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Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Complicated Truth About Fracking And The Environment

A worker checks a dipstick at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP)

A worker checks a dipstick at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP)

The EPA reported this week that the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” releases less methane into the atmosphere than previously thought.

The oil and gas accessed by fracking have decreased dependence on coal-fired power plants that pollute the air. And it’s revitalized pockets of the economy in parts of the country where it’s taking place.

But fracking uses up vast quantities of water and has contaminated drinking water in states such as Texas, where water is already scarce. Some researchers say fracking has caused earthquakes.

Abrahm Lustgarten, environmental reporter for ProPublica, says that there are still a lot of questions about the environmental impact of fracking.

“We have no more clarity today about the extent of the environmental problems associated with gas drilling than we had a couple of years ago,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

He says there are hundreds of reports from areas where gas is being drilled about possible impacts to water quality, private wells, air pollution and health.

“It’s really still an open question on the table, how these external impacts should and do factor into… the economic progress, the energy independence that comes with producing more energy here,” he said.

Guest:


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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