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PostPosted: May 4th, 2012, 3:39 pm 
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Why go mix politics with science.

You do that every time you give someone permission to screw around with nature. Maybe we need to ask the right questions - and you, having a background in geology, might shed some light on how we are doing.

One concern for me is that we are massively pumping toxins into underground water reserves. Not just little leaks out of tanks that I can walk around within a minute, but engineered massive fluid injections that will force the resource out of the ground.

Q:
* have we ever done something like this on a similar scale, i.e. right across the continent and with such huge volumes?
* have we ever saturated such deep layers of the earth that we can claim we have experience what will happen?
* do we understand sufficiently how different underground water systems interact given enough time, like a few hundred years from now?

So, if you can convince me that we have done enough science to know what the impacts are over long time spans, I'd say we can let things play out without concern. If not, we should make every effort to stop commercial interests from rushing us along the fragging road....

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PostPosted: May 4th, 2012, 7:53 pm 
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Erhard, Fracking has been going on for over 50 years! It's not new technology, it's only a new environmental hot button issue. If you are so set against fracking why haven't you been campaigning against it for the last half century!!! Because you personally weren't aware it was happening? It's not like the petroleum industry was hiding it from the public. There may be evidence that a few folks drinking water have been impacted, but there is evidence that pipelines leak, and that tranoceanic tankers leak, and that refineries have leaks. All of these are huge catastrophic failures in the places we live, and gather our food, and grow our crops, not 10,000 feet down in the ground where the water is totally unpotable due to brine, and the petroleum itself. These hazardous substances have existed in the same formation that the hazardous fracking solutions are injected into for millions of years and haven't impacted the drinking water reservoirs thousands of feet stratigraphically seperate. There is no doubt in my mind that 100 times as many drinking water wells have been abandoned due to anthropogenic sources at the surface than will ever be impacted by fracking. I will bet my retirement account on that issue. Please talk your representatives into spending money dealing with these known environmental issues in your back yards, not on the potential impact that might be created two miles down in the earth!

As to the injections of fracking fluid. As I said before... they inject millions of gallons with a few hundred gallons of injection fluids. Far less than 1 percent of the material injected during fracking are hazardous. This isn't anything compared with the full strength toxic waste that we inject into deep injection wells by the millions of gallons.

The reality is that we all drive cars, virtually nobody exists totally without burning natural gas, we all use chemicals in your daily life (both knowingly and unbeknownst to us), we all buy plastics (royalex, kevlar, fiberglass, epoxy, nylon, Gore-tex, fleece) . So in my mind we are all liable for the insatiable need for petroleum as well as the generation of environmental wastes that we need to dispose of. We want all the wonderful things we have, but we don't want to implement practices that allow us to extract the basic building blocks for the items we want. I'm personally an environmentalist... I've spent my career cleaning up the environment. But the reality is that an environmentalist that takes advantage of modern life, but looks past all the other activities in life to call for an outright ban on a drilling method that virtually no lay person really understands, that has been regulated for years is pure hypocracy.

PK


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PostPosted: May 5th, 2012, 8:38 am 
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Idylwyld,

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The US has been "open-for-business" for some time, which is why we are talking about this. There is a glut in NG supplies (companies are scaling back because the price has fallen too low), and oil production is the highest it has been since beginning of Bush Admin.

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/12 ... 3-20120311

How much business does one country need ... clearly, this doesn't appear to be the solid path to GDP or job growth as one would expect...


The last sentence in the LA Times report states that the US consumes one-quarter of world oil production... this does suggest that there's a great deal of dependence on energy security for the well-being of Americans and the economy.

There's an interesting situation shaping up in America right now, with a reversal of fortune in energy supply and cost. The energy boom may turn out to have positive effects on domestic manufacturing, job creation and spending by Americans. It's worth pointing out that the recession during the seventies was coupled with an oil crisis. New technology in oil exploration solved that and new technology may come to revive the economy again.

On the green side of things, the NG abundance does have an almost certain effect at this time... it effectively ends the possibility of new coal plants and reduces coal use which most will agree are damaging.

How will the energy boom play out... it could eventually result in a transformation of America towards cleaner forms of energy and away from older more polluting ones. NG seems to be the most efficient backup to wind and solar, and if new technology is to power American growth (technological innovation has been the essential force powering economic growth, and it still continues to do that), the gradual shift to clean technology could provide a way.

(All this is old ground but maybe worth repeating as we watch this situation unfold.)

(Slowly, in fits and starts.)

:wink:

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PostPosted: May 5th, 2012, 7:31 pm 
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pknoerr wrote:
But the reality is that an environmentalist that takes advantage of modern life, but looks past all the other activities in life to call for an outright ban on a drilling method that virtually no lay person really understands, that has been regulated for years is pure hypocracy.

