Fracking in New Jersey? What Would Edward Abbey Say?

Yes, Collingswood, New Jersey is a beautiful place on earth, and our children deserve to inherit at least as much as we have been given. What are we doing to make sure this happens?

By Bill "Wild Bill" Tracy, Evesham NJ

What would Abbey Say?

“This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such
places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of
the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown,
actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic
Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the
end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the
shores of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near
the Hoboken waterfront….”

-Edward Abbey

Yes, Collingswood, New Jersey is a beautiful place on earth. So are the surrounding lands from the precious Delaware to the vast Atlantic. This land and water nurture our lives, both physically and spiritually.

The generations who came before us in this land inherited the spirit of the Lenape and their sacred respect for lif that depended on this land and water. Our forebears protected the area and so bequeathed to us water we can drink and land where we can grow healthy food to feed our families.

What would south Jersey be without the legendary “Jersey tomato” or asparagus or blueberries or corn? Yes, this part of the Garden State is a beautiful place, and our children deserve to inherit at least as much as we have been given. Will this happen? Are we working to make sure this happens?

There are folks among us who want to harvest what they see as a “natural resource.” In certain geologic formations deep underground these folks have found pockets of natural gas. Since this gas is trapped inside rock and other underground substances, simple drilling doesn’t work.

They use a process called hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.” As close by as northeastern Pennsylvania, yes the Poconos, they are now mining this resource without regard for the substantial risks to water and land.

This mining is done by drilling down into these deep underground formations and then pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water into them at pressures as high as 15,000 psi until they break apart, allowing the natural gas to escape—most of it into containers and then to tank trucks and pipelines for sale. Unfortunately, the only thing we know for sure about this process is that it moves usable natural gas out of the ground.

Far more worrisome are the things we don’t know:

  1. How does this chemically treated water affect the ground water we drink? While the mining companies refuse to say exactly what they add to the water they inject, we know carcinogenic chemicals are part of the mix. The United States House of Representatives said last year that over 600 of the chemicals known to be used in fracking are believed or known human-cancer-causing agents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has documented cases of groundwater contamination from fracking operations. (1,2)
  2. How is widespread fracking affecting our drinking water supplies? The typical well requires an initial injection of three to eight million gallons of water. That’s the amount of water that flows in the Delaware past Trenton, NJ in three to five minutes. Seems like a lot of potable water to be traded for a few hot showers.
  3. What’s in the wastewater? Some of the water injected into the earth for fracking stays there, potentially contaminating groundwater, but most is ejected with the gas products. This wastewater contains unknown chemical contaminants; also it may be radioactive. Even if safely processed the radioactivity cannot be eliminated. Where does this radioactive water end up? Can they really treat millions, probably billions of gallons of water and safely put it back into streams and rivers?
  4. What’s the earthquake potential? Links are now being made to fracking and earthquakes – in places as unlikely as Dallas, Texas. We do not know for certain what geologic effects this pressurizing may have on underground formations. Earlier this year, Ohio enacted new regulations after fracking caused a round of earthquakes in northeastern Ohio. (4, 5) If fracking comes to New Jersey, will Collingswood have to add California-style earthquake resistance to building codes? 

Our Collingswood and southern New Jersey are the beautiful places on earth that Edward Abbey wrote about. We know that for sure. What we don’t know about fracking seems like a huge potential threat to such beauty. Maybe it would be safer simply not to do it around here. As Abbey was known to say, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

[Edward Abbey (1927-1989), originally from Home, Pennsylvania, was a
writer and activist supporting environmental responsibility and the
primacy of humanity over “development.” At the time of his death, he
had come to be known as the “Thoreau of the American West.”]


2. http://www.propublica.org/article/years-after-evidence-of-fracking-contamination-epa-to-supply-drinking-water

3. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/earth/08water.html

4. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/story/2012-03-09/fracking-gas-drilling-earthquakes/53435232/1

5. http://rt.com/usa/news/fracking-ohio-quake-earth-165/

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Ric November 15, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I said "I support developing clean energy but frankly it is not enough to supply our energy needs." Please do not claim I said things that I did not say.
Fracking with Facts November 15, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Nothing like Blogging the most mis-informative facts or conducting absolutely zero research before posting this garbage. How about we shutdown all oil and gas production from unconventional plays so that we can keep sending billions of dollars overseas to people who want to do nothing but kill us? Maybe before you post supposed "facts", you could spend 5 minutes on a couple of Google searches (you know, that free website that you can actually learn something from if you spend time researching something?) to see what reality is. You could start with the Frac Chemical Registry search. That is a tough one, second listing on a Google search for "Frac Chemical Database" to see what chemicals are used. Or, how about you actually look at the geology of the State of New Jersey to see that the only outcrops of Marcellus Shale are too close to the surface. That means there will likely never be "fracking" in New Jersey and the Legislators of your fine state did a brilliant job wasting taxpayer money by drafting a worthless piece of legislation that Gov. Christie rightly vetoed. I have a better idea. Rather than promoting fear mongering on "fracking", why don't you focus on real problems. Like the dreadful condition of groundwater in the State of New Jersey that is so heavily contaminated that there are large swathes of the state that will never be of drinking water quality. To answer the next question. Yes I am experienced in "fracking" and site remediation.
Ric November 15, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Paul, yes we do! As I have said before I am a moderate republican who was driven out of the party because the religious right was trying to turn back the momentum on social issues. My concerns are business, economy, jobs and the environment. As far as social issues, we should not pass laws for what a bible thumper thinks the bible says. We as a nation need laws to do what is morally (not bible) right. Fracking is ugly but obtaining oil by any method is not pretty. If these environmentalists want to keep this country from being more polluted than they should advocate a stop to more illegal immigration. Plain and simple, more people equal more pollution. South Jersey has gotten crowded and polluted in the last forty years. I believe I heard in 30 years New Jersey will not have a single lot for constructing more houses.
Matt Skoufalos November 16, 2012 at 09:53 AM
Somebody ask for research? How about 30,000 pages worth? http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/27/us/natural-gas-documents-1.html#document/p417/a9945 Found it on that free Google website everyone's talking about. P.S. - you guys are doing a really crummy job having a respectful conversation over here. Let's try to clean it up without the snark if you want to discuss these issues.
Joe November 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM
With all the regulations we have they probably will never be able to Frack NJ. But if that happens the known water supply aquifers will be far away and not as deep, so the possibility of contamination is slim to none. Nature has it's own way of filtering water for future use so these chemicals they use will be inert by the time and if it every got close to a water supply. Safer methods will reveal themselves if given the chance. Did you know that you may be drinking the same water that washed your diapers, Our someone elses. Tastes OK right?


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