Fracking: Upcoming Webinar Looks at Controversial Gas Extraction Process

May 16, 2011, 3:26 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

In a recent blog post for the Public Health Law Network, Kathleen Dachille, director of the Network’s Eastern Region, writes that on the television show Battlestar Galactica, “frak” is a dirty word.

Nowadays, for some in the U.S., “fracking”, a natural gas extraction process that relies on blasting chemically treated water to remove the gas from rock, has become an unpleasant term as well.

Critics say the chemically treated water used for fracking (also known as hydrofracturing) can contaminate both drinking water and the environment and may also increase seismic activity and tree clearing that exposes rock, harms rural roads and can create chemical run-off in drinking wells. Fracking's proponents, on the other hand, contend that natural gas is considered a cleaner-burning energy source than oil or coal and is safer than nuclear energy.

Fracking has received increased attention recently, including a series of articles in the New York Times, a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, and an essay in the Huffington Post by actor Mark Ruffalo. It's also the subject of a recent documentary called Gasland.

To help explore the issues surrounding fracking, including recent legislation, health hazards, policies to protect the public’s health from risks, and the reactions of the public health community, the Public Health Law Network is hosting a webinar called “Fracking – Is It Just a Dirty Word?: Environmental and Public Health Considerations of Hydrofracturing, on Thursday May 19th from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (ET). Webinar presenters include Josh Fox, Gasland filmmaker, and Conrad D. Volz, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., assistant professor of environmental & occupational health at the University of Pittsburgh.

The webinar is part of the free Public Health Law Webinar Series, sponsored by the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics; the Public Health Law Association; the Public Health Law Network; and the Public Health Law Research Program.

Register for the webinar by 2 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday May 17. Information will be sent to those registered prior to the webinar.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.