PK
PK … it seems to me you are taking these issues at a very personal level, and to be quite honest about it, I'm a little mystified. My approach is really not that complicated … and it has little to do with politics, wanting to give up on modern life, or any of the other motives you attribute to those who are ill informed (or who don't understand the independent science or engineering of the matter). I simply ask who is impacted by these developments (looking at first hand accounts from places such as Dimock, Allentown, Fort Lupton, Wetzel County, Jackson County, Garfield, DISH, or Pavillion), how would I feel if I had them in my back yard, and is there anything we can do to minimize the adverse impacts from developing these necessary resources (especially as concerns air emissions, groundwater contamination, treatment of waste, impact to local infrastructure and roads, costly remediation, workplace safety, etc.). And the answer is yes, most definitely, there is a lot that can be done, and the current regulatory structure is not serving local communities, the environment, or even the industry much -- when the backlash is so severe from mistakes and shortcuts that the industry makes on a regular basis, and is allowed to make when "best practices" are not followed.

To be even more honest about it, I really don't understand your false choice. Why must it be 1) best practices for the fracking industry or 2) improved fiberglass gasoline underground storage tanks? Why can't it be BOTH!! It seems to me this is a far more consistent environmental position to take … and the one that is more likely to be based on sound scientific assessments, and less on political expediency. And, in addition, what environmentalists are arguing, as you suggest, for an "outright ban" on the practice of fracking. If local jurisdictions want to decide on a moratorium on development, this seems like an entirely fair thing for them to do. It sounds like a straw-man argument to me. We know that the industry is currently being pushed to develop environmentally responsible recycling and waste water disposal facilities (at a significant cost to the industry) to deal with the very large volumes and unique nature of the waste produced by this practice. If we're all supposed to be focused on underground gasoline storage tanks in our back yards, where do you suppose the pressure for reforming the industry is supposed to come from, and why shouldn't they just continue to use municipal sewage treatment facilities (saving developers money, externalizing costs to local residents, and dumping contaminated effluent into area rivers from treatment facilities that were not designed to handle this waste in the first place … supposing we actually have a clue what is in the fracking water and produced water solution to begin with). Air emissions is another important issue (recently highlighted by new proposed rules at the EPA). And now we have earthquakes, and migration of fracking fluid through deep fissures in the ground (and closely spaced wells fracked 8 to a dozen times). Frankly, I find almost everything you have said to be indefensible … and to have very little to do with the independent science on the matter (water contamination studies), or the knowledge base within the industry as to what constitutes a best practice!

And to simplify the matter even further … if we can't walk and chew gum at the same time (if taking care of underground gasoline fiberglass storage tanks means we can't utilize best practices in the fracking industry), well, we have no business developing these resources in the first place. This is what I find to be hypocritical -- those who utilize these resources, but feel they have to take no ownership or responsibility for the environmental impacts. Everything we do has environmental impacts. The point is not to stop living or acting in the world, but to be informed and engaged in our actions, and through better understanding perhaps become more sustainable, cover the full cost of development (cost of regulation and more), and be more responsible in our everyday world.


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PostPosted: May 7th, 2012, 6:04 am 
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idylwyld, you've put too much spin on PK's posts, mis-reading his frustration. He was not offering a false dichotomy so much as commenting on relative risks. He specifically supports better regulation. In fact, his actual position, minus the frustration with the fad-ish "hot button" stuff, is pretty much the same as yours.


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PostPosted: May 7th, 2012, 8:12 am 
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Thanks Krusty! It's never been an issue of either implementing safe practices with fracking OR doing other environmental practices (ie: my reference to fiberglass tanks). Both need to occur, and both have been occuring in my mind for decades. We already have installed fiberglass as well as double-walled fiberglass for decades here in the US. My point was that the relative risks presented by fracking pale when compared with the simple storage of petroleum at the retailer at impacting drinking water supplies or the natural environment. Likely there are more drinking water wells impacted in Ontario (or Michigan, or Illinois, or California, New York) alone by retailer based gasoline impacts than by fracking in the entire world! I'm not saying that a few wells in oil/natural gas producing areas are not important, only that we worry about environmental specks in our eye to the expence of a So why is fracking such an issue? It's an issue because it has traction among environmentalists, not because it's the biggest environmental risk. It's pure politics... it's an issue that few people understand, and given the price of petroleum, it's one that environmentalists can involve alot of folks that know very little about how either water or contaminants move in the rock and unconsoldated sediments.

My point is that alot of money on both sides, as well as alot of time in DC and the state capitals is being spent on the issue of fracking (which is currently regulated). This is politics.... Fracking is regulated (plans are submitted, and reviewed by the State here in Michigan, and for the most part we know what is in fracking fluids (despite individual propriatary recipes).

I have no doubt that fracking will be attributed to the loss of some wells, but there are thousands of drinking waterwells across the continent that have been impacted by sources other than fracking. Do these wells have the same impact that the potential impacts associated with fracking have? Should fracking really be the environmental issue we spend all these resources on?

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PostPosted: May 7th, 2012, 2:06 pm 
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Krusty wrote:
He was not offering a false dichotomy so much as commenting on relative risks. He specifically supports better regulation.

You're mistaken. He called those of us who feel regulations are inadequate on hydro fracking "hypocrites," repeating "BS talking points," and motivated by "pure" politics. He described the industry as "safe" and well regulated.

pknoerr wrote:
My point is that alot of money on both sides, as well as alot of time in DC and the state capitals is being spent on the issue of fracking (which is currently regulated). This is politics.... Fracking is regulated (plans are submitted, and reviewed by the State here in Michigan, and for the most part we know what is in fracking fluids (despite individual propriatary recipes).

