Fracking’s Future Attacked

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

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Past studies have been made by the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). The GWPC said “the potential for fracking deep shale natural gas and oil wells to impact groundwater is extremely remote.” Studies indicate that 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing technology.

A June 6 Wall Street Journal story said the increasing abundance of cheap natural gas, coupled with rising demand from China, “may have set the stage for a golden age of gas.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is the main sponsor of the Frac Act, as it has been termed. It would put fracking under the control of the EPA and remove the 2005 congressional exemption that prevents the EPA from regulating it. The legislation would also force drillers to reveal chemicals used in fracking. Pennsylvania already requires disclosure of chemicals. At the center of the debate is the 1974 federal Safe Drinking Water Act, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story reported.

The paper reported that the legislation “could amount to a massive disruption of the drilling industry,” according to a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. “It would be a potential shutdown of oil and gas production on shore in the United States,” he said.

A Texas law requires disclosure of the chemicals used in some wells. They ranged from benign compounds to some known and suspected carcinogens, including benzene and methanol. Thousands of gallons of such chemicals are used with millions of gallons of water. In Texas’s Barnett Shale, wastewater can be injected into impermeable rock 1.5 miles underground. In the more porous Marcellus region, some facilities in Pennsylvania are approved to treat the water. Many companies recycle the water to drill their next well.

Studies at Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research found that of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania, natural gas development consumes only 1.9 million gallons a day, compared with 770 million for industry.

An Oct. 12 article in Scientific American exposes how eager some EPA uber-environmentalists were to blame Marcellus shale drillers for a fish kill along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border. After a two-year study of the fish killing, the EPA charged a local coal mine with the fish deaths. But the lead EPA biologist on the case challenged that conclusion. Instead he fingered the effects of water from Marcellus shale drilling. A grand jury investigation cleared Marcellus fracking.

The documentary movie “Gasland” won an Academy Award a few years ago and spread a predictable hue and cry among environmentalists about the possibility of gas from underground wells escaping and starting fires. Gasland featured dramatic footage of gas-infused well water that can be ignited at a kitchen tap, though it was not found that this was the result of nearby shale gas drilling. Pockets of methane gas have been a phenomenon in shallow water wells in parts of Pennsylvania for decades.

Most shale gas fracking is conducted as far as 5,000 feet underground, thousands of feet below the aquifer and beneath impermeable rock layers that separate it from drinking water, as American Enterprise Institute senior scholar Steven F. Hayward has pointed out. The EPA says it has launched a major study of fracking, with initial findings projected for 2012 and a final report by 2014.

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  • theleastthreat

    The problems that come with this method of drilling can be overcome. The other way, which sends our troops to protect strategic assets so that imported oil arrives here, leaves a number of troops injured or killed. We can't overcome even one death. So I have to say, Frack away!

  • Herman Caintonette

    All energy production comes with some environmental cost; by way of example, wind turbines have been known to kill birds. The question is, what is the most cost-efficient way of doing so?

    A company in Colorado can produce gasoline from solar power and wood chips for an unsubsidized cost of $2/gallon.… I, for one, see no need to have a significant presence in the M.E. moving forward.

    It's not that I am against fracking but rather, maintain that we have to figure out a way to get the gas out of the ground that doesn't imperil the water supply. The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water, folks.

    • Western Canadian

      Wars in the 21st century will be fought over many things. Most of them will be due to the hatred and bigotry mandated in islam.

  • Mike

    One of the problems well owners have is knowing if/when their drinking water may become contaminated because of the fracking operation. It can take quite a while for any chemical seepage to reach the well water. That means you need to establish a water testing schedule to monitor the quality of your well water.

    • mrbean

      Show me a single case proven in court – not some environmntalists report.

      • sedoanman

        Once we get solar power humming merrily along and satisfying our energy needs, the Left will start complaining that, "Humans Using Up Too Much Sun".

