To clarify my previous article: Drexel is in the pocket of big polluters. In this case, we’re in the pocket of the American Natural Gas Alliance. It was recently announced that 11 undergraduate business students competed and won first place in the American Natural Gas Alliance Collegiate Energy Challenge, in which they were presented with the task of acting as consultants to develop and implement a campaign to promote natural gas to the Drexel community. As natural gas is on the rise, it’s important for everyone to be aware of the environmental and personal health damage caused by the current methods of natural gas extraction and production.
The most commonly used natural gas extraction method is called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, and is a fairly new technology associated with words like “safe” and “responsible.” It is neither. Hydrofracking is a horizontal drilling process that fractures shale rock using a mixture of sand, large amounts of water, and various chemicals (some of which are not disclosed to the public) to let natural gas permeate to the surface through cement-lined wells.
While natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal or oil, the process of extraction is extremely dirty. Those cement barriers that are supposed to keep the natural gas away from our soil and water have been found to break down over time, causing leaks in the pipes. The highly toxic wastewater created by hydrofracking is disposed of in a ditch, to be trucked off later to waste facilities. The collected natural gas is stored in an evaporator until it can be distributed for consumption. These evaporators emit volatile organic compounds (known carcinogens and smog precursors) 24/7.
The 2005 Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act, more commonly known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” exempted natural-gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act, an act passed by Congress in 1974 to ensure clean drinking water free of man-made and natural contaminants. Despite repeated violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act, the industry does not take the responsibility and effort to clean up its mess and instead takes legal shortcuts that adversely affect our health and environment.
It’s not the business of universities to convince its students of the “importance of natural gas.” To the contrary, the idea that promoting natural gas is promoting a cleaner environment is dead wrong. As the Divestment Convergence at Swarthmore College rapidly approaches, it is our responsibility as students to encourage and work with our administration to divest from dirty energy, including natural gas, and instead invest in cleaner alternatives like Pennsylvania’s Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster and the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm in New Jersey.
Nicole Koedyker is the president of the Drexel chapter of the Sierra Club. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.