A day after the EPA told residents of Pavillion, Wyoming that they shouldn't drink their water due to chemical contamination, likely from fracking, the Federal report on shale gas production paints a grim picture — at least without some serious change in the way hydraulic fracturing is done.
I'll just quote from Energy.gov's statement on it:
It is the Subcommittee’s judgment that if action is not taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the very considerable expansion of shale gas production expected across the country – perhaps as many as 100,000 wells over the next several decades – there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences and a loss of public confidence that could delay or stop this activity. Thus, the Subcommittee’s interest in assessing and reporting on the progress that is being made on implementing its recommendations, or some sensible variations of the recommendations.
And this comes from an advisory panel that, when it was set up, was heavily criticized from having too many participants with cozy fossil fuel industry ties.
The panel went on to say, though there's been progress made in reducing the environmental impact of fracking, "the progress made to date is less than the Subcommittee hoped."
Natural gas obtained by fracking now amounts to 30% of the US natural gas supply, a figure which, if the industry has its way, is only likely to increase in coming years.
Natural Gas Better Than Coal, But Fracking Closes The Gap
Regardless of source, recent reports have shown that while natural gas does result in lower carbon emissions than other fossil fuels, due to a variety of production and distribution factors, it is not as low as once was claimed—perhaps 47% of the emissions of coal, under the new analysis.
That said, where fracking is concerned, using current technology the emissions of fracked natural gas are higher still, with some estimates saying it results in double the emissions of coal, or even more.