Yes, this is the issue … and you gloss over it like a Canadian Goose flying at 300 meters only thinking about clean nesting territories in the Canadian arctic, or a paddler recklessly approaching the next class IV rapid without scouting anything ahead. If worse comes to worst, there's always a life jacket around your neck, a thermostat back a home, and warming your hands by the soft glow of artificial logs and affordable natural gas combustion. If you would stop speaking in generalities and witticisms ("specks in our eye"), and clear away some of the political fog obscuring your view, you might start to see the turbulent waters that are fast approaching, or the wastes that lie beneath your wings (and the abundance of warning signs that independent scientists, engineers, regulators, and those with practical regulatory and environmental experience have put along your way … rooted in academic studies, historical assessments of the industry, accidents and regulatory failures, and more). If you could address these concerns (which I have referenced in detailed, peer reviewed, and independent scientific assessments throughout), and not general public attitudes (which you dismiss so easily as ignorant and misinformed), I would find that a refreshing change to what you have provided so far.

=======

Some numbers (the best we know them) may perhaps be useful!

You write the industry is properly regulated "despite individual proprietary recipes." This sounds somewhat ironic to me ... something akin to the "regulation of 'non-regulation'"? Let's look at this a little closer. "Hydraulically fracturing a typical Chesapeake Marcellus horizontal deep shale gas well requires an average of 5.5 million gallons per well."

http://www.chk.com/media/educational-li ... _sheet.pdf

According to industry, 98% of frack fluid is water and sand, the remaining 2% are additives (acids, anti-bacterial agents, breaker, clay stabilizer, corrosion inhibitor, crosslinker, friction reducer, gelling agent, iron control, pH adjusting agent, scale inhibitor, surfactant). That's 110,000 gallons of chemical additives per well (50 - 70% of which remain underground). At an estimated 13,000 new wells per year, thats 1.4 billion gallons of undisclosed additives pumped underground each year.

http://www.chk.com/media/educational-li ... _sheet.pdf

According to the Congressional Factual Record, the volume of proprietary compounds used in frack fluid, and not disclosed to regulators by the industry, is 12% (from 2005 - 2009). BTEX compounds make up a portion of this (benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene), as well as "29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act" (p. 1).

If 12% is a more accurate number (and we don't have a clue since there is no transparency on this matter), that's 8.5 billion gallons of undisclosed additives pumped underground each year (equal to the annual water supply for a city of 200,000 residents). Whether it's sending these contaminants into the ground or a 50% portion to your neighborhood sewage treatment for disposal in your local rivers … that's one heck of a regulatory loophole (wouldn't you say)?

http://democrats.energycommerce.house.g ... .18.11.pdf

I would be interested to know how you arrive at your "far less than 1%" figure above, and your "few hundred gallons" of injection fluids? MSDS reporting requirements for hazardous materials that are known carcinogens are 0.1% under OSHA guidelines, but exemptions exists when chemical constituents are identified as "trade secrets" (p. 5). At 12%, I hardly see the proprietary exemption for frack fluid as being at all transparent or adequately regulated (whether it's workplace safety, open air waste ponds near homes and drilling sites, disposal at sewage treatment plants, or injection into underground wells).

===========

Small steps towards reform:

Plainly stated, non-disclosure of dangerous chemicals is not a "best practice" in the industry, and every one knows it … except for the Canadian Goose flying over head, or the reckless paddler clinging to their lifejacket in a jumble of waves and eddies. The Obama Administration has been paddling upstream this whole time looking for a way around the turbulent waters, and it finally issued some draft rules (see draft rule, economic analysis, and appendices) for public and Indian lands three days ago:

Quote:
The Obama administration said Friday it will for the first time require companies drilling for oil and natural gas on public and Indian lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations …

The proposed "fracking" rules also set standards for proper construction of wells and wastewater disposal … The proposed rules will "modernize our management of well-stimulation activities, including hydraulic fracturing, to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices," he [Interior Secretary Salazar] said.

The new rules, which have been under consideration for a year and a half, were softened after industry groups expressed strong concerns about an initial proposal leaked earlier this year. The proposal would allow companies to file disclosure reports after drilling operations are completed, rather than before they begin, as initially proposed …

The rules would not affect drilling on private land, where the bulk of shale exploration is taking place … Still, Salazar said he hopes the new rules could be used as a model for state regulators.

Associated Press: "Interior Sets New Drilling Rules for 'fracking' on public and Indian lands" (May 5, 2012).

It's a start (and a paltry one at that), but canadian geese are still flying high, the "wild west" in fracking remains unchanged on private lands, and a sufficiently informed public are still getting scapegoated for yelling fire in crowded room, with science getting consumed by the flame, and developers sneaking out the back door with their profits and special interest loopholes (summary here) in hand.

===========

A long standing concern:

pknoerr wrote:
Fracking has been going on for over 50 years! It's not new technology, it's only a new environmental hot button issue. If you are so set against fracking why haven't you been campaigning against it for the last half century!!!

Incorrect, these issues have been well known and documented for some time (including public opposition to them)!

