The process of shale gas exhaustion, fracking, has been used since the late 1940s to help get “that last bit” of conventional oil and gas out of the ground. Conventional means that it is easy to get out, not tightly trapped between, or in the rocks, which is essentially the definition of unconventional oil and gas. Unconventional gas and oil only became available for exploitation over the last 10- 15 years because several existing technologies were married together and combined with new breakthroughs in drilling. This allowed a huge increase in both the scale and density of drilling.
Since 2005, the US government has noted several problems with the fracking industry and is now in the process of trying to “rein in” the companies to gather more evidence on the risks to water, air and soil from the whole process, not just the fracking part. Thus the issue of public health in relation to fracking is beginning to be discussed in the USA. Groups like Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN), in Northern Ireland, have been set up to try and stall fracking development until further tests on its sustainability can be completed.
As stated before, there have been reports of how fracking has led to public health and environmental issues as well as effecting the landscape of the countryside which has been key in attracting tourism to the area. However, with counter arguments stimulated around how it will benefit economic growth in a region that is economically depleted, urges are being made to fast track development especially in the current financial climate.
There has been a complete absence of any form of local consultation in the immediately affected areas of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which has left local communities feeling powerless and with little to no contact with people who are threatening to come in and fundamentally and radically alter the local environment.
Do you feel environmental and public health issues should take a backseat if economic benefits are guaranteed?
Credits: Photograph by Finbar Gillen. Data linked to sources.