Public opposition to hydraulic fracturing — better known as “fracking” — is nothing new. The 2010 documentary Gasland energized the nascent anti-fracking movement with its depiction of tap water that caught on fire and once healthy people who became chronically ill after fracking operations began nearby. Back then, most of the opposition tended to be concentrated in Pennsylvania, where the most intensive shale gas drilling was taking place. But as drilling operations for shale gas have spread across the country, so have movements to stop them.
Fracking began in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia, through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York, as well as in the Barnett and Haynesville Shales in Texas and Louisiana. But it has since spread to Ohio, North Dakota, Montana, and Colorado, in addition to other states. To the oil and gas industry, the expansion is proof that America is living in an era of abundance and verging on the once-unthinkable “energy independence.”
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, natural gas production from the Northeast is expected to hit 115.2 billion cubic feet per day for the month of July, or 28 percent higher than a year ago. That’s enough to push the nation’s natural gas production to an all time high.
While some places have been more welcoming to the industry than others, most communities experience mixed effects when fracking moves in. In rural communities, some farmers have been able to pay down debt and even hold onto their multigenerational farms by allowing drillers on their land.
But in others, companies have strong armed landowners into giving up mineral rights against their will. Then there is the truck traffic, noise, and air and water pollution that opponents say cause environmental and health problems. That’s why it’s no surprise that groups opposed to fracking have sprung up in disparate parts of the country as more shale is fracked.