1987 EPA Report: "It states that hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, can cause groundwater contamination. It cites as an example a case in which hydraulic fracturing fluids contaminated a water well in West Virginia. The report also describes the difficulties that sealed court settlements created for investigators."

More information on report here:

Quote:
Dan Derkics, a 17-year veteran of the environmental agency who oversaw research for the report, said that hundreds of other cases of drinking water contamination were found, many of which looked from preliminary investigations to have been caused by hydraulic fracturing like the one from West Virginia. But they were unable to learn more about them.

“I can assure you that the Jackson County case was not unique,” said Mr. Derkics, who retired from the agency in 1994. “That is why the drinking water concerns are real.”

Needless to say, the American Petroleum Institute (who regularly outspends all environmental groups and all political PACs in advertising and lobbying) disputes the EPA's 1987 findings.


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PostPosted: May 12th, 2012, 8:18 am 
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Idylwyld, there may have been a report earlier that the EPA's fracking regs will be delayed two years (?), implying that there are complications and the situation needs more study than first thought.

In anticipation of the new hundred-year energy supply, President Obama forms a task force to coordinate development of natural gas reserves. Some easing of environmental regulations has been won by industry, described below. Most likely a politically motivated move intended to bring in campaign $$$ and votes, although the locally unpopular war on coal remains.

This is coupled with another story elsewhere, the interior secretary Salazar recently approving 3675 new natural gas wells on Wyoming's federal lands, being touted in the news as a win-win for both jobs and environment. The new EPA regs for drilling and fracking on federal lands will likely apply here.

Quote:
Obama Warms to Energy Industry by Supporting Natural Gas

By Mark Drajem - May 9, 2012 10:26 AM ET

...

For a president who has drawn withering criticism from the energy industry on issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to environmental restrictions on coal-fired power plants, the White House meeting -- and a series of decisions that followed - - illustrate his embrace of one fossil fuel.

While Obama put his initial emphasis as president on boosting solar panels and wind turbines, natural gas is now front and center even as skepticism about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is rising among Obama’s environmental allies such as the Sierra Club.

“They’re more responsive, and they’re listening more closely to our views,” Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute in Washington and one of the participants in that meeting, said in an interview. “The energy and economic reality is starting to sink in.”

Won Small Battles

At that April 13 meeting with trade groups representing companies including DuPont Co. (DD), Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), the Obama administration unveiled an interagency task force to coordinate the development of natural gas. And since then industry has won a series of small battles: officials downplayed reports of water pollution from fracking in Wyoming and Pennsylvania; they turned down a request by environmentalists to ban diesel in fracking; and they eased off on two gas-drilling regulations.

In response, Obama has gained two -- not three -- cheers from industry groups, and an issue that may be politically potent this year.

...

Fracking-Linked Pollution

At the same time, many local residents and activists complain that the process of hydraulic fracturing to free that gas has led to contamination of drinking wells, toxic wastewater seeping into streams and hazardous smog in the air.

The administration is tacking in response to the surprising boom in natural gas, which pollutes less than coal when burned in a power plant, while also trying to mitigate risks, officials say. Obama himself claimed in his State of the Union address this year that the U.S. has a century’s worth of natural gas reserves, and developing that gas could boost employment by 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

“We recognize that there is this important potential here, and we want to make sure we get it right,” Heather Zichal, the top White House aide on energy, said in an interview. Given the boom in production, “our thinking has truly evolved, both on the production and utilization side.”

...


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-0 ... l-gas.html

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PostPosted: May 12th, 2012, 11:26 am 
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Yes … a pretty good indication that this is not about "pure" politics, as some would suggest, but the power of a single industry to call the shots, distort the democratic process, minimize oversight of "best practices," and dole out favors to both sides of the political aisle. This is not a 100 year resource, but a short term hand-out to an industry that has few other places to turn. The Sierra Club no longer promotes natural gas as a "bridge fuel," but is a stern critic of the industry, and the regulatory loopholes that "ignore decades-old environmental protections, and disregard the health of entire communities … If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas."

Another reluctant convert, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., once a supporter of the industry (and the "bridge fuel" concept). He covers some of the same ground above in a recent opinion piece making the rounds on environmental blogs. It's worth noting, he knows a fair bit about lobbying power, de-regulatory reforms, and special interests in D.C. Among the issues he highlights:

    - Forced resignation of top EPA official ...

    - Campaign dollars flowing from "Petro Plutocracy" in post Citizen's United era ...

    - Delays in scientific study linking groundwater contamination to hydraulic fracturing (allowing industry to mitigate impact of report and prepare response) …

    - Repeal of key safety and disclosure provisions from Obama's newly proposed draft fracking rules on public and Indian lands …

    - Relentless pressure in form of budget cuts and even "death threats" to top officials and family members (and repealing their FBI protections) …

    - Well documented Energy Act 2005 exemptions from federal regulation and oversight making hydrofracking "an outlaw enterprise" …

    - Long list of criminal acts and enforcement violations: illegal dumping, substandard casing protocols, "filling streams to build roads, pipelines, and drill pads" …

    - Impacts of air and water pollution to human health, property values, workplace safety, underground aquifers, animals, and more …

