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A stranger here myself: EPA: Analyze fracking regulations before cessation

Energy resources: Where do we even begin? It’s a gargantuan topic and is guaranteed to sit at the center of public debate daily. Seated comfortably in that debate at present is hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking.”

The method for natural gas extraction, though by no means a recent practice, is undergoing strict scrutiny from critics across the nation at this very moment. It’s at the heart of environmental concern, particularly in Appalachian and other rural communities, yet the Environmental Protection Agency continues to tiptoe around the precarious issue.

Firsthand accounts of groundwater contamination around drilling sites are on the rise. In the past, officials in the EPA claimed no link between fracking and groundwater contamination.

Environmental watchdog organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists are not as receptive of the EPA’s claims. The debate twists and turns a fair amount, ensuring that public understanding remains limited. It really is a royal pain following both sides.

The question of the health hazards tied to the chemicals used in the actual fracking process isn’t so much the concern, though. These substances are generally known to be toxins, but they’re desirable for the process due to numerous reasons according to “frackers.”

What seems worthy of examination, then, is the regulation of well drilling and fracturing.

The arguments for and against increased regulation are splattered all across the room.

Proponents claim the chemicals are kept safely away from drinking water supplies throughout drilling and extraction. In their words, current regulations (or lack thereof in some states) are adequate.

Critics charge that there’s an inherent risk of spilling chemicals that’s not worth taking, and in many instances has already led to water contamination.

Whether or not that is simply the result of illegitimate companies giving the process a bad name is hard to say just yet.

Because of all the confusion, some communities are attempting to dodge the problem altogether and push for forthright bans on drilling permits. Athenians are seeing this right now in the local Athens Fracking Interest Group.

The group openly opposes the proposed federal lease of more than 3,000 acres of land in Wayne National Forest for oil and gas drilling. Joining the local group in vocal protest is the Buckeye Forest Council and several other organizations.

The land would go up for auction in December with the highest bidders gaining access to parcels of land, some in Athens County.

Considering the amount of uncertainty around purported groundwater contamination (whether this uncertainty was intentionally created by news media and mining interest groups or not), the EPA certainly has the fullest obligation to act conscientiously.

With so much doubt and so many citizens making vocal their health concerns, the agency needs to act swiftly to increase regulations until a thorough and non-partisan investigation can take place.

Concrete evidence needs to be found that links the alleged cases of water contamination across the country to hydraulic fracturing before a crackdown or cessation on the process can go forward.

As much as it hurts to say it, this is an instance in which the ethics of exploiting the planet (a fact that gets under my skin – don’t worry about that) must be left out of the argument.

To solve this issue, more citizens must come forward to express their experiences with fracking and agencies both federal and independent must genuinely examine the practices employed by companies in the drilling sector.

Is the use of harmful chemicals in and of itself even worth the potential gains?

The discussion needs to reach the highest echelons through continued exploration. But as long as doubts exist, there’s no ethical reason to legally continue fracturing processes.

Joseph Barbaree is a graduate student studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Tell him what you think about fracking at

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