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|Tuesday, September 30, 2014|
STUDY: FRACKING DOESN’T CONTAMINATE DRINKING WATER, SHALE GAS WELLS DO
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined eight clusters of drinking water contamination (seven in Pennsylvania and one in the Barnett Shale in Texas) and determined that in each case the underground injection of fracking fluid was not responsible for the elevated levels of methane, ethane, and propane in the drinking water. Instead, the contamination was traced to problems with the construction of the gas wells themselves. These problems include defective cement jobs, defective steel casing, and in one case, well failure. Lead author Thomas Darrah of The Ohio State University characterized this finding as “relatively good news,” because improvements in well integrity could potentially reduce the number of contamination incidents.
But this raises an important question—does the industry know how to ensure the integrity of horizontally drilled shale gas wells? Maybe not. Another study (also published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), examined compliance reports for the tens of thousands of gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2012 and found that shale gas wells had cement and casing problems far more often than conventional wells. It “predicted cumulative hazards exceeding 40%.”
Another caveat: A single study of several water contamination clusters doesn’t prove that fracking per se never contaminates drinking water. In the areas of Pennsylvania and Texas that were studied, the fracked gas formations are more than a mile underground. In other parts of the country where there have also been water contamination incidents, fracking has occurred within just a few hundred feet of nearby water wells. For example, in Pavillion, Wyoming, fracking occurred within 1,000 feet of the surface near water wells that are over 750 feet deep. Stanford University’s Robert Jackson, coauthor of the water contamination study, told the Billings Gazette “Pavillion is a much more complicated place than where we looked at. The biggest difference is how near the surface the fracking occurred, and how close to people’s water it was.”
Read more about well integrity.
WHAT’S FRACKING? LOOK IT UP
The oil and gas industry has been using the term fracking for more than fifty years, but it has only recently found its way into dictionaries. In fact, it took Merriam-Webster until this month to include the word, along with hashtag and selfie. Fracking, of course, is the abbreviated form of hydraulic fracturing and is defined as “the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources (such as oil or natural gas).” Merriam-Webster doesn’t recognize the term as shorthand for the entire process of unconventional oil and gas extraction, which also includes wellpad construction, drilling etc. Words such as fractivist, which clearly connote opposition to all aspects of unconventional drilling, have not yet found their way into the dictionary.
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President Obama, it’s time to walk the walk on climate change—abandon your dangerous “all of the above” energy policy.
September 20 ~ Tens of thousands of fractivists were among the more than 400,000 marchers who descended on New York City to demand that world leaders take immediate action to address climate change. On the same day, the Global Carbon Initiative reported that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions climbed by 2.3 percent in 2013; U.S. emissions spiked by 2.9 percent.
In a speech before the United Nations the following Tuesday, President Obama noted that, “the climate is changing faster than our ability to address it,” and outlined “ambitious” plans to reduce carbon emissions—but he gave no indication that he is ready to abandon his ill-considered “all of the above” energy policy, which because it relies heavily on fracked gas is overloading the atmosphere with methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a heat-trapping potential that is up to eighty-six times more destructive than carbon dioxide.
…AND FRACKTIVISTS VOTE
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout made opposition to fracking central to her campaign, and fracktivists returned the favor. Anti-fracking volunteers played a major role in helping her carry more than half of New York’s upstate counties. In several counties with robust anti-fracking movements (Tompkins, Otsego, and Sullivan), Teachout trounced Cuomo by a more than two-to-one margin.
But while there’s no doubt that anti-frackers have emerged as a potent political force, there were also some sobering results. Incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo outpolled Teachout in Broome, Chemung, Steuben and Tioga Counties, four of the five Southern Tier counties that his administration has targeted for fracking. Republicans, who overwhelmingly support fracking, were not permitted to vote in the primary.
Quinnipiac Poll, August 14-17, 2014
“Some people say there should be drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale because of the economic benefits. Others say there should not be drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale because of the environmental impact. Which comes closer to your point of view?”
On the day of the record-setting Climate March, we lost one of our own—the indefatigable Hilary Acton, who has been a ubiquitous presence at virtually every hearing, screening, protest, and press event since the Northeast was first threatened by shale-gas extraction. Fracktivist Kelly Branigan spoke for many of us when she said “Hilary, in her quiet way, joined many of us together in this fight against fracking. ‘Have you met…?’ ‘Let me introduce you to….’ She would then step back and watch those connections grow and flourish, never seeking the limelight she so deserved. She drove many miles over the years, just to be wherever support was needed, or wherever she could help bring injustice to light. Her hugs were warm and her concern was real. We will miss her deeply.”
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