    - Token and minimal enforcement actions and fines …

    - Undermining of democracy and public government …

Quote:
Several weeks ago, a two-year old-videotape surfaced showing Dr. Armendariz addressing a group of frightened and skeptical businessmen, civil leaders and property owners in Dish, Texas, a gas patch town familiar with government's anemic enforcement record against the oil barons. Dish's citizenry were terrified that reckless, dangerous and illegal practices by shale-gas fracking companies might jeopardize their community's property values, water supplies, jobs, local businesses and human health. Dish's Mayor, Calvin Tillman, who attended the meeting, had already moved his home away from the frack fields due to the daily nosebleeds afflicting his children ever since fracking operations commenced. Armenderiz assured Dish's shaken citizens that the EPA would enforce the law strictly in order to quickly bring industry outlaws into line …

In states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the fracking industry has flourished through habitual law breaking, including illegal dumping of horrendous toxins into public sewage treatment plants utterly unequipped to treat those poisons, using substandard casing protocols that regularly contaminate people's groundwater with carcinogenic benzene and explosive methane, and illegally filling streams to build roads, pipelines and drill pads. These species of habitual lawbreakers require the protection of crooked politicians and captive agencies to insulate criminal companies from the consequences of their illegal behavior. Oil companies are experts at using campaign contributions to purchase this class of government cooperation …

Last year, Exxon contributed $54 million to the political process. The gravities of this lucre are irresistible to politicians of a certain stripe. Exxon's record quarterly profits of $104 million per day will allow that company to dramatically increase its political investments. More importantly, the Supreme Court's Citizens United case removes all the past restrictions that once deterred Big Oil from employing these enormous profits to completely dominate America's political system. As a result of that court ruling, the oil barons will pick the winners and losers in America's upcoming elections at every level -- in secret if they desire …

And in case you think these are just sentimental environmentalists who don't know much about their field, let's look at the recent scientific literature in this area. In particular, a Duke University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing" (May 17, 2011).

Peer reviewed, study looks at drinking water wells from a 175 km region in NE Pennsylvania (and a few samples from neighboring New York). What they found: "we document systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale-gas extraction. In active gas-extraction areas (one or more gas wells within 1 km), average and maximum methane concentrations in drinking-water wells increased with proximity to the nearest gas well and were 19.2 and 64 mg CH4 L-1 (n = 26), a potential explosion hazard [emphasis added]; in contrast, dissolved methane samples in neighboring nonextraction sites (no gas wells within 1 km) within similar geologic formations and hydrogeologic regimes averaged only 1.1 mg L-1 (P < 0.05; n = 34)."

Local papers called this "Strong Evidence" (here, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere). Opposition to findings was equally strong, forcing Duke researchers to release a FAQ defending their research. Perhaps a single graphic tells the story best, and with many well samples exceeding "Action Level for Hazard Mitigation" by the US Department of Interior.

Image

I could go on … but it doesn't seem to make any difference. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, and examples of drinking water contamination fully documented by EPA (over a 30 year period), and independent researchers (modeling migration of underground contaminants or looking at dissolved methane and other contaminants in drinking water wells), we still have proponents of the industry spouting lies, claiming "there has not been a single documented instance of groundwater contamination of subsurface formations from hydraulic fracturing" (Richard Ranger, policy advisor to American Petroleum Institute), and defending state regulation of industry and regulatory loopholes that "ignore decades-old environmental protections."

If proponents really believed their rhetoric, and that the industry is not causing unnecessary air and water quality risks from regulatory loopholes and non-standard industry practices and short-cuts, then why not regulate the industry better at the Federal level? What is there to lose? This is not about politics or "BS talking points," but an industry that does not want to take responsibility for it's environmental impacts, and who believes buying influence in DC and writing it's own rules is better for it's bottom line than adhering to thoroughly documented and peer generated "best" practices and industry standards, and protecting public interests via fully independent oversight and regulation.

So what's the deal with Michigan, then? A land rush is taking place, and voided contracts pitting "billionaire against billionaire" (here and here) highlights the stakes that are involved, and the slim margins limiting better environmental choices in shale gas plays. And how is Michigan choosing to respond, you guessed it … exemptions from Michigan's water withdrawal laws (lots of waivers, and not required to register withdrawals), minimizing well density setbacks (proposed at 640 acres, currently set at 80), non-disclosure of proprietary chemicals, streamlined permitting, pressure on EPA to stay out of the way (page 18 Michigan Frack Report), reduced application fees, and excluding informed public participation from permitting decisions (see letter from local State environment and watershed councils). All local bills to reform Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) exemptions (here and here) are currently road blocked in Committee (where good bills go to die in Michigan).


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PostPosted: May 23rd, 2012, 8:52 am 
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The EPA announces that drinking water at Dinock, Pennesylvania, a town made famous by the anti-fracking film Gasland, is safe to drink. In the film, residents claimed that fracking impaired water quality, and were shown setting fire to water releasing flammable methane.

The drillers operating in the area maintain that methane existed in the drinking water before fracking began, according to records from the 1790s. Town residents OTOH, claim that fracking has affected water, notwithstanding the EPA's statement.



