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    Texas Fracking Crucifixion: Can The EPA Fairly Regulate The Shale Gas Revolution?
    By Jon Entine | April 30th 2012 05:26 PM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Al Armendariz, the top Environmental Protection Agency official in the oil-rich Southwest region, resigned from his post, effective today. It's the latest twist in the never-ending and increasingly ugly fracking fracas. A two-year old video had surfaced last week (and since pulled) featuring Armendariz comparing his “philosophy of enforcement” to Roman conquerors, who would find “the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

    Certainly, it’s incumbent upon regulators to apply the best standards of science in unmasking wrongdoers. But crucify? Especially on an issue in which politics play such a large role? Unfairly or not, these comments raise troubling questions about the degree to which the EPA is committed to independent scientifically grounded oversight, or whether personal or political agendas will drive policy.

    Facts v hysteria

    What’s really going on here from a science and political perspective? The unfolding fiasco has hardened the ideological battle lines over shale gas development, which has emerged as a politically charged litmus test issue. Hydraulic fracking, the central technique commonly used with almost no controversy for decades to extract deep reserves of oil and gas, is now a line in the sand, dividing stalwarts from both parties.

    Until ten years ago, when fracking and horizontal drilling opened the way to exploit deep reserves, Texas was not even on the shale gas map. Then the Barnett shale was found buried deep in a 5,000 square mile area centered in North Texas, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth urban sprawl. Parker County, west of Forth-Worth, is now a major flash point.

    Citing pictures of flaming tap water, hard-edged Democrats claim fracking is at best a dangerous unknown with limited economic benefits and at worst an environmental and health disaster in the making perpetrated by energy plutocrats. In contrast, Republicans portray shale gas, in Texas and elsewhere, as a growth engine, which it’s proving to be, and a way to lower energy costs, which it’s doing. But they also contend that the environmental consequences are minimal, which is still an unanswered question. Republicans are out to savage the President and demonize his energy policies at all cost. So it wasn’t surprising that they leveraged Armendariz’s video slip, portraying it as a window into the Administration “true” anti-energy views. Oklahoma State Republican Senator James Inhofe announced to great applause on the right that he was going to investigate whether Obama’s EPA is trying to block hydraulic fracturing. In response, blue shade politicos and bloggers are accusing the GOP and industry of being on a “witch hunt.”

    As is President Obama’s style, the White House played both ends against the middle. He often voices vague support for the industry but it’s almost always accompanied by equally vague environmental saber rattling. Last January, during his State of the Union address, the president unveiled his "all of the above" approach to domestic energy development, which includes shale gas, but he offered no specifics. In this case, the Administration at first gingerly backed away from the EPA administrator’s comments. A spokesman trotted out an apology from Armendariz and said his characterization of the agency’s enforcement strategy was “entirely inaccurate.” On Sunday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson accepted his resignation.

    Is this an isolated case? Political appointees run the EPA. In three high profile instances, including the latest Texas Fracking Crucifixion, Obama’s EPA has exhibited a disturbing pattern of flipping and flopping between anti-industry and pro-environmental policies. The net effect appears to be the subjugation of the EPA’s scientific mission to crude political calculation.

    Pavillion, Wyoming

    Last December, the EPA stirred an international anti-fracking storm when it announced it had found a direct link between fracking and ground­wa­ter contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, at the center of the Green River shale formation. Responding to demands by local anti-drilling activists, the EPA made what it now acknowledges was a cursory review of the local drinking water wells and concluded post haste that fracking had “likely” caused the pollution.

    Oops. Further review revealed that the agency had used questionable evaluation technologies. Its test wells were drilled deeper than area drinking water and were not properly flushed to avoid contamination by the drilling chemicals used by the EPA. Its own data—including details not revealed in the draft report—indicated the agency’s conclusions relied in part on improperly analyzed water samples from private wells. Acknowledging its sloppiness and haste, the EPA backtracked. Just last month it suspended its peer review process of its original findings and said it would test Pavillion again using more scientifically grounded procedures.

    Dimock, Pennsylvania

    A similar saga played out in Dimock, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Marcellus shale region. Residents were convinced that drilling by Cabot&Gas Oil had polluted their home water. In 2008, lawyers representing activists alleged that fracking had caused widespread contamination. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) tested the water and found that it met federal safety standards. In response to the brouhaha, the EPA evaluated the drinking water and last November reaffirmed that it was safe. Then, three months later, the agency reversed course, saying it would take “immediate action,” that a clean up was needed and industry was likely at fault.

    Why the sudden reversal? Despite no new data, the EPA appeared to have caved to political pressure from advocacy groups, which had viciously attacked its prior finding. The EPA suddenly demanded new testing of wells at 60 homes. Oops. Not surprisingly, with no new science in play, in March, the EPA again confirmed that the drinking water is safe.

    Parker County, Texas

    The dust up in Parker County is the coup de grace to EPA’s credibility on the shale gas front. That’s the region formerly under Armendariz’s purview. Range Resources, a Forth Worth based natural gas company, is developing that area. A local resident, Steve Lipsky, was featured in viral videos lighting his water on fire a la the misleading anti-fracking propaganda film “Gasland,” which featured a Colorado resident lighting his drinking; only later did the truth emerge that the film's director was well aware that the contamination was caused by naturally occurring methane.

