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    Forget Science, Fracking Must Go
    By Hank Campbell | May 13th 2013 10:48 AM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    Responsible energy production would seem to have an obvious positive roadmap; have energy companies include environmental groups in guiding pollution standards and participating in studies about natural gas extraction.

    But for entrenched constituencies, that is unacceptable.

    Hydraulic fracturing - fracking - has been around since the 1940s, it's actually far safer today than it was in the past, but it has replaced nuclear power as ground zero in the anti-science culture war and now various groups claim it causes ill health, cancer and even that it may cause the earth to deflate. Fracking is a lot more popular than in the past, and that can lead to more things that can go wrong, but making the precautionary principle a trump card in all business means we can't drive cars or plug in a toaster. Some common sense is warranted.

    Toward that end, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, based in Pittsburgh, was created. It is a coalition of energy companies and environmental groups designed to draft and support standards that will protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region. That's win-win. Pennsylvania was the first state to embrace oil when it was new (thanks for not sticking us with a Whale Oil future, Titusville) so it is fitting they embrace modern natural gas - it is cleaner than coal, it has kept energy costs down even while the population and income goes up, and these are union jobs in a union state. 

    The Center would like to be even more inclusive but a number of environmental groups are not having it. 

    Why would they not want to help?  An obvious reason would be that compromise and being part of the solution is a direct threat to the fundraising of extremist groups like Sierra Club, which stays in business portraying energy as evil and who must bounce from cause to cause as once-lauded ideas are vilified (see ethanol, which was never a good idea to anyone but environmentalists) after being adopted. Natural gas was once promoted by environmental groups as well.

    Green lipstick on a pig?

    The environmental groups critical of this industry-environmental initiative say it's because the 15 standards drafted by The Center are voluntary and corporations will ignore them.  These people have never sat in an actual corporate boardroom so they think all people in business are some variation of Scrooge McDuck, cackling while they sit on a pile of money and smoke cigars.  The wave of 'green' initiatives in America in the business sector before the economic collapse were done by corporations populated by people who care about the environment, not because the government made them do it. Likewise, this initiative was done by moderates who see a lot of common ground in a health standard that isn't simply an excuse to promote anti-science and anti-business beliefs.

    Obviously, there are extremists on both sides. Some regard any additional compromise as unnecessary because state and federal standards are already strict - they believe the companies in the center are just caving in to 'eco-nuts' who will never be satisfied anyway. If not overt hostility like that, the majority view is still cautionary. As Kevin Begos of Associated Press notes, the fact that 4 of the largest 10 companies in Pennsylvania have joined the initiative means 6 have not.

    Comments

    cranman046
    The latest studies have not only found 99 known carinogeens in fracking effluent , but in a new study 14,000 times the allowed yearly dose of radioactive matter in the unprocessed waste water. The problem is there is no technology to remove it. Along with bad science the fracking companies could sign up for bad sociology ; in Penn experience the drilling cowboys actually bring their own prostitues to the " drilling camps " with them. Need I say more The only salvation for our energy problems is to explore new physics, and not with old mindsets. with post relativity.
    Hank
    All chemicals are bad, that's what you are saying?

    I agree we need basic research into better energy but demonizing what we have is not helpful. Here in California, every business I know of has a warning sign that it contains "known carcinogens" so I assume you don't ever do laundry.  
    logicman
    The latest studies have not only found 99 known carinogeens in fracking effluent , but in a new study 14,000 times the allowed yearly dose of radioactive matter in the unprocessed waste water.
    Can you please provide links ?

    McKenzie noted that EPA standards are designed to be public health proactive and may overestimate risks.

    "However, there wasn't data available on all the chemicals emitted during the well development process,"
    eurekalert
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I seem to remember them mentioning scientific studies making these wild statistical claims in this SBS documentary called 'Fracked Off' or was it this Australian SBS Factbox called 'Coal Seam Gas in Australia Explained'? which says 'other chemicals are being used in Australia' but the page it links to is no longer there. It would be good to have a link to the scientific studies, if they do really exist? This SBS Insight program transcript contains some interesting information and different viewpoints about the problems and concerns about fracking in Australia.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
     It would be good to have a link to the scientific studies, if they do really exist?
    Apart from the link I gave, eurekalert, here are some more:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404676/

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7364/abs/477271a.html (paywalled)

    www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/Fracking.pdf  (free pdf)

    http://pocarisweat.umdl.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/97418


