Pennsylvania

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Fractivists Redefine Fracking

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

An anti-drilling lawn sign sits on a front yard in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Activists planning to demonstrate outside of the headquarters of Aqua America in Montgomery County on Wednesday say the company should hold off on the eviction of a trailer park community in order to build a frack water withdrawal site.

But tucked at the bottom of a press release issued by the Philadelphia based Protecting Our Waters, is an interesting new development in the fracking debate. POW, a vocal anti-fracking organization, has redefined the term “fracking,” to encompass the entire gas drilling process, soup to nuts.

“Fracking” refers to all phases of high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling on multi-well pads, a controversial technology new to Pennsylvania, from well pad construction to vertical drilling, fracking, chemical handling, waste handling, road and pipeline construction, gas processing, storage, and distribution.

The fracking debate has often been mired in confusion over the differences between fracking, or completion of a well, and the process that includes drilling, production and distribution. Traditionally fracking refers to the process after a well pad has been constructed, and the horizontal well drilled. The completion team uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short, to stimulate the well. Technically the term refers to high pressured water, sand and a mix of chemicals, which allows the oil or gas to start flowing at a highly productive rate. But many outside the industry, who are not familiar with the details of the gas drilling process, have started to use the term fracking for everything they don’t like about the drilling process, from drilling mud spills to truck traffic. Industry, however, has struggled to keep the term separate and distinctive. Now it looks like Merriam Webster may have to jump into the fracking debate.

 

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