Quote:
Water safe in town made famous by fracking-EPA


Fri May 11, 2012 6:11pm EDT


By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency said drinking water is safe to consume in a
small Pennsylvania town that has attracted national attention
after residents complained about hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, for natural gas.

The EPA has tested water at 61 homes in Dimock,
Pennsylvania, where residents have complained since 2009 of
cloudy, foul-smelling water after Cabot Oil & Gas Corp
drilled for gas nearby.

"This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants
that would give EPA reason to take further action," Roy Seneca,
a spokesman for the regional EPA office, said about the final
set of data released Friday. The agency released data for only
59 of the homes as they could not contact residents at two of
them.

Dimock became ground zero for the debate about fracking
after Josh Fox, the director of Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary
called "Gasland," visited the town and met residents who feared
their water was contaminated by the drilling.

Techniques including fracking have revolutionized the U.S.
natural gas industry by giving companies access to vast new
reserves that could supply the country's demand for 100 years,
according to the industry.

Environmental and health groups, however, say that some
fracking operations near homes and schools pollute land and
water.

The agency found one well in the last batch of data that
contained methane, a main component of natural gas.

Seneca would not say what the agency thought the source of
that methane was, but said the agency will conduct a review of
the data.

Residents have complained that methane could be from
fracking, but industry groups say methane can occur naturally in
wells in energy-rich areas.

Claire Sandberg, the executive director for Water Defense,
an anti-fracking group, said methane, which was also found in
the previous EPA results, was dangerous to people with heart and
lung problems.

The EPA will re-sample four wells where previous Cabot and
state data showed levels of contaminants, but where EPA's first
round of testing did not find levels that would require action,
Seneca said.

Over the course of the EPA tests that have been released
since mid-March, contaminants were found in some wells. But the
EPA said those levels were safe. In the first set of tests, for
example, six of 11 homes showed concentrations of sodium,
methane, chromium or bacteria. Arsenic was also found at two
homes, but, again, levels were deemed safe.

"Safe levels have not been established for numerous
chemicals that were found in the test samples, although many can
cause serious health ailments," said Sandberg.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said any contaminants found in
the tests "are more likely indicative of naturally occurring
background levels or other unrelated activities."

Another three Dimock homeowners had wanted their water to be
sampled by the EPA but they have not scheduled a time for the
testing.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/ ... ZL20120511

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PostPosted: May 23rd, 2012, 4:32 pm 
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frozentripper wrote:
The EPA announces that drinking water at Dinock, Pennesylvania, a town made famous by the anti-fracking film Gasland, is safe to drink.

Well … as some might expect, it's not quite as straightforward as this. Apparently, EPA thinks methane in your well poses no drinking water hazard (although one person's well blew up in the area, which initially gave rise to contamination concerns). And as Sandberg points out above, and others have highlighted below, contamination is present in many of the samples (which have no safe "action level" in EPA drinking water guidelines).

The partial study actually shows a surprising result ("excluded" in the press release on drinking water safety). Methane in the test samples (4 out of 5 samples exceeded Pennsylvania standards) also included ethane (indicating "deeply buried gas deposits"). To the EPA, however, "Methane [dissolved in ground water] is not considered poisonous to drink, and therefore is not a health threat in the same way as other pollutants." Concerning other contaminants (anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzo(a)pyrene, chromium, metals, chlorides, salts, bromide, strontium, and more) … some resemble substances used in "diesel fuel or roofing tar," but it is " unclear whether these contaminants have any connection to drilling activities near Dimock."

ProPublica reports EPA results have confused local residents (who were shown levels that exceed Pennsylvania State thresholds), a chemist at SUNY Oneonta (who reports study is too preliminary), and an earth sciences professor at Cornell (who highlights inconsistent statements by EPA in report). You can take from it what you will.

=========================
=========================

Image

Looking at something a little different: the environmental implications of silica sand mining for the fracking industry, which has received little attention to date. And much of this is happening right in my back yard … NW Wisconsin where some of my favorite childhood trout streams and canoeing rivers are located. Ellen Cantarow, a Boston-based journalist, has a particularly well written and compelling environmental overview of the industry. Save the Hills Alliance is an advocacy group (formerly "Concerned Chippewa Citizens") attempting to bring greater awareness to the issue. For 2011, 15 million metric tons of sand were mined and refined in rural Wisconsin.

Quote:
How Rural America Got Fracked: The Environmental Nightmare You Know Nothing About
May 20, 2012

“It's huge,” said a U.S. Geological Survey mineral commodity specialist in 2009. “I've never seen anything like it, the growth. It makes my head spin." That year, from all U.S. sources, frac-sand producers used or sold over 6.5 million metric tons of sand -- about what the Great Pyramid of Giza weighs. Last month, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Senior Manager and Special Projects Coordinator Tom Woletz said corporations were hauling at least 15 million metric tons a year from the state’s hills …

Those hills are gigantic sponges, absorbing water, filtering it, and providing the region’s aquifer with the purest water imaginable. According to Lausted (video), sand mining takes its toll on “air quality, water quality and quantity. Recreational aspects of the community are damaged. Property values [are lowered.] But the big thing is, you’re removing the hills that you can’t replace. They’re a huge water manufacturing factory that Mother Nature gave us, and they’re gone.”