    Defending Fracking Lawsuits. (free pdf)  The pdf mentions scientific evidence for possible harm to people.  As with tobacco, asbestos etc. the focus is not on scientific rebuttal of claims but on legal techniques for winning, aka using shyster lawyer tricks.  Never forget that practical law is not about justice: it is a contest in oratory between two prima donnas for a  cash prize.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow, thanks for those amazing links Patrick, I haven't had time to read them all yet but you are a master researcher! Some scientific studies are definitely referenced in that last link to a legal document giving advice to companies on how to defend themselves legally against fracking prosecutions, which clearly says :-

    'Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange found that 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer; 37 percent could disrupt the endocrine system; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems; and more than 75 percent could affect the sensory organs and respiratory system, likely causing problems such as skin and eye irritation and flu-like symptoms.[16]' 

    'Challenging Allegations Of Medical Causation' 
    'Studies and statistics like those noted above represent a substantial challenge for defendants. While the fluids contain hazardous chemicals, defendants must show that the alleged exposure to these chemicals
    did not cause the complained-of condition.'

    [16] Colbourn, Theo, et al, “Natural gas operations from a public health perspective,”Accepted for publication in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, September 4, 2010, Abstract and available at http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/files/NaturalGasManuscriptPDF09_13_10.pdf'
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    Thanks for the compliment !

    May I advise caution with the scientific findings?  I do not dispute the findings in the aggregate.  (That's almost a pun.)  However, as a judge would say, we must treat this on a case by case basis.  Emissions of chemical x from site y in Canada are no proof of emissions x from the fracking site they just built in your back yard.   But emissions anywhere would be legally acceptable proof that these companies know of the possibility that their activities may release harmful chemicals and that accordingly - at least  in common-law jurisdictions - they have a duty of care.

    No, I am not a lawyer - but I have expostulated at length against this and that on many occasions in the RCJ and have been complimented by judges on my legal arguments and presentation - even when I lost.  :-)
    Hank
    Even the chemicals are not harmful unless you actually have a way to ingest them. A whole lot of harmful chemicals are used in the process of making an iPhone - that does not mean that by the time it gets to you, holding an iPhone will cause cancer. Fracking chemicals are not getting into drinking water so that they may be carcinogenic - along with almost everything else in the ground whether there is fracking or not - isn't doing anything but creating a scary straw man.

    The natural=good/chemical=bad mythology in the post-Rachel Carson era is the biggest feel-good fallacy that refuses to die. But people are making money promoting fear and doubt about fracking so it's no surprise it has some worried.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Even the chemicals are not harmful unless you actually have a way to ingest them.
    Actually ingestion is not the only way that these fracking chemicals are harmful, they can also be inhaled. This scientific paper by Professor Colburn et al (2010) which is referenced above, in Patrick's link to a legal document that is used by Fracking companies lawyers to defend themselves against public and employee lawsuits, is called 'Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective' and it says :-

    'An Unexpected Side Effect: Air Pollution' 
    'In addition to the land and water contamination issues, at each stage of production and 
    delivery tons of toxic volatile compounds (VOCs), including BTEX, other hydrocarbons, and fugitive natural gas (methane), can escape and mix with nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the exhaust of diesel-fueled, mobile, and stationary equipment, to produce ground-level ozone (CH2MHILL 2007; Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment [CDPHE] 2007; URS 2008; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment 1989).'

    'One highly reactive molecule of ground level ozone can burn the deep alveolar tissue in the lungs, causing it to age prematurely. Chronic exposure can lead to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), and is particularly damaging to children, active young adults who spend time outdoors, and the aged (Islam et al. 2007; Tager et al. 2005; Triche et al. 2006). Ozone combined with particulate matter less than 2.5 microns produces smog (haze) which has been demonstrated to be harmful to humans as measured by emergency room admissions during periods of elevation (Peng et al 2009).' 

    'Gas field ozone has created a previously unrecognized air pollution problem in rural areas, similar to that found in large urban areas, and can spread up to 200 miles beyond the immediate region where gas is being produced (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment 1989; Roberts 2008). Ozone not only causes irreversible damage to the lungs, it is similarly damaging to conifers, aspen, forage, alfalfa, and other crops commonly grown in the western U.S. (Booker, et al. 2009; Reich 1987; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment 1989). Adding to this air pollution is the dust created by fleets of diesel trucks working around the clock hauling the constantly accumulating condensate and produced water to large waste facility evaporation pits on unpaved roads. Trucks are also used to haul the millions of gallons of water from the source to the well pad.'

