What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking” is a destructive process to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock formations that lie deep underground.

The process begins with drilling deep down into the earth, on average between 5,000-9,000 feet. Then a mixture of millions of gallons of water, sand, and harsh chemicals (“fracking fluid”)  is injected down the well at the shale rock at a high enough pressure to fracture the shale and release the oil or gas inside. The term “fracking” refers to how the rock is fractured to release the gas. The process can be performed vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally up to 10,000 feet out into the rock layer. This can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels. These procedures allow the gas to flow out of the rock and up to the wellhead where it is collected.

How does fracking affect this region?

Since 2008, shale gas drilling targeting the Marcellus Shale has dramatically increased in southwestern Pennsylvania. With this increase, there have been huge impacts on local people and environment. The list of toxic chemicals that are used throughout the fracking process has only recently been disclosed to the public. One study, based on Material Safety Data Sheets from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for 41 products used in fracking operations, assessed the chemicals used in fracking and found that 73% of the products had between 6 and 14 different adverse health effects including skin, eye, and sensory organ damage; respiratory distress including asthma; gastrointestinal and liver disease; brain and nervous system harms; cancers; and negative reproductive effects.. This chart illustrates the possible health effects associated with the 353 gas-related chemicals linked to fracking:

In addition to health issues, truck traffic has significantly increased on narrow rural roads across Greene and Washington Counties as trucks haul water and chemicals to well sites 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This increased truck traffic not only poses safety concerns, but has dramatically altered people’s lives by making commutes and travel far more time consuming.

But I thought  natural gas was clean energy?

We all enjoy the benefits of energy, but natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing do not produce “clean energy.” Gas is a fossil fuel derived from non-renewable sources of organic material formed millions of years ago. Natural gas drilling is extremely invasive, particularly where unconventional methods like fracking are used, threatening public health and the environment. These threats are especially prevalent in Pennsylvania, particularly in the southwest where there is a substantial amount of drilling activity.

The production, transport, and burning of natural gas produces significant air pollution. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), more than 20 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). Other natural gas emissions include carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), particulates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCS) including benzene, among others.

Drilling operations in the Marcellus shale region in the eastern U.S. present air pollution concerns in an area already struggling with bad air quality. It is important to recognize that smog pollution from drilling can travel up to 200 miles from the gas production area, causing widespread damage to both human and environmental health.

Take Action

Are you directly impacted by fracking? Is there proposed fracking infrastructure in your community? Contact us at 724-229-3550 or email us at info@coalfieldjustice to see how we can support you.

Direct Support Fund

The Direct Support Fund provides support for grassroots groups or individuals working on social change on shale gas issues.  Check out the requirements to apply here:

Support Organizations Across Pennsylvania

There are a number of organizations and coalitions around the Commonwealth that are working to support people who are currently impacted or may be impacted by the fracking industry. Below are few that work with the Center for Coalfield Justice:

  • Mountain Watershed Association: The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project within the Mountain Watershed Association seeks to develop community leadership through outreach, organizing, monitoring, and assessing activities by providing assistance to citizens in areas where shale gas development is occurring.

  • Protect Our Children Coalition:  A coalition of parents, concerned citizens, and advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting school children from the health risks of shale gas drilling and infrastructure.

  • FracTracker: Provides oil and gas maps for over 30 U.S. States with drilling activity.

  • Harry Enstrom Chapter of the Izaak Walton League: A national, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the soil, air, woods, and water of the United States. The Harry Enstrom Chapter is based in Greene County, PA.

  • Marcellus Outreach Butler:A group of Butler County, PA individuals and coalitions concerned about the health and safety of our communities due to horizontal, slickwater, hydrofracture drilling in the Marcellus Shale for the extraction of natural gas.

  • Marcellus Protest:An informational resource about Marcellus Shale gas drilling, activism, and related issues that is primarily focused on Western PA.

  • Pennsylvanians Against Fracking: A statewide coalition of groups representing a diversity of issues, backgrounds, and locations, united in the mission of achieving a ban on fracking in the commonwealth.


Fore more information, please refer to the following videos concerning the process of fracking and its inherent dangers: