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Leaks from Fracking more Common than the Natural Gas & Oil Industries would like the Public to Believe

Jan 15, 2013

In fact, according to recent report from, if you were to believe those industries’ claims on fracking technology, you’d have to wonder why there is so much fervor over the technology that aims to release carbon fuels from underground shale beds. They’ll say that fracking is safe and that wells are sealed tight even though their own data shows that nearly all wells - new and old - leak.

Critics and staunch opponents of the fracking process believe the boom in drilling across the U.S., though mainly in the eastern U.S. and Mid Atlantic regions, is having a severe adverse impact on the environment, public health, and natural resources like fresh water.

In places like Pennsylvania, where fracking companies have converged recently en masse to explore the vast Marcellus shale formation, thousands of wells have been opened in recent years and that has also opened a national debate on the drilling technology’s safety. Some believe fracking to be a way out of the state’s and nation’s economic slump, providing jobs and inexpensive energy resources.

Opponents believe fracking is poisoning the earth and the people living closest to active wells. They say that fracking releases methane gas and other dangerous toxins below the surface where they’re able to contaminate underground water aquifers and groundwater. They also claim that fracking wells are poorly constructed and that well workers are improperly trained, adding risk that a well will leak fluids either at the surface or underground or will result in a dangerous well blowout that spews drilling fluid over a large swath of land and water. Further, they believe fracking releases dangerous toxins into the air and puts public health in danger. There has been ample evidence of each, though you’d have a hard time proving that, especially in Pennsylvania where the state government has clearly aligned itself with the energy industry, even going as far as to require physicians practicing in the state to mislead their patients on the source of their illness if they believe exposure to fracking contaminants is to blame.

In the report from, the fracking industry leads the public to believe that those effects are impossible or extremely rare because, as it believes, fracking wells don’t leak. Not true, according to the group’s findings, which were gleaned from industry data and statistics. In fact, they call leaks of fracking fluid from wells “a rare phenomenon.”

This is clearly just another misdirection offered by the industries as they continue to fight environmental groups and an increasingly skeptical public on fracking’s safety record. The report cites “industry studies” that show new fracking wells leak at a rate of five to seven percent. That rate increases dramatically over time, up to 50 percent over the life of a well, and that the wells most prone to leaking are fracking wells.

A study appearing in an industry trade publication, Oil Field News, even underscores the risk of leaking from fracking wells. In that study, it states, “Since the earliest gas wells, uncontrolled migration of hydrocarbons to the surface has challenged the oil and gas industry.”

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