service, after explaining the possible problems and threats to the
environment that fracking has, a section called What can be done? gives a list of ideas
to improve the technical aspect of fracking as well as the policies that are placed on the
process. The article aims its ideas toward both powerful government agencies and the
fracking companies individually. The ideas for the companies suggest that fracking
should: be limited to areas with low population density and no agricultural production,
have rigorous training to prevent spills, and develop ventilation systems. As for the ideas
for the powerful government agencies, the article outlines a list of policy changes that
should be implemented on the fracking companies such as: full disclosure of products
used, adherence to industry best practices, and ensure funds for restoration.

The reason there arent many articles fighting for the progression of fracking is
due to the fact that fracking companies, and scholars who back them up, know that
fracking is not going to go away. New technologies are fixing and improving the
problems arisen by skeptics and will soon mitigate all concerns involved with the
fracking process.
The overall fix to the problem proposed by almost every source isnt to stop
fracking; it is to hold fracking companies to a higher standard and to invest more time in
new technologies to increase health and safety.

1. Howarth, Robert W., Anthony Ingraffea, and Terry Engelder. Should
Fracking Stop?. Nature 477 (2011): 271-75. Nature
Publishing Group. Web.
2. Horwitt, Dusty. "Cracks in the Facade." Science News 97.15 (2011): n.
pag. Environmental Working Group. Web.
3. Parfitt, Ben. FRACTURE LINES: Will Canadas Water Be Protected in
the Rush to Develop Shale Gas? (2010): n. pag. Program on Water Issues.
University of Toronto. Web. <
4. Willow, Anna J., and Sara Wylie. Politics, Ecology, and the New
Anthropology of Energy: Exploring the Emerging Frontiers of Hydraulic
Fracking (2014): n. pag. Web.
5. McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering. "Engineers Improve
Recycling System in Hydraulic Fracturing to Save Water and Energy."
University of Texas at Austin, 14 Aug. 2013. Web.
6. Hughes, J. David. Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st
Century? Rep. N.p.: Post Carbon Institute, n.d. Web.
7. Rutqvist, Jonny, Antonio P. Rinaldi, Frdric Cappa, and George J.
Moridis. "Modeling of Fault Reactivation and Induced Seismicity during
Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale-gas Reservoirs." Journal of Petroleum
Science and Engineering 107 (2013): 31-44. Environmental
Protection Agency. Web.
8. Hal Macartney, Pioneer Natural Resources Usa, Inc. Hydraulic Fracturing
in Coalbed Methane Development, Raton Basin, Southern
Colorado(2011): n. pag. Environmental Protection Agency.
9. Peduzzi, Pascal, and Ruth Harding. Gas Fracking: Can We Safely Squeeze
the Rocks? (2012): n. pag. UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service.
Web. <>.
To my peer reviewers,

Thank you to my peer editors for the helpful input and words of encouragement.
There were many helpful comments on what I should be more focused on from Christen
and I think it helped me rearrange my article. For the first draft, I was unsure of the
amount of discourse to use, but with the input from the peer review, I realized that I
needed to revolve my assignment around the discourse rather than the in depth
I agreed with Jetson when he said the article could be narrowed down a little
more and I believe I did so successfully. Also, Kasun helped me rewrite my article and a
more 3
person voice by suggesting that I rid my article of personal statements.

Thank you,
Steve OConnor