It’s impossible to grasp the scope of the devastation from the road, but aerial videos and photographs reveal vast, bleak sandy wastelands punctuated with waste ponds and industrial installations where Wisconsin hills once stood …

The Gregars’ land is now surrounded on three sides by an unsightly panorama of mining preparations. Unimin is uprooting trees, gouging out topsoil, and tearing down the nearby hills. “It looks like a disaster zone, like a bomb went off,” Jamie tells me …

Like many Wisconsin towns where a culture of diehard individualism sees zoning as an assault on personal freedom, Greenfield and all its municipalities, including Tunnel City, are unzoned. This allowed the corporation to make deals with individual landowners. For the 8.5 acres where Letha Webster and her husband Gene lived for 56 years, assessed in 2010 at $147,500, Unimin paid $330,000. Overall, between late May and July 2011, it paid $5.3 million for 436 acres with a market value of about $1.1 million.

There was no time for public education about the potential negative possibilities of frac-sand mining: the destruction of the hills, the decline in property values, the danger of silicosis (once considered a strictly occupational lung disease) from blowing silica dust, contamination of ground water from the chemicals used in the processing plants, the blaze of lights all night long, noise from hundreds of train cars, houses shaken by blasting. Ron Koshoshek, a leading environmentalist who works with Wisconsin’s powerful Towns Association to educate townships about the industry, says that “frac-sand mining will virtually end all residential development in rural townships.” The result will be “a large-scale net loss of tax dollars to towns, increasing taxes for those who remain.”

[and more …]


The Price of Sand: A Documentary about Silica Mines, Small Towns, and Money (due to appear August 2012).

=========================
=========================

And lastly, the Ohio Senate passed a new bill to regulate the fracking industry a few days ago, and the NRDC provides an analysis of the bill on their blog. The bill is said to be the toughest in the US, so it is probably worth a closer look. Here are the highlights from their summary (with links to local news stories on the relevant issues):

1) Chemical Disclosure:

- No disclosure of chemicals until 60 days after the well is completed (here).
- "Senate bill gives companies the primary say over what is and isn't a trade secret" rather than Ohio DNR (here).
- Controversial "gag order" on doctors who treat patients "injured by exposure to drilling and fracking chemicals" (here).

2) Citizens' Right to Appeal:

- Prohibition of the ability of citizens, local governments, and businesses to appeal state-issued drilling permits (here).

3) Requiring Industry Best Practices:

- New rules fall short on requiring industry best practices in two primary areas: 1) depth of surface casing below drinking water aquifer (half what is considered best practice), 2) formation integrity tests are not mandatory (highlighting any problems with gas migration, drilling fluid contamination, casing, and cementing concerns).

I am sure there will be more to follow, perhaps only after environmental problems develop from the above loopholes, exemptions, and cost cutting short-cuts to industry standards and best-practices (which in this instance were those recommended by the American Petroleum Institute).

That's all ... which is plenty for me!


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PostPosted: May 24th, 2012, 7:22 am 
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Idylwyld, the EPA may well be biased since there may be political interests at work in the O&G industry along with the need for national energy security. Also big bucks at stake on both sides likely creating bias... the drillers see juicy profits in exploiting the resources and the town residents likely sense juicy settlements from lawsuits... ambulance chasers are probably making money as well.

Wrt to naturally-occurring sand proppants (not the more efficient industrial-grade ceramic proppants used by some drillers when fracking)...

Quote:
...from all U.S. sources, frac-sand producers used or sold over 6.5 million metric tons of sand...


In 1996, the volumes of sand, gravel and crushed rock produced by the aggregate industry from all U.S. sources totalled 2.3 billion tons, several orders of magnitude higher. Roading, construction, shoreworks and all the rest create far more impact across the landscape.

Fracking & impacts make for hot news right now, OTOH IMO there's far greater damage being done by something like roadbuilding and road maintenance, which has been going on for much longer over larger land areas, and is seen by most as necessary everyday activity (there's probably some parallel here with the need for energy security across the nation & drilling, but I've got to get to work which means driving on roads and burning fuel).

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PostPosted: June 14th, 2012, 2:00 pm 
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IEA looks at best practices in shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, and makes it's recommendations. MIT Tech Review (here) summarizes the main report (here).

IEA highlights serious and legitimate concerns in several areas: water use, contamination, wastewater practices, cementing, well design, air pollution, hazardous chemicals, workplace safety, and more. "The IEA says the contaminated water is most likely the result of producers building substandard natural-gas wells, which are lined with metal casings and cement to keep the natural gas from contaminating aquifers. But in some cases, producers have done a poor job of cementing, allowing channels for natural gas to form … That problem could be solved by cementing properly and then carefully monitoring the well's integrity."

New technology may also be needed to make fracking safer (and meet potential GHG emissions targets) … such as solvents to weaken shale and reduce the amount of pressure needed for fracking. There are also alternatives to water, use of foams, better handling of chemicals, technology to minimize methane leakage, banning fracking at shallow sites near drinking water, and more. Specifically, report highlights the need for better regulations: "Implementing these technologies will likely require regulation … If done right, those regulations could drive innovation by creating a market for new technologies." IEA recommends emissions caps "that give companies flexibility to choose the best technology," prescriptive and performance based technology requirements, measuring and monitoring transparency, fully independent oversight and evaluation criteria, and more.

