Firing a new salvo in the ongoing debate over the gas drilling practice known as fracking, Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center today released a report documenting a wide range of dollars and cents costs imposed by dirty drilling. As documented in The Cost of Fracking, fracking creates millions of dollars of health costs related to everything from air pollution to ruined roads to contaminated property.
“Fracking’s environmental and health damage is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well,” said Environment Ohio’s Julian Boggs. “And in many cases, the public will be left holding the bag for those costs.”
Boggs released the report alongside residents of Broadview Heights, where drilling rigs have sprung up throughout the suburban landscape since the Ohio state legislature passed an urban drilling law in 2004.
Under that law, residents like Louie Chodkiewicz could be forced into leases if enough of their neighbors agreed to sign. Chodkiewicz, who has several drilling rigs visible from his backyard said, “Not only do they force me into it, but they leave me responsible if something goes wrong.”
While the report documents a wide range of costs imposed by fracking, Environment Ohio is particularly concerned about what drinking water contamination costs would mean for Ohio.
Fracking operations contaminate drinking water sources in many ways – from spills to leaking waste pits to methane from drilling itself.
In Dimock, Pennsylvania, fracking operations contaminated the drinking water wells of several households for roughly three years, perhaps more. Just providing 14 of those families with temporary water cost more than $100,000. Providing a permanent new source of clean drinking waterwould have cost an estimated $11.8 million.
On top of all the new drilling happening in Ohio, the state is dealing with millions of gallons of toxic wastewater sent from neighboring states where fracking has been even more prevalent. If that wastewater is sent to sewage plants, the result could either be pollution of our rivers or costly plant upgrades for our cities and towns. If the wastewater is injected deep into the ground, Ohio runs the risk of more earthquakes, like those in Youngstown.
“It’s bad enough to endure the smells, headaches and air pollution that come along with the drilling,” said Tish O’Dell of Broadview Heights, an organizer with the local group Mothers Against Drilling In Our Neighborhoods, or MADION. “To add insult to injury, many of us are struggling with declining home values,” she added.
In addition to water cleanup costs, the report shows that fracking damage exacts other tolls on communities – from road repairs to health costs to emergency response. The report includes the following examples of such costs.
- Health: in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region, air pollution from fracking operations impose health costs estimated at $9.8 million in one year. In Texas’ Barnett Shale region, those costs reach $270,000 per day during the summer smog season.
- Roads to Ruin: with fracking operations requiring thousands of trips by trucks and heavy machinery, a Texas task force approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region.
Moreover, as with previous extractive booms, fracking will impose long-term costs as well. As noted in the report, the coal boom in Appalachia left Pennsylvania with an estimated $5 billion cost for cleaning up acid mine drainage.
“We already know about fracking’s damage to our environment and health. These dollars and cents costs are one more reason to reject this dirty drilling practice,” concluded Boggs.
However, to the extent that fracking is continuing at thousands of sites across Ohio, the report also recommends dramatically stepped-up bonding requirements and other financial assurances that match the full scope of fracking’s immediate and long-term costs.
“What happens when one of these drilling operators goes bankrupt? Communities should not be left holding the bag for dirty drilling,” concluded Boggs.
Environment Ohio is a state-based, citizen-supported, environmental advocacy organization – working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. For full report and more information, visit www.environmentohiocenter.org