“60 Minutes” Examines Natural Gas Drilling, New Crop of Rich Farmers

A controversial gas extraction technique that has galvanized protest by environmental and community groups has also created a happy band of supporters: farmers who’ve become rich by leasing their land.

The investigative news magazine “60 Minutes” examined the way hydraulic fracturing, which involves breaking up shale to free natural gas, has turned farmers into instant millionaires — or as they refer to themselves, “shaleionaires”. Farmers typically receive large lease payments in addition to a cut of gas sales for years to come.

While some hail hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and dirty coal, opponents fear that chemicals used to break up rock could poison subsurface drinking water supplies.

Last year in Louisiana, 17 cows grazing near a drilling site died after drinking fracking fluids that ran into their pasture.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently asked nine companies to disclose what chemicals they are using in fracking. All agreed to comply except Halliburton, forcing the EPA to subpoena the information.

As the cement contractor for the doomed BP oil well, Halliburton also has been implicated in the April explosion that killed 11 workers and spilled an estimated 200 million gallons of oil.

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Lilly Fowler

About the author

Lilly Fowler is assistant editor at FairWarning.

5 comments to ““60 Minutes” Examines Natural Gas Drilling, New Crop of Rich Farmers”

  1. Mike Johnston

    The film “Haynesville” is going to be playing on CNBC Nov 23 and 28 at various times. It’s a documentary abot how the natural gas boom in Louisiana affected the lives of the people in the area and about the role natural gas can play in our energy future.

    Link: http://www.theindechannel.com/movies/indie-film-haynesville-will-premiere-november-23rd-on-cnbc/

  2. Claudia

    These Fracking Companies need to be regulated. The water supply will be destroyed if they keep drilling for Natural Gas with these TOXIC CHEMICALS. Not to mention the Toxic Plumes we are breathing. They are paying these poor farmers and land owners to use their land to make profits at any cost. How do we let them drill for oil in our oceans and have the accidents like in the Gulf. They will run wild if let be. Profits is what matters to these Companies. Lets force them to be responsible and not use these Toxic Chemicals. As far as I know, only water and sand was used in the old days. I’d like to know if these chemicals are also being used in our oceans. We the People Need to Stand Up!!!!!!!

  3. P. Wilson

    CBS calls hydraulic fracturing a “new process”. And I suppose in geologic terms, it is. The first fracs were performed in 1903. That is new, I suppose, when compared to CBS’ mindset.

  4. P. Wilson

    What a cold, concise, unemotional analysis of the process. You must be a petroleum geologist. Or possibly a petroleum engineer. What was your major field of study? I’m betting Bird calls.

  5. Ann Finneran

    It’s NOT “tens of thousands” of gallons of water – it’s MILLIONS of gallons of water for EVERY fracking process, water which has been toxified ALREADY – again, let’s repeat – MILLIONS of gallons of GOOD water DESTROYED for EVERY FRACKING!!! That toxic water – toxified with thousands of pounds of chemicals, is then driven into the shale to release the gas. Then the waste fracking fluid is put into ponds to evaporate the toxins into the air…

    We are killing ourselves to stay within our comfort zone of a materialistic lifestyle…

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