Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is being used across the United States to extract deeply-locked petrochemicals from the ground, over protests from citizens and environmental organizations concerned about the practice. Colorado's recent horrific floods provided a stark illustration of these concerns; an estimated 60,000 gallons of petrochemicals were released from flooded fracking wells and other oil and gas extraction sites, contaminating the water and potentially leading to environmental disaster.
Members of Congress are calling for a hearing into the matter, expressing concerns that natural disasters like this one can turn into public health ones when they involve contamination of the natural environment. Even as Denver construction contractors work to rebuild devastated properties, they're also contending with oil slicks, biological contaminants from raw sewage, and other public health problems that are going to result in a costly and time-consuming cleanup for the battered state.
The situation highlights the fact that many fracking wells are not equipped to cope with flooding and similar natural disasters, a growing concern in a world with a changing climate. Congress wants the oil and gas industry to prove fracking is safe, but will the industry step up to the plate?