    Because of the media blitz inflamed by that video and a full court press by national activists who were hopeful they finally had their anti-fracking smoking gun, the EPA launched an investigation in October 2010 and sampled Lipsky’s well. Two months later, in early December, Armendariz sent what appeared to be a gleeful and thoroughly partisan email to virulently anti-shale gas blogger Sharon Wilson (known as Texas Sharon), Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen and other activists.

    “We're about to make a lot of news," Armendariz boasted. Apparently, he had found the company he wanted to crucify, and that he tried to do a few days later. He issued an endangerment order based on his determination that Range Resources had caused or was contributing to the contamination of drinking water wells. The EPA ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners.

    “We are worried about the families’ safety,” he said. “It was incumbent for us to act quickly.” Armendariz also took a partisan shot at the state Railroad Commission and Texas politicos, mostly Republicans, damning them for not protecting local water supplies, adding that the EPA was "very concerned" that natural gas could migrate into the home through water lines, leading to a fire or explosion.”

    Oops. The EPA had stepped in it again. In March 2011, a review by state regulators and independent testimony from Mark McCaffrey, an MIT-educated petroleum geochemist with Weatherford Laboratories, provided geological evidence that the gas, couldn’t be from the Barnett Shale Formation, as Lipsky and activists, who had not done thorough testing, believed. As in Colorado (in the “Gasland” film) and in Pavillion, it was found that the water had been polluted by natural methane for decades. In Texas, a nearby public water system, Lake Country Acres, had signs on its water storage tanks that read, "No Open Flame," dating to around 1995. Both countries produced gas years before Range drilled its wells.

    Even EPA's own geochemist had warned that gas-bearing formations other than the Barnett Shale needed to be ruled out before the agency fingered Range. According to McCaffrey, gas seeping into Range's wells would "have to migrate through the cement and take a right-hand turn and create pressure in the Strawn that would somehow push back half a mile to get into the Lipsky’s' water well." The Commission noted that the EPA had ignored many of its own standard investigatory procedures in what they concluded was a rush to judgement that circumvented standard investigatory processes. It called the EPA’s order against Range “unprecedented,” finding that the company was “not responsible for methane contamination of wells,” and voted unanimously to clear Range of water contamination. The EPA went silent.

    One year later, the EPA  dropped its 15-month old emergency order. As for Armendariz, the regulator may have fantastic credentials, care deeply about the public’s trust and the environment, yadda, yadda, yadda, but he is a partisan. He serves no one well, even his own cause. Fairly or not, his quote will be used by hard-edged Republicans throughout the political season to demagogue and bludgeon environmentalists.

    As an isolated incident, the Armendariz fiasco would be easy to dismiss. But it’s now one of three disturbing cases. It’s fair to wonder whether his comments are the proverbial tip of the iceberg—that he is one of many dedicated anti-shale gas activist administrators at the agency who put partisan zeal ahead of science. For a government that needs to strike a balance between innovation and environmental protection, that may be the most troubling news of all.

    Originally appeared in Forbes on April 30, 2012

    Jon Entine is senior fellow at the Center for Health&Risk Management and STATS at George Mason University.

    Comments

    Well written, Jon. Since this issue is so incendiary (pun intended), you’re likely to be much disliked by most of the activists by this time tomorrow.

    Any chance you could get this on the evening news at NBC?

    JonEntine
    I used to be Tom Brokaw's producer, years ago and do get asked on TV every now and then, but alas, as I'm living in Cincinnati, don't expect to see me on the news anytime soon!
    You know what, you're so full of it. You people have got an excuse for everything. Are you really going to tell me that these people were drinking poisoned water for years and years without anything happening? Right after these idiot frackers came to town their water just up and poisoned itself? Why are these gas cronies putting water tanks in people homes and paying to fill them? For some people they installed water purification systems. They kept telling one lady the water was fine, but they wouldn't drink it themselves. These people are out of their minds. They don't care if they poison the whole family, profit is all that matters. And you're doing the same thing by posting all of these lies. In case you didn't know it, the NYT got a hold of gas industry, state and EPA reports released under The Freedom of Information Act. They read like a horror show. Millions of gallons of radioactive toxic chemical waste dumped into the very rivers and streams that supply our drinking water across the country. No testing for radiation at those water intake plants. Salt levels so high that it was eating away the equipment at water intake plants. Never seen before gas company reports that cover up the real damage that's being done. How the EPA don't fine these gas companies because they're worried that they won't report their mistakes. The gas cronies are basically left to police themselves. The write-up that I read said that there were 31 inspectors keeping tabs on more than 125,000 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Why do they even bother? And that isn't the half of it. Here, read it for yourself, all 5 pages.

    www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    Gerhard Adam
    But it’s now one of three disturbing cases.
    Perhaps, but I also found this disturbing.
    But there is in fact a documented case, and the E.P.A. report that discussed it suggests there may be more. Researchers, however, were unable to investigate many suspected cases because their details were sealed from the public when energy companies settled lawsuits with landowners.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/us/04natgas.html
    Unfortunately, we've been round this type of issue before, and quite frankly, no one wants to hear the news 10 or 20 years from now that ... oohh .. no one could've known.  We have the science and the means, so it's time for some serious transparency.  If the government's on a witch hunt then it can be curtailed, and if industry is lying or hiding information, then they should be eviscerated.

