New data aids industry in latest fracking fight

The head of Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is under attack for some unfortunate comments he made about anti-fracking activists.

A House committee in Congress is disputing the methods used by the EPA in a study about the environmental impacts of fracking, even though no conclusions have been reached yet by the study, which is due to be completed next year.

Another study in a natural gas field in Pennsylvania has shown that, over more than a year, there was no evidence that chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, moved from deep gas wells to contaminate water wells in the area.

But that study is also ongoing. And, while some officials with the US. Department of Energy touted its results, others cautioned that it is too early “to make any firm claims.”

Welcome to the nation’s fracking fight where — depending on one’s point of view — hydraulic fracturing is either the greatest boon to developing our energy resources since crude oil gushers erupted in Texas more than a century ago, or it is the biggest health and environmental risk since DDT.

There’s little question that fracking — the process of injecting sand, water and a cocktail of chemicals into gas and oil wells to fracture deep rock formations — is unlocking more oil and gas than ever before.

A few years ago, experts talked of our national dependence on foreign oil lasting indefinitely, but federal agencies now see the possibility of this country becoming energy independent by the end of the decade, thanks in part to fracked oil and gas.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, some neighbors of drilling rigs and a few medical professionals have expressed concerns that fracking may pose both immediate and long-term health and environmental hazards. Industry officials and their supporters, as well as many state regulators, contend that fracking is safe as long as appropriate protections are in place.

To date, no scientific study has clearly linked the fracking process to the contamination of water wells. Any groundwater contamination that has occurred has come from surface spills or inadequately sealed wellheads. One study that seemed to initially connect fracking and water contamination, conducted by the EPA in Wyoming, was later rejected and is being redone.

That’s why the latest study by the DOE in Pennsylvania is so important. An unnamed drilling company allowed the DOE to inject tracer chemicals into a number of its wells over more than a year. Evidence of those chemicals was found deep in the rock formations where drilling was taking place, but none appeared in the water wells much closer to the surface.

Like Gov. John Hickenlooper and Gas Commission Director Matt Lepore, we believe all the evidence to date shows fracking is safe when properly conducted. But both industry officials and regulators need to work harder to reduce the number of spills and to alleviate surface contamination. And Lepore should retain his state postion. He’s doing a good job.

COMMENTS

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The authors of the report itself noted that it is preliminary and that no final conclusions can be reached.  The authors of the study themselves noted this, not just ‘others.’  The scientists that wrote the study.  Meanwhile the LA Times has a story out today how the PA staff at EPA were over-ridden by their bosses in DC.  http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-epa-dimock-20130728,0,4847442.story

From the report summary: “While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims…”

There are always going to be conspiracy theorists in almost every venue. Someone will always use fear to create a market of some sort to make money. As P.T. Barnum said: ” There’s a sucker born every minute ! “

Remember all those books and rating boosting documentaries that raised doubts that we ever landed on the moon? Sorry folks, we did land on the moon. The Russians and Chinese had the technology at that time to call B.S. on us if we hadn’t.

There’s a myriad of lawyers, researchers and lobbyists that are making lots of money off of the fracking controversy. Let’s pray that clear thinking based on scientific fact decides the fracking debate, not emotional fear based knee-jerk reactions.

There are also people that don’t believe in evolution or climate change, but I am not sure how that is at all relevant here. The point is in this study, while finding ‘nothing of concern thus far’ are far too preliminary to make ANY firm claims.  The science—the scientists authoring this particular study note—is not yet determinative.

My point is that fracking has been around for 50-60 years, but the major panic over it has only happened in the last 10 years.

Special interest groups have embellished the panic with things like the “faucet on fire” in “Gasland”(which has been debunked as naturally occurring shallow gas unrelated to any fracking) and a fear-based “herd” mentality has ensued, similar to what happens in other conspiracy theories.

Its the new deployment of technology that has changed the game, with multi-stage horizontal fracking being a fairly new development, about 15 years, using far larger quantities of materials at higher pressure.  Its not accurate to suggest that this technology has been used this way for decades.

I am curious as to what your agenda is? Are you anti energy independence for our nation?  Are you pro - complicating / price increasing carbon fuel energy as to promote a “green” only agenda?

Green power alone will never fulfill all of our energy demands in this country. All we have seen with bio-fuels so far is crop price increases which leads to higher food prices at the grocery store. Solar panels are still not cost efficient in watt per dollar returns. Wind turbines have not yet been completely exonerated from possibly altering weather patterns and they do kill birds through bird strikes.

Carbon fuel prices are already high enough. We do not need fodder for the big corporations to pass along more price increases to the consumer, which is what much of the unnecessary fear over the fracking debate is doing. More regulation = more cost. More cost= more price increases.

We need to settle this issue with scientific fact once and for all and get over it.

Believe it or not I don’t think I fall into your caricatures.  Let me ask you—which ‘science’ do you think is more settled? That climate change is real and human activity is driving a lot of it, or that fracking is safe and can never contaminate ground water?

Kudo’s to the Daily Sentinel for objectively editorializing on the potential public health and environmental risks posed by expanding oil and gas development – and by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in particular (“New data aids industry in latest fracking fight”).

The industry long-insisted that “fracking is safe” . . .  period.  It now contends merely that “fracking is safe as long as appropriate protections are in place”. 

Skeptics logically ask:  “What are ‘appropriate protections’?” and “Why – then – is fracking exempt from ‘appropriate protections’ codified in the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts”?

While Governor Hickenlooper (and others) have “demonstrated” the purported safety of all fracking fluids by drinking gulps of benign non-toxic (“green”) formulas used only offshore, he didn’t swallow any toxic fracking fluids – much less the cocktail of toxins and diesel fuel—actually used in Colorado.  Therefore, environmentalists, “neighbors”, and medical professionals continue to justifiably doubt the credibility of such assertions.

Revealingly, one “unnamed drilling company” has now confirmed the feasibility of what environmentalists and water quality experts have suggested for years – adding tracer chemicals to fracking fluids to resolve doubts about the source of any contamination.

Even if groundwater contamination occurs less frequently than “alarmists” believe, and even if – statistically—“fracking is safe when properly conducted”, localized impacts of accidental contamination and/or improperly conducted “fracking” are no less devastating to those whose personal or public health and/or environment is/are affected.

Moreover, the association of deep injection wells with minor earthquakes increases the likelihood that toxic fracking fluids will eventually migrate upward into aquifers—which even miniscule amounts of “fracking” chemicals can permanently taint.

Finally, because drilling/fracking technologies make oil/natural gas deposits accessible even more remotely, there is less reason to deny wary communities the right to decide what tradeoffs between public/environmental health and profit are locally acceptable.











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