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Arkansas and U.S. Fracking History a Cautionary Tale, U.N. Report Says

Pipes like this protrude from the ground where fracking occurs. (Mark Dixon/flickr)
Pipes like this protrude from the ground where fracking occurs. (Mark Dixon/flickr)
June 5, 2018

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Fracking already is making its mark on Arkansas, with the majority of drilling occurring in the Fayetteville area. There have been at least two incidences of toxic spills as a result, as well as numerous earthquakes, that further endanger drinking water and the health of residents.

That makes the state one cautionary tale other countries are considering before allowing the shale gas extraction on their land. The issue is detailed in a new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Mitch Jones, the senior policy advocate with Food and Water Watch says the new report adds to a growing body of research pointing to hazards associated with fracking.

"Fracking in the U.S. - whether it's in Pennsylvania or in Wyoming and North Dakota or Colorado - serves as a cautionary tale for other countries that are considering fracking for shale gas on their own," he says.

In its recent Commodities at a Glance report, the United Nations' trade division points to groundwater contamination, increased seismic activity and methane waste as fracking's biggest drawbacks. Analysts also say all countries should move as quickly as possible to stop burning fossil fuels, including shale gas.

The Trump administration has called for expanded fossil-fuel production in an effort to achieve energy dominance.

The international agency also warns that investments in shale gas should not come at the expense of renewable energy and efficiency strategies, both considered critical to limit the impacts of climate change. Developers in Arkansas have made at least three attempts to build wind farms in recent years but failed.

Jones points to a recent Rocky Mountain Institute study warning that nearly a trillion dollars in natural-gas infrastructure could end up as stranded assets in investment portfolios.

"Instead, what we really need to do if we want to be energy dominant is be renewable-energy dominant," he states. "We need to build the wind turbines in places like Wyoming and Texas and Colorado. We need to build the solar panels throughout the Southwest."

The report notes that natural gas still has a role to play in the transition from the current fossil-fuel economic model, as nations work to achieve goals set in Paris for a low-carbon economy with access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all by 2030.

Stephanie Carson/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - AR