Email letters, July 22, 2013

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With Norway-based FRAM Exploration reportedly poised to drill hundreds of natural gas wells near Whitewater and the source of Grand Junction’s water supply, the Sentinel has been responsibly chronicling the potential “Health and Welfare” risks to local water- and air-sheds associated with drilling operations (“Fracking boom causes concerns; Grand Junction doctor worries about exposure to chemicals in water”, July 23).

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the familiar “propaganda war” over oil and gas regulations – which previously peaked when the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was revising its rules – is now resuming with peculiar local intensity.  Thus,  curiously, my cautionary letter – “Boosters of exporting liquified natural gas should consider environmental costs” (published only on-line) – drew “rapid responses” from an industry apologist in Nacogdoches, Texas, and now from Mountain States Energy’s chief lobbyist in Denver!

However, Courtney Loper’s response—“Hydraulic fracking can indeed be conducted in a safe manner” (July 23) – both disingenuously distorted my letter and amply conceded – by failing to address—my fundamental points. 

Thus, again, if hydraulic fracturing is so “safe”, why is it exempt from the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts?  If non-toxic fracking fluids are available, why do we still allow toxic fluids (see “Toxic chemicals in fracking fluids”, Sentinel, July 23).  The answer:  money.

The industry seeks to maximize short-term profits by exploiting a window of opportunity to sell cheap natural gas (now $3.68 per ccm) for $14.00+ by liquefying it and shipping it to Japan, while minimizing its own “costs of compliance” with responsible regulations by shifting those costs onto Mesa County taxpayers.  Thus, the question remains whether our current regulatory regime can adequately cope with the aftermaths of another temporary “boom” in drilling in general—and “fracking” in particular.

Therefore, local elected officials should heed Dr. Pramenko’s warnings.

Loper seems pretty versed in Orwell’s doublespeak. “...fracturing is fundamentally safe” does not mean it is safe in all cases. According to Dr. Ingraffea, the industry’s own number put the failure rate of wells at 6.2% and 60% in 28 years. Failure is primarily coming from cement work. That failure rate of 6.2%, for 514,637 producing gas wells in 2011, is 31,908 failures. So she can “crow” about Salazar saying “it has been done safely hundreds of thousand times.” In 28 years that number of failures will go to 308,782 failures on the 514,637 wells. Then, people will say, (not Salazar, as he won’t be around) “wells failed hundreds of thousands times!”  Then the “decades” statement does not apply because the techniques of today’s drilling are far different than even a decade ago. From one side of the mouth industry touts the “new” technology of directional, multiwall pads and fracking in stages and then implies this has been done for “decades’.  The horizontal stage fracking alone puts far more stress on any one bore structure than any done in a bore a decade ago.
She talks of the layers of regulation, but as we found in BP’s gulf disaster, the cozy relationships and self writing of rules makes enforcement virtually non-existent. Then cherry picking numbers, she states fugitive methane emissions down 20% since 1990. So if they lost 16% of production in 1990 from 100,000 wells and they lost 12.8% off of 514,637 wells in 2011, they reduced the % loss by 20% but, as you can see, by the 5 fold increased production there is no reduction and actually a gain in total methane released. And, as reminder methane is 25 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Net result: “The concentration of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere in 1998, expressed as a mole fraction, was 1745 nmol/mol (parts per billion, ppb). By 2008, however, global methane levels… had risen to 1800 nmol/mol.”
Then she comes with the old standard, “common household “chemical listing somewhat benign sounding “detergents and disinfectants” (complete with warning labels and what to do in emergency whatever) and leaving out the acids, carcinogens, hydrocarbons, which may only be 0.5% of the soup, but multiplied by the 4,000,000 gallons/charge of fluid is 20,000 gallons.
Same tired propaganda doublespeak and really didn’t stay on point to Hugenberg’s original comments.

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