Imagine not being able to sit on your front porch for fear of inhaling toxic chemicals produced by dozens of natural gas wells and facilities surrounding your property. Sadly, this is the case for many Texas families living along the Eagle Ford Shale. With little regulation and little known about the amount of chemicals pouring from the more than 7,000 wells in the area, it is no wonder serious questions are being raised about the health and safety risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. 

Hydraulic fracturing injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high pressures as far as 10,000 feet into the ground. This special sauce of chemicals, whose contents oil and gas companies refuse to disclose to the public, cause cracks in the rock layer allowing the natural gas from the shale to flow up to the surface. 

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While no one disputes oil and gas development play an important role in our nation’s current energy economy, most of the economic gains are short term, and go primarily to leaseholders, shareholders, and equipment and chemical suppliers. Meanwhile, communities where fracking takes place risk spills, derailments, or even earthquakes, any of which can be disastrous for the local economy. 

Right now, oil and gas companies can utilize hydraulic fracturing in our national parks, forests and wilderness areas – threatening hundreds of millions of acres we all collectively share, and a great many businesses rely on. The only way to prevent the detrimental environmental impact of fracking and avoid the health and safety concerns is to halt fracking entirely on our public lands.  

The Protect Our Public Lands Act, currently being considered in Congress, would do just that, by prohibiting fracking all public lands. America’s natural treasures must be protected from further exploitation by the gas and oil industry – there’s too much at risk environmentally and economically if we don’t. 

We know from hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that shale development, including fracking and other well stimulation techniques, threatens our air, water, and public health. At the same time, the carbon content of the fuels, and any methane released during the process, contribute heavily to climate change. And climate change is already posing a number of risks to the business community, including supply chain disruptions, damaged infrastructure, crop losses, increased insurance and health care costs – the list goes on and on. 

And as with any finite extracted resource throughout history – oil, coal, even gold – once it’s gone, the communities that relied on it suffer immensely. In the meantime, the costs associated with fracking – expanded public and emergency services, infrastructure maintenance, and environmental clean-ups – are paid for with tax dollars from consumers and businesses. 

Fracking and related forms of oil and gas development pose a real threat to businesses across the country, impacting local and regional economies. In addition to its relationship to climate change, fracking directly threatens businesses not compatible with industrialized landscapes, such as farming, tourism, and outdoor recreation. Would you want to buy food from a farm that’s potentially been exposed to chemical-laden wastewater? 

Businesses want sustainable solutions to our climate and energy challenges, without sacrificing our public lands. Those lands contribute to overall quality of life throughout the U.S., to say nothing of the multi-billion dollar industries of outdoor recreation and tourism. Those lands are essential to attracting other businesses and retirees to locate nearby. 

This economic engine, and the hundreds of thousands of businesses it benefits, depends on beautiful, uncontaminated public lands, which are vital to the American economy. Fracking is simply incompatible with that. 

The fact is that fracking poses major long-term economic risks. It furthers our dependence on fossil fuels at the expense of clean energy sources, hampering our ability to address climate change, and putting local communities and businesses at risk. Fracking is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic one, and it’s hitting far too close to home.

Pocan has represented Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Budget and the Education and the Workforce committees. He is a member of the Safe Climate Caucus and also a small business owner.  Baum directs the Rethinking Fracking campaign for the American Sustainable Business Council, which has member organizations that span 200,000 businesses across the country.