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One thing you learn traveling through the Upper Midwest is that the various components of the oil and gas industries — the pipelines, the storage wells — often have gorgeously evocative names: Mountain Valley, Falcon, Plains, Atlantic Sunrise. These names are a kind of beautification project, like trees planted to obscure a municipal dump. A plant in Pennsboro, W.Va., called Clearwater treats fracking wastewater, which can remain radioactive even after treatment.

Skyhawk is the soaring name given to a smoothed-over patch of gravel at 67657 Clark Road in St. Clairsville, Ohio. On an overcast day last spring, it was nothing but an empty enclosure surrounded by heavy plastic fencing the height of a two-story building. Soon, the emptiness would be filled by wells that shoot high-pressure water and chemicals into the ground, forcing up reservoirs of natural gas and other valuable compounds. Skyhawk is a fracking pad.

The effects of hydraulic fracturing — as fracking is formally known — on human health are not yet fully known, but what is known so far is not terribly encouraging. The process seems especially damaging to expectant mothers, as well as to young children, with a 2017 study linking pollution from fracking wells to poor brain development. Asthma is another possible problem. So is cancer. Read more

Read also: 2019 Anna Politkovskaya Award

One thing you learn traveling through the Upper Midwest is that the various components of the oil and gas industries — the pipelines, the storage wells — often have gorgeously evocative names: Mountain Valley, Falcon, Plains, Atlantic Sunrise. These names are a kind of beautification project, like trees planted to obscure a municipal dump. A plant in Pennsboro, W.Va., called Clearwater treats fracking wastewater, which can remain radioactive even after treatment.

One thing you learn traveling through the Upper Midwest is that the various components of the oil and gas industries — the pipelines, the storage wells — often have gorgeously evocative names: Mountain Valley, Falcon, Plains, Atlantic Sunrise. These names are a kind of beautification project, like trees planted to obscure a municipal dump. A plant in Pennsboro, W.Va., called Clearwater treats fracking wastewater, which can remain radioactive even after treatment.