    Quite frankly I'm tired of the political and corporate nonsense that goes on in this country and its time we got a bit more mature about this, and stopped pretending that corporations were some sort of messiahs, and that politicians were statesmen. 

    Despite all the hue and cry about our energy needs, I'd just as soon go back to burning wood if I had to.  I don't particularly care anymore, because it's primarily going to be the wealthiest individuals and the corporations that will be hurt by inadequate energy.  Perhaps then we can dispense with the self-interested rhetoric and develop a true energy policy in this country that we can all live with, and not simply look for short-term profits.

    http://prod-http-80-800498448.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com/w/images/4/40/PerspectiveHealthNatGas.pdf

    http://www.citizenscampaign.org/PDFs/fracking-news/EPA_%20Chemicals%20Found%20in%20Wyo.%20Drinking%20Water%20Might%20Be%20From%20Fracking%20-%20ProPublica.pdf

    Shale-gas drillers consider the composition of their fracking fluids to be proprietary. But with increasing pressure for disclosure from the public and environmental groups, big Marcellus players such as Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy have recently begun to make the ingredients public. The state legislature in Texas passed a bill in May to mandate disclosure of the fluid ingredients. Democrats on the federal House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report in April that identified 29 chemicals that are either known or possible carcinogens and are subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Water Act. Oil and gas fracking, however, was exempted from the act in 2005 by a provision tucked into the Energy Policy Act.
    http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v64/i7/p23_s1?bypassSSO=1
    Bear in mind that I'm quite cognizant of risk/benefit issues as it pertains to energy, but I'd also like to make sure that the citizens aren't absorbing all the risks while the corporations gain all the benefits.  Unless there's 100% transparency in everything that is taking place here, the precautionary principle takes precedence.

    NOTE:  I realize that you did address some of these points in your article, so I only posted these quotes and links to illustrate that it becomes a "he said, she said" situation and there doesn't appear to be any science anywhere to be seen. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Quite frankly I'm tired of the political and corporate nonsense that goes on in this country and its time we got a bit more mature about this, and stopped pretending that corporations were some sort of messiahs, and that politicians were statesmen.
    Can we also stop pretending all corporations are run by Satan, and all politicians are whores?

    because it's primarily going to be the wealthiest individuals and the corporations that will be hurt by inadequate energy.
    Really? You don't recognize how high energy prices negatively effect people, especially poor people?
    A couple years ago, my natural gas was $16/MCF, this year it was about $5/MCF, that was $1500-$2,000 a winter heating season savings.

    Unless there's 100% transparency in everything that is taking place here, the precautionary principle takes precedence.

    And you know there are some that even 100% transparency won't be enough, and wait until the local environmental group and the epa find out about all of the wood you're burning.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Can we also stop pretending all corporations are run by Satan, and all politicians are whores?
    Who's pretending? :)
    Really? You don't recognize how high energy prices negatively effect people, especially poor people?
    Sure, but I also recognize that no matter what the price of energy is for poor people, no one would do anything about it, until it affects the wealthy [or wealthier].  Poor people are always held out when it comes time to rationalize an action, but rarely are they ever actually considered as having problems that need to be solved.
    Mundus vult decipi
    JohnK.
    I keep waiting for someone to discuss the basics of hydraulic fracking.

    The whole argument is more like the di-hydrogen monoxide joke than it is a real scientific discussion.

    In essence fracking is basically pumping soapy water into a well at high pressure. The only reason soapy water is used instead of regular water is that soapy water suspends sand particles better so they flow into the tiny cracks that are generated by the enormous pressures (can easily reach 500 bar or 8,000 psi).  When the job is completed, the pressure in the well pushes the soapy water out into a holding pool next to the well.  The soapy water isn't even left in the well.  Some tiny residue will remain, but only at the well depth.

    This is a serious attempt to make soapy water look hazardous.  In addition, most of the wells that are being fracked are more than 3,000 m deep.  Sometimes much deeper than that.  Does anyone know of a water well that is thousands or meters deep?  Does anyone know how expensive it would be to pump water up from that depth?

    Most water wells are 30-40 meters deep and in some places it is possible to get to 200m deep, but the only way a water well would interfere with a natural gas well would be if there was already natural gas in the water table.

    Do I think that every chemical that has ever been involved in fracking is perfectly safe if it did get into drinking water?  Of course not.  Can substitutes be found for this?  Absolutely with one exception and that one exception is water.  That is the only critical chemical in the entire propaganda war.  Perhaps we should make that dangerous chemical illegal.

