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April 19, 2011

What the Frack?

Gas land

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is well on its way to becoming a household term, but most people still don't know what it is. (There's now even a new term for fracking activists -- fractivists!)

A Halliburton-developed method for extracting natural gas from deep within the earth, fracking, short for "hydraulic fracturing," has unlocked what some have called "a Saudi Arabia of natural gas" below our feet, in Pennsylvania, in Colorado, in Louisiana, in large areas across the country.

Gas companies first offer to lease landowners' property, then drill a well about a mile and a half into the ground, and pump in millions of gallons of water and thousands of pounds of chemicals, among them known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. They use enough pressure to fracture the surrounding bedrock, releasing the natural gas. The energy companies claim it's completely safe.

But when the fracking fluid is pumped deep underground, chemicals can leach out into the water table, polluting drinking water. Residents of a Pennsylvania town near a fracking site report that they can light their drinking water on fire. That doesn't sound safe, does it? And fracking can pollute the air we breathe -- communities near drilling sites in rural Wyoming near sometimes have worse air-quality days than smoggy Los Angeles.

So, what to do? When filmmaker Josh Fox was asked to lease his Pennsylvania land for natural gas drilling, he embarked on a "cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination." The result was Gasland, a film documenting the astonishing realities of the fracking industry, and its effects on our health. This March, Gasland was nominated for an Academy Award.

And now, the Sierra Club is sponsoring house parties to show Gasland across the country. That's where you come in. Shocked that this dangerous practice is allowed to continue? Don't want drilling to come to your backyard? Sign up to host a Gasland screening, and the Club will send you a free copy of the DVD, plus a handy screening guide. Invite your friends and spread the word about the dangers of fracking. Want to attend a party, but can't host? Search for a party to attend in your town.

Plus take action right away by sending a message to your members of Congress and joining the Hydrofracking Team on the Activist Network.

-- Sophie Matson

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