Study Finds Oil, Gas Drilling Causes Pollution, Quakes

A new study by a nonprofit science organization says oil and gas drilling in Texas is linked to pollution and earthquakes.

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas study found drilling for oil and gas in shale rock pollutes the air, erodes soil and contaminates water, while the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater causes earthquakes, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The study also found that the shale oil boom has degraded natural resources, overwhelmed small communities and increased the frequency and severity of traffic collisions as workers rush to oil fields with their equipment.

The group began its analysis of the environmental and social impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing two years ago. It created a task force of attorneys, geologists, seismologists and engineers, including representatives from oil companies and an environmental group. The group reviewed and analyzed hundreds of academic studies, many about Texas oil and gas operations.

The study found fracking is spreading rapidly across Texas. The technique is used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.

“We’re seeing these activities in places we haven’t seen before,” said Marilu Hastings, vice president of sustainability programs for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, which funded a portion of the research. “And we’re seeing them at an increasing scale, pace and intensity.”

The report calls for the state to improve monitoring and collecting data about the environmental impacts of shale drilling and fracking.

“I’m a seismologist,” said Brian Stump, a professor at Southern Methodist University and member of the task force. “But this shale gas development is critically important to a state like Texas because of its economy, and important internationally because of its energy resources. Understanding the good and bad implications helps us know what’s right and what to improve.”