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Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” is a controversial process in which natural gas is mined from the earth by pressurized fluids being blasted into rock. The practice is widespread in Texas.
Although the process has been around since the 1940s there has been an upsurge in fracking over the last few years as the demand for natural gas has risen.
The downside of fracking is that the chemicals inserted into the ground appear to be contaminating groundwater and drinking water.
There are new studies that even provide a possible link between fracking and breast cancer in women living in areas where the practice takes place.
A recent report showed a rise in breast cancer rates in six counties in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas where natural gas is extracted from the Barnett Shale.
“The six counties with the most production equipment are Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties – the same six counties with high breast cancer rates,” reported the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Other reports have suggested chemical compounds including toluene, that have also been found in ground water contaminated by fracking, could harm pregnant women.
Further research is clearly needed in this important area. It wouldn’t be the first time the oil and gas industry in Texas has fallen foul of lawsuits. In fact the oil and natural gas industry has been guilty of numerous environmental and safety lapses in the past.
For instance a group of oil workers who were lost at sea in the Gulf of Mexico for three days on a raft 2011 and their families have recently filed a lawsuit. Only six of the 10 workers survived.
The lawsuits filed in Galveston name the Houston-based company Geokinetics, Inc., Trinity Liftboat Services, the company that operated the liftboat vessel the men were working on and Mermaid Marine Australia Ltd.
The Texas Gulf Coast has one of the highest concentrations of oil refineries and chemical plants in the United States.
The industry has a record of explosions including the Amoco plant in Texas City, 1976, the Arco plant in Channelview, 1990 and the BP Amoco plant, also in Texas City, in 2005.
Many of the oil plants on the Gulf Coast are getting older and the possibility of further explosions cannot be discounted. Workers in the oil and gas industry face some of the most hazardous conditions of any industry in the USA, with Texas seeing the highest numbers of occupational fatalities.
But the growing weight of evidence about fracking suggests workers in this industry may not be the only victims.