When Pennsylvanians agreed to a massive increase in natural gas drilling in the state, they were told that the economic benefit would outweigh any potential risk to the environment.
The drilling employs a controversial technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that backers say will help the nation become energy independent and provide jobs and lower heating costs for Pennsylvanians.
But with gas prices collapsing thanks to an unforeseen glut, energy companies are pushing for permission to export the commodity to countries such as Japan and South Korea. Exports will lead to more drilling, more damage to roads and the environment, and higher, rather than lower, gas prices, say critics.
Pennsylvanians are “surprised, stunned, angry and upset” about the export push, said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum. “And that’s whether or not they’re supportive of fracking.”
Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into holes drilled into underground shale deposits.
The technology, which became popular in Pennsylvania around 2008, enabled drilling companies to access enormous, previously unreachable supplies of natural gas — and brought hope to a state long-mired in a recession.
Despite its economic potential, fracking has a dubious environmental record. Exempt from the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, it has been blamed for contaminating residential wells and sparking explosions.