To get natural gas out of the ground, natural gas companies like Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth. This process, called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracing," dislodges natural gas so that the company can extract it and sell it to heat homes and make electricity.
The problem is that most natural gas companies won't say what they're injecting into the ground. An investigation by ProPublica, a non-profit journalism group, found that many of the chemicals used in fracing could contaminate groundwater. The federal government lists many as toxic, and in some instances the chemicals make the gas wells explosive. The EPA wrote a 2004 study saying the process is safe. But new criticisms of fracing are coming to the surface.
In its story, which you can read here, ProPublica finds that many natural gas companies won't reveal their recipes for these chemical and water injections. In most states, regulations don't require them to. Here's an excerpt from the story that concerns Chesapeake Energy's recipe:
The issue is becoming more important as natural gas is talked about as a solution to the country's energy needs. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, which is the United States' most abundant energy source. It's also second in availability. But it appears that its extraction may come with environmental costs you don't hear talked about quiiiite as much as the Pickens Plan.
"It is like Coke protecting its syrup formula for many of these service companies," said Scott Rotruck, vice president of corporate development at Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s largest gas driller, which has been asked by New York State regulators to disclose the chemicals it uses.