Hydraulic Fracturing

Happy New Year and welcome to another episode of NewlyGreens!  Today we’re talking about yet another interesting topic… Ever heard about Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking??  Probably not, but chances are it’s taking place not far from your home, and chances are also, that the more you learn, the more uncomfortable it will make you feel.

To find out more, we spoke with Ms. Carol Hoernlein, a licensed Civil Engineer specializing in the safety of water resources.   Carol has an extraordinary list of accomplishments in the area of environmental safety, and she is here to talk with us today about her latest environmental concern, which is the practice of  “Hydraulic Fracturing”.    Enjoy the interview and check out the notes below for more information and links to additional resources.

Hydraulic Fracturing 101

  1. Hydraulic Fracturing (HF) is the process of shattering rock formations to get to the natural gas stored within.
  2. As natural gas becomes scarce and more difficult to get to, this new kind of technology has emerged to meet the need.
  3. HF is a newer form of drilling created to get to a source of natural gas not previously accessed.
  4. Although found throughout the country, the large shale formations that hold the gas are predominantly in the area of Pennsylvania and New York state.
  5. The process of HF requires millions of gallons of fresh water, which is then mixed with a “fracking fluid” and forced into the shale formations.  The force of the liquid shatters the shale formations, releasing the natural gas.
  6. The gas that is released is not completely confined and has found it’s way into residential drinking water supplies, in some cases, setting faucets on fire.
  7. The chemical-laden fracking fluid then seeps it’s way back up to the surface as what is called “produced water”.   There are reports of livestock dying after being exposed to the fracking fluid in the form of this produced water.
  8. Some people living near large shale formations have benefited financially, while others have completely lost their clean water supplies.
  9. In 2005 a task force created what is called the Halliburton Loophole. This loophole rendered the fracking fluid exempt from the Clean Water Drinking Act.  As a result, the EPA is currently helpless to step in.
  10. However, there is an act moving through Congress now that is called the Frac Act.  FRAC Act – twin bills in the Senate (S 1215) and House (HR 2766) that remove the exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking and call for the disclosure and monitoring of the chemicals used in the process.
  11. Since the taping of this interview, Halliburton has released some information regarding its fracking fluid formulas.
  12. Making the fracking fluid non-toxic would eliminate only some of the water safety concerns, but the issue of using (or wasting) millions of gallons of fresh water, and the concerns of natural gas being released into air and water certainly remain an issue.

Links and Resources:



CBS 60 Minutes

Carol Hoernlein – More Information:

Carol was a trustee on the Hudson River Waterfront Commission charged with creating the riverfront walkway along the Hudson in NJ and co-wrote and narrated a documentary about the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.

Carol also worked for the Palisades Interstate Park Commission as a civil Engineer and narrated the video documentary about the New Deal construction of the Palisades Interstate Park called “A New Deal for the Palisades.”

She served as Councilwoman in Tenafly, NJ from 2007 – 2009 where she served as a member of the Planning Board.  Last year she was awarded a special honor by the NJ Joint Legislature for her accomplishments in public service.

Before she was a civil engineer working to protect our rivers and groundwater, Carol worked in the food industry as a food process development engineer.  Her time as a food process engineer was the reason for her recent appearance in the film – The Beautiful Truth as a food industry expert.  The film is about the impact of the environment and food on health.

Carol is currently working on a book about the food industry called Virtual Food.  She can be contacted via SiteandStorm.com or msgtruth.org.

Happy New Year!

Thanks for joining us, and by the way, if you get a chance, check out Risa’s series of environmental articles at VeronaPatch. Always informative and entertaining. Happy Holidays and see you in 2011!