    'Using the health effect information for the 353 chemicals with CAS numbers, we created a profile of possible health effects that depicts the percentage of chemicals associated with each of the 12 health effect categories (Figure 2). 

    Viewing the profile from left to right, more than 75% of the chemicals on the list can affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system and the liver. Over half the chemicals show effects in the brain and nervous system. These first four categories represent effects that would likely be expressed upon immediate exposure, such as eye and skin irritation, nausea and/or vomiting, asthma, coughing, sore throat, flulike symptoms, tingling, dizziness, headaches, weakness, fainting, numbness in extremities, and convulsions. Products containing chemicals in powder form, irritants, or highly corrosive and volatile chemicals would all come with MSDS warnings in one or more of these categories. In all probability, none of the chemicals in these categories would normally be ingested during natural gas operations, but immediate eye, nasal, dermal contact and inhalation could lead to rapid absorption and cause direct exposure to the brain and other vital organ systems.'

    Finally, the 'Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective' abstract states :-

    'We demonstrated that toxic chemicals are used during both the fracturing and drilling phases of gas operations, that there may be long term health effects that are not immediately recognized, and that waste evaporation pits may contain numerous chemicals on the Superfund list. Our findings show the difficulty of developing a water quality monitoring program. To protect public health we recommend full disclosure of the contents of all products, extensive air and water monitoring, a comprehensive human health study, and regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act.'

    Sounds like a very good recommendation to me ;)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Some good news yesterday was that according to this Science20 news article the 'US Government Updates Draft Rule For Hydraulic Fracturing On Public And Indian Lands.' This seems to be a positive move in the right direction for the health of the public and the environment, that will hopefully start to counteract the many changes and relaxing of regulations that they have made previously, in order to make natural gas fracking exporations and operations much easier and less regulated, as listed below by the same paper linked above, called 'Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective' (Colborn et al 2010) :- 

    'The U.S. government has supported increased exploration and production of natural gas. The responsibility for overseeing the nation’s underground minerals lies with the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with some oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Attempting to meet the government’s need for energy self-sufficiency, the BLM has auctioned off thousands of mineral leases and issued permits to drill across vast acreages in the Rocky Mountain West. Since 2003, natural gas operations have increased substantially, with annual permits in Colorado alone increasing from 2,249 to 8,027 in 2008 (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2010).' 

    'In tandem with federal support for increased leasing, legislative efforts have granted exclusions and exemptions for oil and gas exploration and production from a number of federal environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, better known as the Superfund Act), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (Oil and Gas Accountability Project 2007).'

    'The most recent of these efforts was an amendment included in the 2005 Energy Policy Act that prevented the use of the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate certain activities, known as hydraulic fracturing, which are involved in 90% of natural gas drilling.' 

    'The cumulative effect of these exemptions and exclusions has been to create a federal void in environmental authority over natural gas operations, leaving the responsibility primarily up to the states. Although some states have oil and gas commissions to watch over natural gas production activity, the primary mission of these agencies has been to facilitate natural gas extraction and increase revenues for the states. In addition, when states issue permits to drill, they have not traditionally required an accounting of how the liquid and solid waste would be handled. In short, their focus has not typically been on health and the environment.'
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    MikeCrow
    I live in NE Ohio, there are 10's of thousands of gas wells, and there's not out break of pretty much anything. In fact most of them are on individuals property leased out to companies that manage the wells. I would have one if my property was large enough (I think it has to be larger than 10 or 20 acres).
    Never is a long time.
    I'm not intentionally trolling, not this time.

    The root issue is WHY does it matter what the public thinks. I never agreed that the community has sovereignity in the first place, nor over technical questions in the second place, nor that opinions should count, as opposed to muscles, hours spent, money invested, or knowledge learned. I never agreed that people were in the least little bit equal.

    To the extent I conveniently can, I ignore both official laws and unofficial public opinion as far as possible, and wish everyone would - then the idea that there is such a thing as a government wouyld either end, or it would be restricted to what government is compentent to do - whicjh is NOT to let people vote on practical issues.

    Gerhard Adam
    Talk about contradictions.  You promote the idea of people ignoring government and then correspondingly recommend that people not be included in the decision making process - just do as they're told.

    If that's not intentional trolling, then it's just goofy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Not goofy at all. No one should decoide, except one person at a time.