    I am glad this article covers the lack of science being used on the side of the environmentalists.  In all such issues science has to be the guiding principle.  That the EPA is ignoring science these days is the only true danger.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, if your statement is true, then we have a number of individuals and organizations that are clearly lying.  Is that your assertion?  If so, then what's the basis for it [especially when it often involves other scientists that are expressing their concerns or reservations].
    Absolutely with one exception and that one exception is water.  That is the only critical chemical in the entire propaganda war.  Perhaps we should make that dangerous chemical illegal.
    I'm not quite sure why you thought that statement contributed anything scientifically to the argument.  It does however suggest that you are also operating on your own confirmation bias, which makes your own viewpoint suspect.
    This is a serious attempt to make soapy water look hazardous.
    Good, then how about a serious attempt to honestly discuss what is being seen?
    Do I think that every chemical that has ever been involved in fracking is perfectly safe if it did get into drinking water?  Of course not.  Can substitutes be found for this?
    ... and what is the basis for this statement after you've just indicated that it is simply "soapy water"? 

    Mundus vult decipi
    JohnK.
    I made a clear reference to the di-hydrogen monoxide hoax at the beginning of the article.  If you are not aware of that hoax you can read more here.

    I have direct experience in the "well stimulation" sector as an intern back in the summer of 1998.  I happened to be in Texas at the time.  I got my hands in plenty of the fracking liquid.  When a fracking job is taking place there are large tanks of non-potable water that are mixed with the specific chemicals needed for the job.  There are also large bins of sand.  Sand is the entire purpose of a fracking job.  If sand is wedged in the cracks it increases the void fraction and as a result it increases the rate of gas flow.  Hence it is called well stimulation.

    What are you sources that water is not the main chemical involved?  I have never seen and or heard of it being done a different way.  Water is cheap and easy to get in most locations.  It is perfect for the purpose and there is no reason not to use water.  Water is also used to mix the cement in making the actual well itself.  I have done that as well.

    The one thing I won't claim is that bad chemicals have never been used.  I can't say that because I can't know that.  I do know that the ones that I was involved with were not toxic and I got my hands in plenty of the fracking fluid.  Soapy water is really the best explanation.

    Hopefully this helps clarify.  In my current capacity I deal with very dangerous chemicals, mostly gases.  Caution, safety and the environment are all critical concerns.  I didn't like working in oil fields as it took too much time away from family and I always wanted to work in the semiconductor field, so that is what I do.  But the fracking fluids I have experience with where very safe.  The only goal was to reduce viscosity and suspend the sand.  That is why soapy water is used.
    Gerhard Adam
    If that's the case, then it makes little sense for the companies to claim their chemical formulations are proprietary. 
    It's not always clear what those chemicals are, because the industry isn't required to release the precise makeup of its fracking formulas — and drilling-service companies like Halliburton have been reluctant to reveal the information.
    http://twintlc.com/Documents/The%20Gas%20Dilemma%20--%20Printout%20--%20TIME.pdf
    No one is claiming that water isn't the primary "chemical" in use, but that doesn't mean much when many toxic chemicals are dangerous at parts per billion.  In addition, there are two other issues that aren't mentioned.  The first is that besides gas, there are many other chemicals, minerals, materials, etc. that may be brought to the surface, so it's not quite clear that nothing else will rise to the surface, nor that the water won't pick up contaminants along the way.

    In the second place, since the water does return with whatever chemicals or additional items its picked up ... how does that square with the complaint that many purification facilities claim they don't have everything they need to eliminate the contaminants?
    Even if everything goes right, hydraulic fracturing can produce over 1 million gal. (3.8 million L) of toxic, briny wastewater over the lifetime of an individual well. In western states like Texas, companies can store the wastewater in deep underground control wells, but Pennsylvania's geology makes that difficult. As a result, drillers have had to ship much of their wastewater to municipal treatment plants —and as a recent New York Times investigation showed, those plants are often incapable of screening all drilling-waste contaminants. Although Pennsylvania has begun to tighten treatment regulations and gas companies are recycling increasing amounts of wastewater — reusing it in additional frack jobs — the problem is still one of the biggest challenges in drilling.
    So, are you saying that all this is simply wrong?  If it's not wrong or even if it's only partially correct, then it indicates that there's far more to be investigated than simply asserting that it's just "soapy water".
    Mundus vult decipi
    JohnK.
    It actually makes all the sense in the world to keep things proprietary.  There are many companies competing with each other for these jobs.  Having an edge makes a difference.  Intellectual property is important and companies spend time and money developing the best solutions.  See the smartphone wars going on about who patented what first.

    This is where the problem arises.  You are quick to quote that a fracturing job will produce 3.8 million liters of toxic, briny wastewater, but there is nothing scientific to back that up.  Industrial waste is such a vague and unscientific term that it is meaningless.  It is just a by-product.  Sawdust is industrial waste from the cutting of wood.  Soapy water from your bathtub is also waste that needs to be treated before being released into a river.

    I am all for environmental responsibility.  Problems arise when the attitude of prosecution takes precedence over the science.  That is what is going on now.  This entire article is about the avoidance of science and the use of FUD in its place.

