Fracking fallacies are being shot down

Opponents of oil and gas drilling continue to push the notion that hydraulic fracturing associated with drilling is polluting drinking water and posing other health threats, as participants at an anti-fracking rally in Washington, D.C. did last weekend. But the scientific evidence to support those claims is becoming ever thinner.

We doubt the attacks will halt because of that, but we hope most people will realize that, when properly conducted, fracking does not pose a significant risk to health.

The latest setback for the anti-fracking crowd came last week regarding a small Pennsylvania town that had been one of the iconic locations for those opposed to fracking.

Dimock, Pa., was featured in the anti-fracking film, “Gasland.” A number of residents of the community claimed their water wells had been contaminated by fracking in the nearby Marcellus shale formation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating late last year and conducted extensive samples of water wells this year.

Last week, the agency released a report saying all of the hazardous materials found in the well water were “naturally occurring substances.” The EPA has no plans to conduct further tests, it said.

So the claims made about fracking damage to Dimock’s water in “Gasland” proved to be false. They aren’t the only fracking-related health scares to be debunked recently.

According to the Associated Press, claims that incidents of breast cancer spiked near the Barret shale formation in Texas after gas drilling and fracking began there about a decade ago aren’t true. State health officials and researchers with the University of Texas found no increase in breast cancer rates in the affected counties.

Also, the EPA dropped a lawsuit earlier this year against an energy company accused of contaminating water in one rural Texas community through hydraulic fracturing.

Additionally, the EPA has famously backed away from claims of water contamination from fracking in Wyoming’s Pavillion Basin and is now resampling water wells there in cooperation with state officials, Indian tribes and energy companies.

All this is not to say drilling and fracking are completely benign. Problems can occur from truck spills or improperly constructed holding ponds. And poorly sealed well tops are potential sources of water contamination. Additionally, a new federal report suggests a potential health threat to well workers who aren’t adequately protected from airborne particles of the sand used in fracking.

But all those are technique issues. They aren’t indictments of the process of fracking itself. Despite the attacks of drilling opponents, more and more evidence supports the statements of people like Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper that properly conducted fracking is safe.


COMMENTS

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Didn’t I read that the University of Texas study was being questioned because it was written by a professor with economic ties to the fracking industry? Were the results motivated by the paycheck?

In the week of July 27th, EPA released the final round of results from its tests of drinking water wells in Dimock, PA - where state regulators have concluded that water supplies were contaminated with explosive levels of methane by the drilling activities of Cabot Oil and Gas. In releasing those results, EPA stated that the drinking water supplies of 61 families are safe to drink, if precautions are taken to deal with methane and basing that determination on the absence of SIGNIFICANTLY elevated levels of various pollutants, excluding the methane. This, of course, does NOT mean that the pollutants, per se, were there before, but rather, they are not at individual levels considered harmful as individual pollutants.
It is critical to note that EPA was not focused on - and did not make any conclusions with respect to - whether Cabot’s practices in fact contaminated the aquifer that supplies these families’ wells with dangerous levels of methane. As such, the EPA findings do not exonerate Cabot, or gas drilling and fracking more broadly, of contaminating drinking water in the Dimock case or any other case. It does not lead to the broad brush dismissal painted by a less than a clear thinker of the editorial staff.
The EPA results do nothing to refute the fact that shoddy drilling practices of Cabot Oil & Gas contaminated these families’ drinking water with dangerous levels of explosive methane, as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded earlier. This alone presents a risk to Dimock residents’ well-being, has had a critical impact on their property values, and is enough to make many people stop drinking from their taps. It did NOT discredit the Josh Fox film findings in the least
In other words, the light buoyant gas can get there the fastest, the other gunk like heavy brine will take longer to get there. The fact that is ignored, is, the gas wasn’t there before and it is NOW. Proper conducting of fracking was NOT conducted, and therein is the damage and the rub - when corners are cut ANYTHING can go wrong AND HAS.

Not knowing who wrote this “editorial” makes me wonder if the “editorialist” read the studies personally or relied on the Cliff notes summarizing the results. One needs some scientific background to ferret out the convoluted truths.  One truth is there has never been any long term studies at any drill site using horizontal hydraulic fracturing techniques.
The truth is this: If all companies had been required to do pre-drill, intra-drill and post-drill testing and 10 years after capping, we would flush with real data. Despite years of communities crying out for the testing, not one state has found it necessary to bend to the wishes of THE PEOPLE.  Private property rights, whether surface only or surface and mineral…be damned.  Now there is no trust on either side of the drill bit.
I would think that ANY fair minded scientist and/or legal counselor would understand that facts and data and careful analysis would prevent frivolous lawsuits, misunderstandings and out-right hate of fracking, that may, if done with the health and safety of the workers and communities as the priority, be the energy source of our future.
One last thing….many leases were directed at gas and when oil was found the gas is now being flared.  We know the long term effects on health with flaring. Mr. Editorial, did you look into why the corporations would flare?  These are THE PEOPLE’S resources. Flaring is a waste.  I would love to do an editorial to discuss what you ignored….the economic incentive to waste resources.

Flaring is a safety practice as well as an operational one. Since natural gas is invisible and explosive, it is safer to burn it off and get rid of it, rather than run the risk of having undetected vapors collecting on a wellpad which can cause an explosion that kills somebody.

The EPA, (employment prevention agency as I prefer to call it) may have many intellectual booksmart engineers developing their war tactics against the energy industry, but they seem to have absolutely NO common sense in their thinking and practical applications. They never really consider the law of “unintended consequences”.

If the EPA is allowed to continue on it’s present course, we will all end up paying $10 a gallon for gas and a small utility bill will be over $1000. a month per household. This may not be a big deal to the dangerously rich liberals who think more of mountain biking than people, but it would put my family homeless and on the street.

I really have “Hope” for a “Change” in November.

Yes Todd, Flaring has been used as that excuse.  We have other technologies that capture the gas for recovery and use later. I have worked around oil and gas for many years and watched that huge technological jump happen in Saudi Arabia.  Saudi can do it so can America. 
Gas should be higher.  Did you know that all surgical and all hospital and client one-use products have oil in them or were produced from or with carbon based products?  About 95% of all our Pharmaceuticals are oil based. Our fertilizers for our food are produced from oil as is the diesal for harvest.  We have other means developing for transportation. 
You maybe paying $1000/month for your utilities, but I and many of my friends have taken advantage of the solar lease programs being offered.  Have you not seen all the solar panels going up all over?  If you are so sure about your figures then take control and take some preventive measures to mitigate future utility increases.

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