The Shale Game

The Shale Game

Even here in oil- and gas-poor Georgia, there is much debate over hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Everyone has an opinion on whether it is helping or hurting the communities nationwide that have allowed the process. And while we should care in that grand-scheme, we-are-all-connected, circle–of life sort of way, we should also be paying attention because there is no guarantee that fracking or its effects won’t show their faces here.

While the exploration for conventional fossil fuels in our state stopped in the 1970s, oil and gas companies began buying up leases in the 2000s to explore the state’s shale plays. Most explorations so far have been focused on northwest Georgia on the Conasauga shale field, where one geologist predicts that the field could contain 625 trillion cubic feet of gas. The development of horizontal drilling along with fracking now allows for drilling a well down 2 miles or more and then branching off horizontal lines, yielding a huge opportunity to tap into previously unreachable resources.

Hydraulic fracturing forces a pressurized fluid mixture of water, acid, surfactant, gel, chemicals and silica sand into the Earth around coal seams. The mixture creates fractures in the shale that release oil, gas and natural-gas liquids, such as propane and butane, trapped in tiny pores in the rock. Wastewater also returns to the surface and has to be disposed of safely because it can contain radioactive elements and toxic metals. The amount of wastewater (“flowback”) produced by fracked wells is much greater than traditional wells.

The sheer magnitude of high-pressure water fracking operations has many people worried about the potential for industrial development and heavy truck traffic in their rural area. Also of concern are possible spills or leaks that can contaminate the groundwater, seriously harming water quality. Waste disposal in underground injection wells has been linked to small earthquakes. And there’s no denying that fracking adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through leakage during gas extraction and carbon dioxide release during burning.

Reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions are highly troubling. Fracking in neighboring states can potentially result in spoiling our fresh drinking water or causing small earthquakes. Also worrisome are proposals for building a pipeline through parts of Georgia that would help bring in gas from fracking fields in other parts of the nation. Minimal oversight and inadequate precautions put the public and the environment at increasing risk.

Since 1986, pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000 people, and cost nearly seven billion dollars in property damages. Pipelines can rupture for many reasons including equipment failure, weld failure, natural disasters and being hit by excavation equipment.

Landowners in other states have complained of harassment by persistent leasing agents and have signed leases without a full understanding of the terms. Oversight from citizens and the government has proven difficult, so if you are concerned about fracking in your area, it’s extremely important that you stay informed and up to date. If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us by calling (478) 742-3381 in Macon, Dublin, Warner Robbins or Milledgeville, or through our online form.