The issue of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) will be a controversy not easily ended anytime soon. Despite votes in a few states and countries to ban the practice, fortunately the extraction of oil and natural gas via fracking continues. However, Farmington, New Mexico is now embroiled in a regional spat between oil and gas industry interests and environmentalist groups.
According to the local Daily Times newspaper, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Chaco Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center sent a 34 page letter to the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington office for it’s quick approval of permits to allow for drilling at the Mancos Shale. The shale is located mountainous rock formation located in the four corners region of the United States that is made-up of the states of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. The shale been an apple of the eye of the oil and gas industry for drilling in the western US since it is said to contain 60 billion barrels of oil, respectfully.
Environmentalist groups seek to slow down, if not outright halt, hydraulic fracturing at the shale citing environmental concerns due to the waster water and other chemicals released during the fracking process. The groups also accuse the BLM being reckless with issuing drilling permits stating the agency needs to think long term (read: halt hydraulic fracturing altogether).
A quick study of how fracking is conducted shows companies that use the drilling method do their utmost to keep the areas they drill clean before and after. That not only includes reducing water usage and waste water left after but also clean other chemicals used when they drill. Examples of how can be seen here, here, and here. Much of these new drilling and clean up methods have been due to citizen, employee, government agency, and even environmentalist group feedback.
The most recent innovation comes from scientists at MIT and King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia. According to Engadget:
Their approach filters output water through multiple stages of electrodialysis, which uses electrical charges to pull salt through a membrane. This wouldn’t make the water drinkable, but it would be reusable — and that, in turn, would reduce or even eliminate the need for fresh water beyond an initial supply. Oil and gas wells wouldn’t deprive local communities of nearly as much drinking or farming water, and they wouldn’t have to dispose of quite so many contaminated liquids.
The hypothesis is in the experimental stages and hasn’t been tested, but it does look promising. It would not require oil and gas companies to use local water supplies since, theoretically, they could use this new method to re-use water utilized for drilling. However, none of this will matter to environmentalists since their core belief is to sacrifice mankind to the needs of nature. Despite the billions of gallons of oil in locations like the Mancos Shale, groups like WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center would prefer nature not be (in their view) disturbed so man can live and thrive.