Preliminary Paper Title:
“Get the Frack Out”: Environmental and Economic Implications of Fracking in Bradford County, PA.
I am Roy Samuel, an undergraduate senior majoring in biology and history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Ten years ago, my sixth-grade classmates and I huddled around a small television in our classroom to watch a newly released documentary called Gasland. It detailed the experiences of those dealing with the contamination and ensuing adverse health effects that hydraulic fracturing had in their communities. While I did not fully understand the extent of what I was watching, the images of dead animals and water being set on fire have stuck with me to this day. Moreover, as an ardent critic of the expanding levels of income inequality this country is facing, I am interested in seeing how low-income neighborhoods are targeted to be burdened with the ramifications of fracking in the places they live, work, and play.
The Marcellus Shale is a region that extends as far north as upstate New York, through Pennsylvania to West Virginia, and as far west as Ohio. Specifically, I intend to focus on Bradford County, PA between the year 2005, which was when the use of fracking to extract shale gas increased dramatically, and 2015, where legislation has slowed down the growth of these sites under Governor Tom Wolf. This county has six well operators, 765 violations of legislative policy, and 1,097 wells. Those involved include the residents of Bradford County, as well as several well operators, such as Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Talisman Energy USA Inc. Generally, the Marcellus Shale region has sedimentary rock buried many feet beneath the Earth’s surface. Natural gas has built up over time in this area due to the process of decomposition. Therefore, to access that natural gas, the process of hydraulic fracturing, wherein water, sand, and other chemicals are injected into rocks at a high pressure, has become common. Some of these potentially carcinogenic chemicals can escape and contaminate groundwater near the site.
Why are the well operators still able to work in the county when they are responsible for so many violations that have health consequences for those residing there?
How has the community responded, and has that response led to tangible reforms or conflicts with the well operators, the local and state government, or both?
Why are communities in Bradford County, and similar neighborhoods throughout the Marcellus Shale Region, particularly selected as sites for hydraulic fracturing?
How has fracking and its ramifications affected local communities in Bradford County in ways that extend beyond adverse health effects, especially among youth?
By studying hydraulic fracturing and its impact on residents in Bradford County in depth, I hope to show how poverty-stricken communities within the Marcellus Shale region are intentionally being utilized as fracking sites. Companies, such as those mentioned earlier, continue to persist in these low-income areas without being held accountable for their repeated, numerous violations. It will also allow us to see how enacted policies that allow for fracking persist, despite the apparent dangers. From there, I believe that it will be apparent that many issues of environmental justice, including hydraulic fracturing, tend to involve unjust treatment of the most vulnerable. The wealthiest in society tend to have more influence on political and economic structures, allowing the enactment of policies that favor themselves, at the expense of those who are not wealthy.
Keywords: Class, Toxics, Water, Soil, Pollution, Energy