        • ebonystone

          Unfortunately solar power will never satisfy much of our energy needs, It's too intermittent; solar panels produce their rated power only about 1/3 of the time. So for the other 2/3 we need steam plants — either nuclear or coal-fired. And since we have to have the steam plants anyway, why bother with solar at all? It's an unneeded and expensive extra.

          • Mr.Gates

            That's an interesting point. I haven't seen that one before. Very good!

  • mrbean

    Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is a proven technological advancement which allows producers to safely recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations. This technology has the potential to not only dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign fuel imports, but also to significantly reduce our national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate our transition to a carbon-light environment. Simply put, deep shale gas and oil formation development is critical to America's energy needs and economic renewal.

  • sedoanman

    The Left, who now call themselves "progressives", are really against any progress that leads to a better America, especially one with more freedom for Joe Average. If a perfect energy source were found [i.e., free and without causing pollution], the Left would find something to belly-ache about because its mission is all about making America lose.

  • theleastthreat

    Let's just get the gas out of the ground. The problems with fracking are not insurmountable.

  • Herman Caintonette

    I rather doubt that. The Left is every bit as pro-American (and, more pro-American jobs) as most conservatives are.

    • sedoanman

      Thirty years ago, liberals were touting natural gas automobiles that produced no pollution except "water and CO2, the gas that produces bubbles in soda pop."

      The Left's idea of patriotism is treason. Once again, they deliver exactly the opposite of what they say they will. They can't help it, because to implement their plans, they have to take away everyone's freedom, which they gladly will so as not to have to sacrifice their ideology.

  • Flipside

    Since the purpose of fracking is to get oil and gas out of the ground faster to improve the bottom line of companies and not to provide vast new amounts of fossil fuel to consumers at a new low price, it makes perfect sense to evaluate the environmental impacts using scientific findings of both industry and non-industry research. We can’t leave this up to just the oil industry and its PR groups like the American Enterprise Institute, because their interests are solely financial and political (corporatist). Mr. Trussell objects as strenuously to disclosure as he does to regulation, and that is just plain absurd.

    • Western Canadian

      Adding vast new amounts of fossil fuel to the market (such as it is) would in and of itself result in lower prices. Some background in economics would be something you should consider….

      • Flipside

        Ah, no it wouldn’t.

    • ebonystone

      I'd rather leave it up to the oil industry and the AEI than the U.S. government. The government has a pretty poor track record when it comes to honesty and integrity.

  • Flowerknife_us

    A Million Fracking wells and the enviromentalists can still only suggest there might be a problem?

    I cannot think of a better reason to hold up progress . Well maybe.

    If I go to work, I may get sick. So it is best I not go to work cause who wants to get sick?

    Just about the whole fracking summation on fracking.

  • steven l

    The "" industry has a long way to go to prove how safe and clean "F" is.
    No "F…ing" until overwhelming evidence are available. But if they r right, then I am all 4 it.
    Oil spill is enough! Most of it due to greed and incompetence. What don't U understand?

  • Avis de consommateur

    The problems with fracking are not so big, let's focus on something else..

  • Herman Caintonette

    Take a look at this video:

    Fresh water is the most precious substance on this planet. If drilling for natural gas compromises our water supply, the cost is too high. Fracking appears to cause this problem, industry denials (e.g., the tobacco companies' fraud) notwithstanding.

    Remember, pollution is a subsidy to producers; we all pay for it.

  • Herman Caintonette

    Unfortunately, the side-effects include ignitable tap water. Impermeable, my Coulter!

  • marc

    Uh, naturally occuring natural gas in the water table, unrelated to fracking.

  • Herman Caintonette

    I'm not dogmatic about fracking, as I would much rather use LNG than coal. But that having been said, I think it is incumbent upon the industry to prove that it is safe, as opposed to the other way around. Once an aquifer is compromised, it is gone for good.

  • ebonystone

    Well, the article points out that fracking has been used in thousands of wells. So, is there any real evidence that water supplies have been polluted in these cases? From all I've read, fracking has a very good track record in this matter.

  • ebonystone