Another study takes 
careless aim at fracking

A study conducted by the University of Missouri of a handful of drilling sites in Garfield County — reported in The Daily Sentinel on Thursday — is drawing understandable fire from the energy industry.

The study is one more in a list of projects investigating the practices of hydraulic fracturing in which the claims aren’t fully substantiated by the facts.

A press release for the study says that fracking “uses many chemicals that can disrupt the body’s hormones.” It adds, “with fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

However, the study, which took surface and groundwater samples near five sites in Garfield County where drilling-related spills had occurred sometime in the past few years, doesn’t demonstrate conclusively that fracking caused the chemical problems it claims to have found.

The press release said there were moderate to high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in water from the sites tested, and moderate levels in the Colorado River in that part of Garfield County. There was less such activity at sites not near drilling activity, it said.

One problem is, the study didn’t identify where the chemicals came from. And since these sorts of chemicals are present in nature and in many man-made materials — including pesticides, herbicides, detergents, cosmetics and more — the study doesn’t prove the chemical activity is a result of fracking.

In fact, the authors of the study acknowledge as much, saying, “Both naturally occurring chemicals and synthetic chemicals from other sources could contribute to the activity observed in water samples collected in this study,” according to the pro-industry organization, Energy In Depth.

Also, there are questions about whether any chemicals used in fracking were identified in the water samples tested.

Those issues, and the small number of samples taken, raise significant red flags about statements that fracking may be disrupting human hormones and creating additional health risks.

We have argued that sound scientific examination of fracking is necessary to assess its effects on water, air and soils.

Fortunately, a broad study of those impacts is being conducted by a variety of institutions, led by the University of Colorado at Boulder. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, it includes partners such as the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Michigan. Additionally, CSU has been conducting an ongoing study of air quality related to drilling activity in Garfield County.

These independent but thorough studies will provide a more detailed picture of facking and its impacts than studies that are much more limited in scope, and don’t account for other sources of potential contaminants.

COMMENTS

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Typical tree-hugger agenda…twist and warp the facts or take something out-of-context and engineer it to tug at emotions to promote their agenda,rather than sticking with hard unaltered scientific facts.

The Sentinel’s editorial – “Another study takes careless aim at fracking”—in response to Thursday’s AP story—“Study links fracking fluid, health problems” – lends credence to local politicos (acting as shills for the oil & gas industry) who carelessly repeat the oft-debunked mantra that “there’s no proof that fracking can cause health problems”.

While the AP story was even more alarmingly captioned by other media outlets, the title of the University of Missouri’s study – a peer-reviewed article pre-released by the journal Endocrine – is more esoteric:  “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region”.

The report focuses on “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals” (“EDF”s)—which Paonia’s Theo Colborn has warned about for years—that can cause hormonal imbalances and even birth defects, and found increased levels of EDF’s, both near reported fluid spill sites and in the Colorado River itself.

As the report aptly noted, “hundreds of products containing more than 750 chemicals and components are potentially used throughout the [oil & gas] extraction process, including over one hundred known or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals”.

However, because of the “Halliburton Exceptions” that Dick Cheney inserted into the Energy Policy Act of 2005, both the investigative and regulatory authority of the EPA are constrained by the fact that “fracking” remains exempted from federal environmental laws—including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act – albeit “completely safe” (?!?).  Why? 

Consequently, while industry advocates (and the Sentinel) can still plausibly insist that there is as yet no “scientific certainty” (just as do “climate change deniers”), that remaining “uncertainty” is largely due to those same statutory exemptions – which subordinate public health to the industry’s exaggerated “cost-of-compliance” misrepresentations.

Thus, it’s time for the Sentinel to editorialize for repeal of those exemptions.

How does merely repealing exemptions PROVE anything about fracking or climate change?

The only effect I see from repealing exemptions is creating more financial cost thru more regulations & oversight, more loss of time and productivity which further increases costs and we all will ultimately pay for it at the pump and thru our utility bills.

Energy companies will not eat the additional costs. they will be passed on to the consumer.

Wasn’t the study conducted by UofM and the US Geological Survey and published for peer-review in a scintific journal?  Isn’t that relevant?  There have been a number of other studies that have also been limited in scope—that the industry and Sentinel prised, including the test that injected tracers in a very limited number of wells, and methane leakage studies that neglected to include the so-called (and knownn to exist) ‘super-emitters.’  It seems that the Sentinel Ed Board got most of their info from the EID (Energy-In-Depth, industry lobby group) news release on the study, a source that seems even more suspect than a university researcher and the USGS.

It is interesting that the response from industry came not from scientists but from the PR shop.  Here is what the scientist leading the study said: “If you count up all the types of activity, our sites had on average double the activity relative to our control sites,” Nagel said.








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