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If Mitt Romney is elected president, expect drilling for fossil fuels to explode. The Republican challenger has promised to double the number of drilling permits issued for federal lands. And that boom would go unregulated: Romney has blasted the current administration's "effort to crimp natural gas by federal regulation of the very technology that produces it."
The technology in question is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Recovering oil and gas through fracking requires drillers to inject huge volumes of water and noxious chemicals under high pressure into shale formations far below the earth. The polluted water, now laced with heavy metals and often radioactive materials, is then returned to the surface and then stored in open pools before being trucked off to treatment plants ill-equipped to handle the brew – which is so toxic that it can wipe out forests.
Acting on behalf of Dick Cheney's former drilling firm Halliburton in 2005, the Bush administration exempted fracking from compliance with the Clean Drinking Water Act. So it's no surprise that fracking has repeatedly been linked to contaminated groundwater, both from toxic runoff and even from the gas itself. (You may have seen video of families near fracking operations who can light their tap water on fire.) Fracking could also be devastating to our climate: While the natural gas burns much cleaner than other fossil fuels, methane is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. And a 2011 Cornell study concluded that gas leaks associated with fracking make the practice "worse than coal and worse than oil."
Read on for the top 10 targets on Mitt Romney's fracking hit list.
By Tim Dickinson