    FUD is the real enemy and it is the responsibility of those that understand science to call it out when it is found.  Di-hydrogen monoxide and fracking have that in common.
    Gerhard Adam
    You are quick to quote that a fracturing job will produce 3.8 million liters of toxic, briny wastewater, but there is nothing scientific to back that up.
    Well, that's the problem.  I didn't note it, TIME magazine did.  Now if you're telling me they're wrong, then I'd appreciate a link to the science that indicates that. 
    It actually makes all the sense in the world to keep things proprietary.
    Again, not a problem, however don't ask me to "trust you".  You want the science to back up the claims that there's nothing toxic, then I expect to see the data.  If the data is not available, then you're asking me to simply trust what's being reported and then we have a problem.
    Problems arise when the attitude of prosecution takes precedence over the science.  That is what is going on now.
    Problems also arise when profitability takes precedence over the science.  So, let's ensure that such doesn't occur by ensuring that the proper data is being reported.  This isn't the first time this subject has come up regarding corporate practices.  Given the general attitude towards the handling of toxic wastes, and the expense of clean-ups, it's not hard to see why the public is a bit gun-shy about letting corporations police themselves and accepting their assurances that, this time, there's really nothing wrong.

    This doesn't mean a disaster or problem has to occur every day, every month, or even every year.  What it does mean, is that every major disaster that has occurred, has occurred because invariably someone got lax, tried to save money, did a sloppy job, and then created a disaster that impacted thousands of citizens that had no idea about how vulnerable they were.  At this point, the PR machine starts rolling about how it's no one's fault and how "they'll make it right".

    So, I'll put it to you like this.

    Are you prepared to climb out on a limb and state, on this blog, that you are absolutely convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt that absolutely nothing negative will happen to people's drinking water?  That there is absolutely no risk of contaminants being released into the environment?  That there is absolutely no risk to the safety of the people based solely on the environmental data [not counting accidents]?

    I'm not trying to hold you responsible in any way, I'm just trying to gauge how confident you are in these assertions and whether you're prepared to state unequivocally that there's absolutely no risk or hazard involved.

    BTW ... if you make that statement, I wouldn't mind some actual links to back it up :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Timothy Connet
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101025172926.htm

    Anybody have any thoughts on mobilized uranium.
    Great article.

    The entire anti-fracking campaign depends on you never double checking their claims. Fracking is not new. They have been doing for 50+ years. You know that right? They have done way more than a million wells in that time, you know that right? You would think if it was the huge risk being claimed, you would have more than 3 cases to quote....and those 3 cases are nothing but BS to start with. The head of the EPA admitted under oath a year ago that they have zero proof of a single case of groundwater contamination from fracking. But go right on believing there are thousands of cases you just havent heard of.

    People know their water is bad, but can't afford to sell because of low property value as a result. But when an opportunity with activists and fracking comes along, they have a chance to get out from their problem with no cost to them. Funny how you all seem to think greed is unquestionable from anyone who works in a business, but somehow these individuals are immine to greed and trickery for personal gain.

    Have you ever seen a frack take place? Have you ever checked any facts about it at all? Or have you, like most people, read a few articles about it and swallowed everything you read whole without thought. It may not have occured to you all, but the anti-fracking groups are just as capable of lying as the supporters. The 100 million dollar a year activist groups like Sierra are just as worried about keeping the money coming in as exxon. And just like Exxon, no demand, no money. They need a crisis just as much as Exxon needs oil.

    I live in the middle of an oilfield, (one of the oldest in Canada) and we have had fracking for 50 years. And not one single well has been affected. We are not a ecological disaster. Your are just falling for hype without facts.

    MikeCrow
    At least Exxon has something to sell beside disasters, both real and imaginary.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Fracking is not new. They have been doing for 50+ years. You know that right?
    There has never been any exhaustive study done to examine the effects of fracking [or secondary incidences] on water quality.  You know that right?

    http://www.propublica.org/article/officials-in-three-states-pin-water-woes-on-gas-drilling-426

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/propublica/assets/methane/thyne_review.pdf

    http://www.propublica.org/article/years-after-evidence-of-fracking-contamination-epa-to-supply-drinking-water

    Of course, some of the stories should emphasize the importance of "reading the fine print".  While there seems to be a lot of discussion about how fracking doesn't present a problem, the answers aren't quite as confident when it comes to addressing the secondary problems that could occur.  In addition, industry doesn't have any problem in blaming subcontractors or others for violations that give rise to problems.  It's the same old song and dance, which is what people are tired of.

    I get that accidents can happen and that subcontractors or others make take advantage and do substandard work.  However, this becomes the perpetual excuse when industries making billions of dollars in profits can't be bothered to ensure that standards are adhered to, and that subcontractors are fulfilling the requirements of the safety regulations that are to be enforced.  We heard this with the Exxon Valdez to BP in the gulf and [I suspect] we'll hear it regarding fracking.

    It isn't that fracking is fundamentally dangerous, nor that it has to be environmentally unsound.  What most people do recognize is that if there's a way to cut corners, then people will find it [corporations and individuals alike].  The difference is that corporations have the legal muscle to ensure that no one looks too closely.  As an individual you'd already be doing time before someone decided to investigate whether you were actually guilty or not.

    Mundus vult decipi
    In Canada, they do water well testing both before and after (at a regular interval) for every new well drilled and fracked. Don't pretend this is not an area that has no been very well reviewed. Your only showing your ignorance. Your still trying to create a sense of urgent danger for a existing technique that has been used safely for 50 years. If you have nothing new to add the volumes of actual real tests, then you are just blowing smoke to try and forment fear.

    It is also not uncommon for shallow methane to migrate upward without any influence by man. One day an area is fine, then they start getting bad water without an oilwell for 500 miles, so the defense that there have been wells with methane means zip without a clear connection.

