A commission which includes nine Nobel Prize winners has just completed the most comprehensive study yet on the impact of fracking on Texas, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Christine Economides, a University of Houston petroleum geology professor who headed the study, which was done under the auspises of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI that the extensive research focused on nine areas, from economic and social impact to geological and environmental impacts.
Economides says the main goal was to sort out all of the 'alternative facts' which have been floating around about fracking, and come up with definitive answers about the social, economic, and environmental impact of the new technology, which has upended the world oil markets and turned the United States into the world's leading producer of oil and natural gas.
She says while there is no doubt that fracking has been great for the oil and gas companies and for the small Texas communities and landowners who find themselves sitting on newly exploitable oil and gas resources, the communities are suffering from challenges as well.
"Much of this development is occurring in rural areas," she told News Radio 1200 WOAI. "All of a sudden, many many 18 wheeler trucks are going by to deliver what is required to drill and operate these wells."
She says the unrepaired road damage in the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin, the state's two most profitable fracking fields, has been enormous and is providing to be a safety hazard for residents.
The commission focused much of its efforts on the question of whether there is a connection between fracking and the flurry of earthquakes which have occurred in fracking fields, mainly in Oklahoma and North Texas.
She says the geologists reached the conclusion that the fracking itself is not sparking new flurries of earthquakes, but there is evidence of a connection between quakes and the wells used to store the treated water used to fracture the shale and get to the gas and oil
"The science is telling us that overwhelmingly, the majority of earthquakes that could be connected to oil and gas activity is connected with the disposal of the water," she said.
The report said while fracking does lead to increases in the air pollutant methane at the site of the wells, that is partly offset by the ability of power plants to use far cleaner, and now far less expensive, natural gas, rather than coal, to create electricity.
The commission also points to the fact that fracking has led directly to the price of gasoline being cut by 50% across the United States, which is a direct benefit to the economy, as well as creating jobs and turning the U.S. from a net exporter to a net importer of oil and refined products.
The commission also said there is no evidence, despite the claims of environmentalists, that fracking leads to groundwater contamination, or pollution of underground aquifers.
The report recommends several actions, from doing more to repair country roads damaged by big trucks, to doing more research into the groundwater contamination issue.
It also recommends new laws protecting residents of fracking fields who don't own mineral rights, and doing more research to study the long term impact of using the salty water that is frequently used in fracking
.The report concludes that fracking is likely to be a part of the Texas landscape for decades to come, so continued research into the long term impact of the practice is wise.