By CASEY JUNKINS
ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio - Fracking supporters say the drilling technique supports more than 14 million American jobs and helps keep the cost of living down, but opponents say stopping the practice would prevent thousands of migraine headaches and asthma attacks each year.
In Ohio alone, a ban on fracking would cost the average household $3,956, while 397,000 jobs would be lost, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber's report also finds the nation's gross domestic product would fall by $1.6 trillion by 2022 under the conditions of a fracking ban.
"It's easy for politicians and activists to call for an end to hydraulic fracturing-but now we know what the consequences could be," said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. "Without fracking, the U.S. would surrender our status as a global energy superpower. Every American family could face higher prices for the energy they consume and the products and services they buy, and almost 15 million Americans could be out of work. These extreme and irresponsible proposals should not be considered. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse."
Fracking - formally known as hydraulic fracturing - is the process drillers use to extract valuable natural gas, oil and liquids from Marcellus and Utica shale.
Officials estimate it takes anywhere from 1 million to 10 million gallons of water to frack a single well, along with about 4 million pounds of sand, in addition to a chemical cocktail.
Many of the chemicals frackers inject are found in common products such as soda, detergent and hair dye. Some widely used fracking substances include: hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol, isopropanol, glutaraldehyde, petroleum distillate, guar gum, ammonium persulfate, formamide, borate salts, citric acid, potassium chloride and sodium carbonate.
Frackers inject these materials deep into the earth at a force as high as 10,000 pounds per square inch to shatter the rock in order to release the fuel. Although environmentalists remain concerned about how this can impact water and air supplies, Harbert said this is no reason to "keep it in the ground."
"While on its face, 'keep it in the ground' policies are intended to punish the energy industry, in reality they punish the entire economy," Harbert said. "Bringing back energy scarcity means higher energy prices for everyone. Beyond that, banning fracking would make America much more reliant on foreign sources of energy, weakening our national security."
However, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health continue linking fracking to an array of health problems experienced by those living in close proximity to the operations. Also, according to the Ohio Environmental Council and the Clean Air Task Force, children in the Columbus metro area suffer 7,129 asthma attacks per year due to smog resulting from oil and natural gas operations, with another 7,558 youngsters experiencing these symptoms in the Cleveland area every year.
"These three health conditions can have debilitating impacts on people's lives," said Aaron W. Tustin, a resident physician in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. "In addition, they cost the health care system a lot of money. Our data suggest these symptoms are associated with proximity to the fracking industry."
While no single health condition was associated with proximity to active fracking operations, those who met criteria for two or more of the health conditions were nearly twice as likely to live closer to more or larger wells.
"We don't know specifically why people in close proximity to these larger wells are more likely to be sick," Bloomberg professor Brian S. Schwartz said. "We need to find a way to better understand the correlation and, hopefully, do something to protect the health of these people."