Real-life challenges to the industry’s arguments that fracking is good business are increasingly apparent. Independent economic analyses show that the promise of local job creation has been greatly exaggerated, with many jobs going to out-of-area workers. Reports show that oil and gas jobs will increasingly be lost to automation. With the arrival of drilling and fracking operations, communities have experienced steep increases in rates of crime, including sex trafficking, rape, assault, drunk driving, drug abuse, and violent victimization—all of which carry public health consequences, especially for women. Social costs include road damage, failed local businesses, and strains on law enforcement and municipal services. School districts report increased stress. Economic analyses have found that drilling and fracking threaten property values and can diminish tax revenues for local governments. Additionally, drilling and fracking pose an inherent conflict with mortgages and property insurance due to the hazardous materials used and the associated risks.
Throughout its history, the tempo of drilling and fracking operations in the United States has fluctuated markedly. Since 2014, when oil prices dropped precipitously, oil and gas operations have struggled to make a profit. In March 2016, the number of working gas rigs fell to its lowest level since record-keeping began in 1987. Downturns, however, do not necessarily translate into less risk and exposure to harm for those living in frontline communities. In spite of fewer drill rigs, injections of fracking wastewater increased in Ohio by 15 percent in 2015, likely because operators began drilling wells with longer lateral pipelines to access more gas or oil per well, generating more waste even as the pace of drilling slowed. Indeed, according to data provided to investors, the average amount of water used to frack a single well has more than doubled between 2013 and 2016 due to longer laterals and more intensive fracking.