"The IEA estimates that the measures needed to make fracking safer would add about 7 percent to the cost of an average well" (with larger projects benefiting from economies of scale).

Not too high a price to pay (if you ask me)!

Quote:
The technologies and know-how exist for unconventional gas to be produced in a way that satisfactorily meets these challenges, but a continuous drive from governments and industry to improve performance is required if public confidence is to be maintained or earned. The industry needs to commit to apply the highest practicable environmental and social standards at all stages of the development process. Governments need to devise appropriate regulatory regimes, based on sound science and high-quality data, with sufficient compliance staff and guaranteed public access to information. Although there is a range of other factors that will affect the development of unconventional gas resources, varying between different countries, our judgement is that there is a critical link between the way that governments and industry respond to these social and environmental challenges and the prospects for unconventional gas production.

p. 9 (emphasis in original)

Among IEA recommendations:

"Ensure a consistently high level of environmental performance:

    - Ensure that anticipated levels of unconventional gas output are matched by commensurate resources and political backing for robust regulatory regimes at the appropriate levels, sufficient permitting and compliance staff, and reliable public information.

    - Find an appropriate balance in policy-making between prescriptive regulation and performance-based regulation in order to guarantee high operational standards while also promoting innovation and technological improvement.

    - Ensure that emergency response plans are robust and match the scale of risk.

    - Pursue continuous improvement of regulations and operating practices.

    - Recognise the case for independent evaluation and verification of environmental performance.

p. 14


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PostPosted: June 15th, 2012, 8:39 am 
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A news report earlier on (I didn't save it) identified poorly-financed drillers operating on thin profit margins being most responsible for polluting water and air when fracking.... the larger, cash-rich drillers were more likely to carry out preventative measures adequately. There should be oversight to ensure that the dollars are available to drill and frack safely.

There have been five smog advisories here in Southern Ontario this year and summer hasn't even started yet. The EPA needs to keep the pressure on coal plants to convert to natural gas... there's something unsettling about canoeing in smoggy air.

Quote:
Smog advisories less frequent, but still dangerous

James Armstrong, Global News
Monday, June 11, 2012 5:05 PM




TORONTO - Smog advisories are still deadly despite the fact that they have become less frequent in the last few years.

Despite the reduced smog, the pollution can still wreak havoc on a person’s health, accounting for thousands of deaths a year, according to experts.

Much of southern Ontario has been under a smog advisory since Sunday when the warm weather swept into the Greater Toronto Area.

...



The decreased demand in electricity generation in both Ontario and the U.S. has contributed to smog advisories becoming less frequent since 2007/2008, according to Gabrielle Kalapos, a representative of the Clean Air Partnership.

“The phasing out of coal-fired power plants in Ontario has been a significant improvement,” said Kalapos. “Any reduction in coal-fired power plants is going to have a real positive impact on improving air quality.”

Environmental policy and regulation in both Canada and the U.S. has also been successful in contributing to cleaner air, according to Miriam Diamond.

Health Effects

Smog can also have a tremendously adverse affect on a person’s health, and some startling figures from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and Toronto Public Health show thousands of deaths a year stemming from chemicals involved in pollution.

According to a 1998 report from the OMA, roughly 900 people a year die from particulate matter – one component of air pollution.

Research done for Toronto Public Health contends that roughly 1,700 premature deaths a year in the GTA are associated with six common pollutants that create smog.

...


http://www.globaltoronto.com/smog+advis ... story.html

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PostPosted: August 1st, 2012, 9:04 am 
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Fracking without water... still early days, only 1300 wells fracked this way so far... results seem to have some benefits.

In other news, the EPA has begun charging drillers that fail to disclose composition of their water-based fracking fluids.


Quote:
A New Way To Fracture Oil and Gas Wells

By Brian Westenhaus

Tue, 31 July 2012 22:21



GASFRAC of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has developed an innovative closed stimulation process and injection method, utilizing gelled LPG rather than water based conventional formation fracturing fluids.

The firm has developed a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or propane based gel that is as natural to a well as soil is to the earth. It dissolves into the formation hydrocarbons improving performance without using water.

...

... the gel regains permeability with the stimulated hydrocarbons, with the ability to recover 100% of the fracturing fluids within days of stimulation. This creates economic and environmental benefits reducing clean-up, waste disposal and pre and post-job truck traffic, while creating higher initial production levels. It is a true win for producers and a win for the environment.

The technology isn’t yet fully proven. Still the firm has fracked over 1,300 wells in Canada and the US. The method was originally designed to improve the performance of low-pressure wells and has impressed those within the environmental arena.

The Vancouver Sun reports GASFRAC charges a 50 percent premium in comparison to traditional fracking companies. But there would be significant savings in water use, truck traffic (as much as 75% less), and easier site cleanups. Apart from logistical gains, the article also referred to the rise in well production as “spectacular.” Reports from the Cardium formation, which is west of Edmonton, displayed that the LPG fracking results are “two to three times better” at increasing the flow of oil and gas in comparison to traditional methods.

...


http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-Gener ... Wells.html

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