    We all want the industry to adhear to the regulations. Who is claiming we don't? Adding ponderous new regulations won't change a thing if you dont enforce them. So why don't you try advocating for the enforcement of existing rules instead of pretending that that issue has anything to do with fracking. The examples of fracking damage shown, don't hold up under review, that means they are BS. But even if you might get an occassional well that got contaminated (it won't be at high rates, as the million plus test wells already done can bear out), that still makes it a very clean energy source. Setting 300 million people on the loose to try and survive without fossil fuels would do more damge in a day than the oil industry does in a 10 years, perspective is needed.

    Gerhard Adam
    The paper I linked is one of the first studies to try and arrive at an explanation for whether contamination occurs.  I'm glad you're so confident, but that is undercut by your statement about "even if you might get an occasional well that got contaminated" statement.

    No one is claiming that every well is dangerous, nor that fracking in general is dangerous.  However, I'm also not foolish enough to believe that everything that is viewed as "safe" is automatically true.  History proves that point, time and again.

    You shifted your argument from "it's safe" to how people need the fossil fuels to survive.  I don't have a quarrel with your last statement, but that doesn't automatically make it safe either.  There are risks with almost every endeavor, and to claim it is safe [without any attendant risks] makes it simply seem like a lie.

    I'm not arguing that whatever risks exist can't be dealt with, but clearly there are still many unknowns at work here.  Unless you're claiming that the articles and links are provided are all lies [in which case I'd like to see evidence to support it], the only reasonable conclusion we can draw is that there are still aspects of this that make be problematic, even if it isn't simply confined to ground-water contamination.
    If you have nothing new to add the volumes of actual real tests, then you are just blowing smoke to try and forment fear.
    Good, then point to the links and we can put the matter to rest.  We'll see how well the scientific evidence stands up if you claim it exists.

    It would appear that things aren't nearly so peaceful in Canada either.
    Unfortunately, she said, “not many stories of contaminated water are made public because the oil and gas companies usually force farmers to sign confidentiality agreements in return for replacement of their water wells.
    http://marcelluseffect.blogspot.com/2012/02/canadian-farmers-call-for-fracking.html
    http://digitaljournal.com/article/317334
    http://www.propublica.org/article/oh-canadas-become-a-home-for-record-fracking

    Lest you accuse me of only using press releases:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222989/

    http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=wmelpr&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fhl%3Den%26oe%3DASCII%26q%3Dfracking%2Band%2Bdrinking%2Bwater%26btnG%3DSearch%26as_sdt%3D0%252C39%26as_ylo%3D%26as_vis%3D0#search=%22fracking%20drinking%20water%22

    http://www.hydrorelief.org/frackdata/methane_contamination/Colorado_Study_Links_Methane_in_Water_to_Drilling.doc
    Mundus vult decipi
    Where to start.

    The increase of methane in proximity. Notice how they dont refer to more than a one time sample ....curious huh. So what proof do you have that the higher levels of methane are from the wells and not just an indication of natural methane bearing strata being more likely in proximity to gas wells. Nothing in that shows an increase after fracking. It might be a cause, but it also could just as equally be natural. They know they are not providing proof of anything, that is why they carefully word it to sound bad without actually providing any proof, but they do keep legal deniability.

    Additionally the story moves on to talk about leaking at or near the surface. This has nothing to do with fracking, so the only actual leaks were surface oriented and the rest infered from very tricky wording of useless one point data sampling. Do you really expect any intelligent informed person to fall for that crap. If you have anything solid, why resort to useless data and tricky wording? Entire counties in many states have natural methane levels at levels high enough to be flagged by the EPA as dangerous, and the long term health effects (such as their entire life) don't manifest in any exceptional trends in health. Your trying to use ignorance as an excuse to panic, but we know full well the effects of methane in water. Just because it hasn't be framed as a fracking study doesn't mean people don't study it. They study large amounts of methane in water and its long term effects....and the effects are minimal......but somehow the fact that they didn't study small amounts means we are running blind?

    The last two pieces are a lawyer review of the case brought against the EPA and does not provide one bit of proof about anything except their interpretation of a law. The last is a journalist review of a paid for report that has not made its actual data available for scientific review. Would you trust BS like that if an oil company provided it? Of course not.

    The canada piece was complete BS. A few farmers that live over top of a huge shallow coal field and much also has direct connection to shallow oil sands, are worried that fracking (not common in many areas) is contaminating their wells. The NFU is a small group with very limited support due to very extreme political views. I farm part time with my father and am well versed in the politics of farm groups in Canada. Funny how this group of framers has also been extremly anti-oil for decades and have tried other methods to stop oil drilling. But I'm sure they are pure as snow on this one.

    The water contamination they speak of, although they are now changing it to fracking for political reasons, is from contamination during drilling. This was a common problem that introduced new methods almost 2 decades ago to reduce the risk of contamination. I worked in the oilfield at the time before moving into an architecture career and was there for the changes. Are you really that ignorant of the way oil and gas wells are drilled? It is not unregulated. They send out environmental companies to survey and watch for contamination before during and after each well. Many of the wells are zero disturbance where not one ounce of drilling material is to touch the ground and they get fined for a worker pissing on the ground. And yes they do enforce it that strictly.

