Fracking: Does it Frack with the System?

Celina Laslow and Isabelle Spetalieri

20 years ago Erie, Colorado was a farming town; now it is a battleground for fracking. As activists and opposers fight over fracking ethics in Erie, the town is split.

In an interview with Tina Harris, the mayor of Erie, she stated that the company in charge of fracking in Erie is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or COGCC.

When looking at the effects that fracking has on the people and the environment, it may be difficult to see the benefits. But there is always a gerbil at the end of the tunnel. With more fracking sites in the area, the price of oil will eventually lower 20% than what it would be without them in our community; the gas prices follow the previous theme of diminishment. In the United States alone, the price of gas is 80% less expensive than the rest of the world’s. With prices of gas getting lower, the manufacturing sector is growing and after 40 years we are building industrial buildings regularly. The job options are expanding the more that fracking sites are showing up. They believe that humans will do a better job than robots in this subject. America is also becoming more independent with their energy and oil. With the independence growing, the amount of money we spend lowering and the jobs raising, fracking is becoming more dominant through the good.

In an interview of Matt Clary, a non-biased and reputable source in fracking information, it is noted that, “it comes down to risk vs reward. Do we need to have oil & gas? What are we willing to sacrifice to get it? This is where the debate comes in because everyone has a different risk/reward ratio.”

He mentions, “hydraulic fracturing has been around for decades and is a process used to extract oil and gas in low-permeable reservoirs. Large volumes of engineered fluids are pumped through the well and exit through perforations which are strategically placed. Fluid exits the well and fractures the surrounding formation creating pathways for oil and gas to flow.”

“We use petroleum based products all day, every day. Bicycle tires, skis, lipstick, shoes, paint, trash bags, heart valves, cell phones, solvents, toothpaste, computers…etc. This is an endless list that wouldn’t be possible without oil and gas” Clary says.

Giving examples of the positive aspects of fracking, Clary writes, “(It) provides affordable energy for homes and businesses. Lower energy bills, cheaper airfare and lower gasoline prices means individuals and companies can spend their money elsewhere and grow the economy.” He also mentions the amount of people employed because of fracking sites. Without them, many jobs would be lost, hurting the economy and workforce.

Noting possible cons of fracking sites, Clary mentions, “Site, sound and smell” -the sites themselves causing noise and traffic, and the smell that many complain about coming from the sites.

From an interview with Harris, she states that if she had the authority to change regulations, which she does not, she would change them. Specifically she would change the distance in which the sites are regulated to be from houses. “The Oil and Gas industry follows the regulations set by the state, but I do not feel the regulations are strong enough to protect Erie citizens. In my opinion, the state permits fracking sites too close to people’s homes and to schools.”

As another con, Clary goes more in depth on the topic: “Increased traffic: As with any industry, the more people employed the more traffic there will be. A frack site typically has 50-100 people on site who rotate daily.”

Summing up his negative aspects for fracking, Clary mentions “(the) risk of incidents affecting public health, safety, and wellbeing” -admitting that there are always risks when it comes to fracking, but acknowledging the benefits alongside such.

The consequences of fracking may outweigh the possibilities it brings. Fracking, if done supposedly incorrectly, can increase the chance of oil spills, it can cause earthquakes, release unpleasant odors, contaminate drinking water near the fracking source, and permanently damage the crust of the earth, among other possible consequences. Mostly the complaints in Erie are aroused from the strong stench coming from the fracking sites. Many erie residents are wary of the fracking sites, so near to their homes. But, without fracking, the economy of Erie could be severely receded, and our access to oil could be extremely diminished.

Harris says that the town of Erie has no say on the location as well as the any regulations. “The Town of Erie, and all cities and towns in Colorado, are not allowed to regulate the industry. Only the State of Colorado has the right to regulate this industry. My complaint is that the State does not allow local cities and towns impacted by the industry to have a say in the process.”

Fracking companies such as Encana have endorsed many Erie programs, which help the schools, and the community as a whole, but some opposers of fracking argue that these endorsement are a way to convince the community to ignore the negative repercussions caused by fracking. The town of erie itself has issued an official grievance against the fracking sites.

Harris says, “Citizens and the Town of Erie have complained to the COGCC about the impacts the industry has on the health, safety and welfare of people in Erie. Thus far the COGCC has not made improvements.”

To end his interview, Matt Clary surmised, “I’ve spent a lot of time on drilling rigs, workover rigs, fracking sites and single well pads and have not heard of any major health concerns related to working environments or conditions. That’s not to say we should be complacent but I truly believe the industry considers the affects it has on people and the environment and mitigates risk appropriately.”

Whether you believe in fracking and its need in our daily lives, or think that it is slowly destroying our environment and disrupting daily life, it is clear that there are both definite good and bad aspects of fracking, and what one makes of that is their own choice.