A lot of the public discussion about the relative dangers and benefits of extracting methane gas through hydraulic fracturing is being led by politicians, corporations, and citizens who are either inclined or disinclined to trust politicians and corporations. It’s a debate that could use more input from independent experts. Thankfully, professor emeritus at Morgan State University Donald C. Helm, who has written papers on the process for scientific journals, took the time pen an opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun.
According to Helm, the contamination of freshwater aquifers is an inevitable outcome of fracking, due to “the upward migration of fractures from depth.” In arid climates the upward-migrating fractures continue all the way to the surface. In places like Maryland, near the land surface the fractures transform into “ribbons of enhanced porosity.”
But as far as our freshwater aquifers are concerned, the outcome is the same: contamination.
Helm argues that the relevant question for Marylanders weighing benefits and risks of fracking is no longer “will overlying freshwater aquifers become contaminated?” but “does having about 30 years of an abundant supply of methane gas with its concomitant profits and revenue outweigh the eventual unavoidable loss of the freshwater aquifers of Garrett and Allegany Counties?”
But an even more important question is “will Annapolis listen?”