    The problem is not that drilling is getting worse, oil companies have made leaps and bounds in improving their environmental records and impact, I have been there to see some of it firsthand, and further with drilling on our land. The problem is a bunch holier than though activists who don't know the first thing about the industry they are attacking and will believe anything that agrees with them without the slightest bit evidence. The farmer in gasland had a couple state reviews of the methane in the area decades before oil and gas ever entered the area. And yet he had no problem in claiming it was from the fracking despite, knowing it wasn't true. And the documentary didn't bother telling you that fact either. Doesn't that tell you something about trusting the word of either side?

    We have 50 years of fracking data, that doesn't mean it will never cause an issue, but it can serve as a good indication of the basic threat level. You got not one bit of solid evidence of a big problem. The EPA wants to block fracking and even they can't find evidence without violating all of their scientific methods....and have to retract it later because it was BS. I agree with making sure oil companies follow the regulations. But that isn't what this is about. It is about the fact that fracking is gonna kill the windmill and solar gravy train.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, you've already made up your mind that everything is BS except for what you say, so it doesn't matter if studies are occurring or not.  You can cite the EPA all you like, but the same events are occurring in Canada.

    You're the one that keeps wanting to turn this into a political debate, where I've maintained that the point is to get the proper data [whether it is incomplete at this point or not] as well as examining all the elements associated with fracking [whether ground-water contamination or other phenomenon].

    You seem to simply want to hang on to the idea that "we've been doing it for 50 years" so therefore, by definition, its OK.  If it's truly no problem, then you shouldn't have any issues with scientific studies.  However, I suspect you'll simply consider any study as being biased so, as I said, you've already made up your mind regardless of the data.

    Obviously everyone's got an agenda except the oil companies, so apparently it doesn't matter what happens next.  It's all good to you.

    You see there is one big problem remaining though which makes industry look bad.  The fact that they sought and received an exemption from the 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act.  With such an exemption, it is hard to make a credible argument that drinking water may not be at risk.  After all, why else seek such an exemption?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Read my comments. I am very clear you shouldn't trust oil companies. Nice try.

    I have no problem with scientific studies, and I have not heard anyone say they have any issue with them. But you are not quoting scientific studies, you link to the opinion for hire kind of studies that don't have to follow scientific methods and can't slip in alot of opinion and make wild assumptions. You seem to think this is science i guess, but that is no more real science than an oil company PR man saying everything is alright.

    The 50 year point is not to claim "it's ok". It serves as a baseline of threat assessment. If it was as dangerous as many alarmist activists claim, then the million plus wells would have already created a huge block of undeniable data and huge swaths of unlivable land due to usable water loss. So far we have a hanful of cases and most of them collapsed under a closer inspection. Since all you can produce are a few idividuals statements with no proof and intentionally misleading news articles. The EPA has retracted their only 3 statement of threat in 50 years due to completely ignoring their own scientific methods and being contradicted by others who followed the scientific method. Since this has not happened we can take a moment of perspective and do not have to run wild with the precationary principle broadly applied. We can take the time to make informed choices instead of abandoning the scientific method in favour of yelling fire in a crowded theatre. I welcome real science instead of this crap being circulated in place of facts.

    If you want to change informed peoples minds you will need to provide the science you claim to want. We have a very huge block of test data from existing wells......why does that not interest you? It doesn't because it indicates a low threat in reality and cannot support the level of alarmism that is trying to be sustained. I have read the stories on this subject and they are far from objective. Every single one approaches the subject as though fracking is a new thing and we are doing it willy nilly without any idea what will happen. The scare collapses if you realize it has been done more than a million times for 50 years and all you have to show for it is a handful of people with suspicious cases at best.

    But claiming we have to stop something that has been going on for 50 years due to a huge imminent danger if it is allowed to continue at all, is just a ridiculous proposition. You claim to want to get the data, but ignore the immense volume of historic data available. Why does nobody ever talk about the millions of existing wells to go test if they ruined surrounding wells? Much of the data is public in Canada. But nope, nobody wants to review the existing data because they know it will show that any risk is very small. Any idiot can see there has not been millions or even thousands of well ruined, so we already know the risk is small. Most wells drilled in the US and Canada are within a few miles of farms or towns...where is the problem. All you get are a few vague references to "lots of people say it is a problem", but any farmer knows the loss of water devastating and is not covered up. I know ever farm in a 20 mile circle that lost a well, wether from collapse or livestock contamination.....but somehow its all kept quiet. Give me a break. So do your science, done by real scientists and not hired guns for oil companies or activists, and then deal with the results instead of pretending we can't wait.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...and as the final demonstration of your agenda ... when did I ever say that fracking had to be halted?  When did I say anything about waiting?  When did I ever say that it was bad?

    All along I've simply said that there is insufficient data and that your claim of 50 years doesn't cut it as scientific evidence.  All the other stuff are words you're putting into my mouth to claim that I'm some sort of a radical trying to halt fracking.

