Hydraulic Fracturing or "Fracking"

Barnett Shale Petroluem Drilling 

A new technology known as hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—has made it possible to extract natural gas from "unconventional" resources trapped in rock formations thousands of feet underground. While this can help provide energy for America's future, it also poses a new dangerous threat to wildlife and the environment.

Toxic chemicals are used during fracking that can infiltrate and contaminate habitat, waterways, and even the drinking water that people and wildlife depend on.

What is Fracking?

Fracking is a process in which large volumes of fluids—a mixture of water, sand and chemicals—are injected at high pressure underground to crack open or fracture layers of rock. The natural gas, which is trapped in tiny pores in the rock, flows out and is captured aboveground. This can take place 3,000-15,000 feet below the surface, often crossing natural aquifers and water tables.

Despite tremendous uncertainty about both short and long term impacts, fracking companies operate with almost no federal oversight. They’re exempt from laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and they don’t have to disclose what chemicals they pump into our waterways. Without proper safeguards, fracking threatens our land, water, air and wildlife. 

The National Wildlife Federation is working to:

  • Require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they are releasing into the environment.
  • Make sure fracking companies are held accountable to America's keystone conservation laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Protect key habitats and public lands from fracking.

How Does Fracking Impact America's Water, Air and Wildlife?

  • Contaminates Water Quality and Supply

    There have been reports of flammable methane migrating into local drinking water supplies, and spills of drilling fluids and contaminated water are believed to have killed livestock, fish and other aquatic life in ponds and streams. Fracking operations can also require several million gallons of water, which must be withdrawn from nearby wells, lakes, rivers or industrial or municipal systems, leaving insufficient water for other important uses.

    Wyoming Pinedale
  • Increases Ozone and Smog Levels

    Using natural gas can improve air quality if it can replace the use of other fossil fuels that are more polluting. But the extraction of unconventional natural gas can create air quality problems, such as increased ozone and smog levels, that can cause health risks for people and wildlife.

  • Destroys and Fragments Wildlife Habitats

    The construction of roads, drilling pads and pipelines for thousands of drilling operations are adding up and impacting rural communities and affecting America’s landscape. The clearing of thousands of acres of forests is leading to reduced and fragmented habitats and other potentially life-threatening impacts for wildlife.

Could Fracking Come To Your Town?

This map shows regions where shale gas deposits have been discovered, which may be locations for drilling and fracking now or in the future.

Map of shale gas plays
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