What are Fracking and Split Estate?
Split Estate - The concept of Split Estate dates back to English law, which reserved the mineral rights of all land, public and private to the king. Over time, Split Estate has come to be defined as a situation in which a property owner is not the same party who owns the rights to extract minerals from underneath the property. In fact, especially in the Western states, surface owners rarely own their mineral rights, and the party who does own them is entitled to extract them, even if the surface owner doesn't want them to.
Fracking (see Hydraulic Fracturing)
Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking") - Hydraulic Fracturing is a process used in natural gas and oil extraction in which fluid (see Fracking Fluid) containing various proprietary ingredients is injected into rock formations causing them to fracture. This allows for the extraction of materials from a much larger area than would be possible otherwise. Although developed in the late 1940s by Halliburton, the technique proved too costly to be economically viable until rising gas prices in the 1990s made fracking a widespread practice in the industry. Fracking has come under scrutiny and criticism lately because of the potential for pollution of ground water, including the well water of homes near the drilling site, as well as potential pollution of streams and other habitats caused by unintended seeps.
Fracking Fluid - A mixture of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected into the ground during oil and gas drilling operations. The exact ingredients that are employed by companies involved have not been officially disclosed and due to exemptions enjoyed by drilling companies (e.g. the "Halliburton Loophole"), the ingredients remain proprietary and are not subject to regulation by agencies such as the EPA. Independent testing has been done on fracking fluids, however. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a non-profit organization headed by Dr. Theo Colborne, has identified 649 chemicals recovered from drilling operations, including Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Neurotoxicants, and other dangerous chemicals which are heavily regulated when used in most other capacities.
"Halliburton Loophole" - As part of the 2005 Energy Bill, companies involved in natural gas drilling are exempt from EPA regulation of portions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Among other things, this means that companies are free to inject toxic chemicals into the ground that would otherwise be illegal without any reporting or oversight.
FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act) - A bill introduced to both houses of the United States Congress on June 9, 2009, and aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would require the energy industry to disclose the chemicals it mixes with the water and sand it pumps underground in the hydraulic fracturing process (also known as fracking), information that has largely been protected as trade secrets. Controversy surrounds the practice of hydraulic fracturing as a threat to drinking water supplies. The gas industry opposes the legislation.
Note: would effectively close the Halliburton Loophole
Neurotoxicants - Substances that are toxic to the nervous system. Symptoms of exposure may include confusion, weakness, tingling sensations, loss of coordination, fatigue, irritability, behavioral changes, and the development of degenerative brain diseases. Several neurotoxicants have been identified in the fluids injected into the ground during hydraulic fracturing.
Produced Water - Water that comes out of a producing well. This includes both water native to the reservoir being drilled and the mixture of water and other fluids injected into the reservoir during drilling operations. Produced water often contains toxic chemicals and is considered an industrial waste material. It is generally placed in evaporation ponds, but this practice is growing increasingly controversial due to health and environmental concerns.
Evaporation pit - A large pit, generally lined with plastic or asphalt, designed to contain contaminated water from drilling operations and to dispose of them via evaporation.
Proppants - Small particles of varying types, often proprietary synthetic blends, injected into the ground along with franking fluid. Proppants are used to hold open the fissures created in rocks during hydraulic fracturing so that the mined material can escape.
Seep - When gas escapes from a well unintentionally, through the surrounding strata of rock, often endangering local water sources.
Sparging - A method that has been employed to remove toxic gases from polluted water sources. A sparging unit releases the gasses trapped in polluted water into the air.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) - VOCs are hydrocarbon compounds that are generally highly toxic, often carcinogenic, and easily absorbed into water (some examples are propane, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.) Since VOCs, both manmade and naturally-occurring are frequently used in drilling operations, there is a great deal of concern about the potential for ground and drinking water contamination resulting from their use.