    Regardless of your criticisms for the links I've provided, it is telling that neither you nor any of the other advocates have seen fit to link to your purported studies demonstrating how safe it is.  Neither has anyone explained why corporations can claim that chemicals are safe, only to find out that they aren't required to disclose what they are because they are secret.  Similarly the exemption from Safe Drinking Water Act also looks like it's another legal maneuver to avoid the potential for liability.

    If everyone is so convinced that everything is safe, and that the studies will bear that out, then why all the CYA activities?

    Mundus vult decipi
    My agenda is common sense. You seem adverse to that. Do you think all the calls for moratoriums and bans are not about halting fracking? If you are gonna link to stories about people trying to get bans, your gonna get painted with the same brush, unless you say otherwise.

    You still seem to think a few vague reports that fall apart under closer investigation are more compelling than 50 years of in the field tests. I can't help but notice you didn't link to any solid science. I have a large sample history to back up the opinion that the threat level is low, you have not provided anything solid to counter that.

    You still can't find the thousands or even hundreds of negative problems from over a million tests, but you still seem determined to ignore the reality of that. You don't need to rely on few shady investigations that violated all their own rules, you have a giant sample of existing wells to go test. You have long range, medium range and short range samples to work with. It is a data samplers dream. The problem is that everyone knows what that investigation will show, and it is counterproductive if you want a scare story. Even if one in a thousand fracks wrecked a water source, there would be thousands of examples and they can't find them no matter how bad they want to. Do you really think nobody has already looked in hopes of a smoking gun? Any scientist would immediatly notice that there is a disconnect between the expected danger (as communicated in the media) and the actual sample......but not you, you claim the actual sample is irrelevant. Your willing to ignore the elephant in the room and wait for the one example that will finally stand up....but all you really will have a one in a million example and that kind of safety margin is dreamed of. If smoking only caused a 2 or 3 cancers for every million people we would have never even discovered the link.

    I am saying there needs to be some perspective. Not one story you linked to even admitted the existence of the large historic sample. In fact many implied this was a new issue. I doubt most anti-fracking protestors have a clue this has been going on for longer than most have been alive. I read the news reports and the articles on grist and the greenpeace literature. None of them even hint that at the past history of fracking. All imply or outright state that this is new and untried technology that they are trying without any idea what they are doing. I support strict rules on control of fracking fluids....mostly water, soap and diesel in reality. I also support reporting of fluids to authorities, but public reporting kills any porprietary rights, but reports to authorities i think would be okay. But a moratorium on fracking is a bit like claiming they should ban coffee due to the listing as a possible cancer causing agent.....notice how they are not rushing to do that. Perspective.

    Gerhard Adam
    Not one story you linked to even admitted the existence of the large historic sample.
    Perhaps, but you never even provided one link.  For your "millions" of examples, you haven't made much effort.
    Mundus vult decipi
    If the EPA, who is so determined to protect the world from the dangers of fracking that they have to abandon all of their own proceedures and QC checks in the name of protecting the people, cant find a single case of damage from fracking.......what chance does a bunch of armchair activists have of coming up with something more convincing?

    I have an idea, why not put your sctivism into making sure the fluid from fracking gets disposed of in an environmentally sound way. That is something everyone on here will agree with and it is a real tangible danger that doesn't require you to abandon the scientific method to prove.

    I typed "millions" once by mistake, all other references I noted "million plus", or "over a million". I appologize for the one mistype, I am not proof reading my posts.

    "The first hydraulic fracturing was performed in 1947, at the Hugoton gas fields of southwestern Kansas, in limestone deposits by Halliburton. Since then, hydraulic fracturing has been used to stimulate approximately a million oil and gas wells."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing

    "The use of hydraulic fracturing to increase production from conventional oil and gas wells grew
    rapidly starting in the late 1940s and continues to be used routinely for reservoir stimulation.
    Since its initiation, hydraulic fracturing has been used to stimulate approximately a million oil
    and gas wells."
    http://energy.utexas.edu/images/ei_shale_gas_regulation120215.pdf

    It took me about 2 minutes to find this, so what your really saying is that you never bothered to see if it was true. You choose rather to write it (and me) off and go on believing your incorrect version because it fits better with your world view, whatever it is. A more detailed number I read in print media and cannot find online put the number at about 1.2 million and broke it down by region. But the existence of the large historical sample is not up for debate. And it should be used to create an informed threat assessment, instead of everyone claiming the precautionary principle endlessly like fracking is new.

    There is no call to give oil companies a blank cheque to do whatever they want, we need to keep watching and applying pressure where needed. But to ignore the fact the oil and gas drilling has improved their environmental impact by leaps and bounds is not realistic either. There is more to be done sure, but knee jerk reactions and alarmism not tethered to reality doesn't help in a real debate on the issue. We need to target actual areas of pollution, such as surface spills and work to improve the record futher.

    Gerhard Adam
    I wasn't looking for a press release.  You made the claim regarding"millions" [although the specific number isn't relevant, nor was I looking to have that verified].  It's simply that with that many, I presumed that your claims of safety were somehow grounded in studies and papers that could be linked to.

    You claimed that Canada tests water before and after, so I presume that some data must be available someplace.

    Other than the media, where is the science backing up your statement about how safe it is?  or are you simply making that claim based on anecdotal data over 50 years?
    Mundus vult decipi