Fracking and Water Contamination

How can fracking contaminate our water? 

Gas wells are drilled thousands of feet below the surface, far beneath the water table.  How can toxic, radioactive fracking fluid and methane contaminate wells, springs, st5eams, rivers, and lakes?

This is one of the most common common sense questions that landowners ask and that representatives of gas companies raise. 

This page seeks to provide answers to that basic question. The explanations, however, are more complex than most laymen think.  

Skeptics often respond to evidence of contamination in Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Colorado — to mention only the most publicized examples — by assuring us that “it won’t happen here.”

They point out that New York isn’t Pennsylvania, even though that documented contamination (the towns of Dimock and Montrose, featured in the documentary GASLAND) is only a stone’s throw from the New York border.   They also doubt that spills, including spread of radioactive brine on roads, have an appreciable impact on the environment, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The following recent study is fundamental because it explains the different ways that contamination from fracking occurs.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009
  • Review

Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality

  1. R. D. Vidic1,*,
  2. S. L. Brantley2,
  3. J. M. Vandenbossche1,
  4. D. Yoxtheimer2,
  5. J. D. Abad1

+ Author Affiliations


  1. 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.

  2. 2Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

Background

Natural gas has recently emerged as a relatively clean energy source that offers the opportunity for a number of regions around the world to reduce their reliance on energy imports. It can also serve as a transition fuel that will allow for the shift from coal to renewable energy resources while helping to reduce the emissions of CO2, criteria pollutants, and mercury by the power sector. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing make the extraction of tightly bound natural gas from shale formations economically feasible. These technologies are not free from environmental risks, however, especially those related to regional water quality, such as gas migration, contaminant transport through induced and natural fractures, wastewater discharge, and accidental spills. The focus of this Review is on the current understanding of these environmental issues.

Graphic

Drilling multiple horizontal wells from a single well pad allows access to as much as 1 square mile of shale that is located more than a mile below. [Image courtesy of Range Resources Appalachia]

Advances

The most common problem with well construction is a faulty seal that is emplaced to prevent gas migration into shallow groundwater. The incidence rate of seal problems in unconventional gas wells is relatively low (1 to 3%), but there is a substantial controversy whether the methane detected in private groundwater wells in the area where drilling for unconventional gas is ongoing was caused by well drilling or natural processes. It is difficult to resolve this issue because many areas have long had sources of methane unrelated to hydraulic fracturing, and pre-drilling baseline data are often unavailable.

Water management for unconventional shale gas extraction is one of the key issues that will dominate environmental debate surrounding the gas industry. Reuse of produced water for hydraulic fracturing is currently addressing the concerns regarding the vast quantities of contaminants that are brought to the surface. As these well fields mature and the opportunities for wastewater reuse diminish, the need to find alternative management strategies for this wastewater will likely intensify.

Outlook

Improved understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants of concern and increased long-term monitoring and data dissemination will help effectively manage water-quality risks associated with unconventional gas industry today and in the future. Confidentiality requirements dictated by legal investigations combined with the expedited rate of development and the limited funding for research are major impediments to peer-reviewed research into environmental impacts. Now is the time to work on these environmental issues to avoid an adverse environmental legacy similar to that from abandoned coal mine discharges in Pennsylvania.

 

Study: Shale Gas Fracking Taints Rivers in Pennsylvania  (courtesy of Richard Averett, 5/8/13)

Though groundwater gets most of the attention, rivers are also affected by the rush of shale gas development across the United States , according to a new study that claims both wastewater and well development degrade water quality, but in different ways.

Study: Shale Gas Fracking Taints Rivers in Pennsylvania
THURSDAY, 21 MARCH 2013 10:43

 

Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale water pollution natural gas fracking hydrofracturing well pad wastewater chloride tss total suspended solid contamination

Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State University Outreach / Flickr Creative Commons
A well pad taps the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, which has seen a 10-fold increase in gas production since 2009. Wastewater associated with fracking in Pennsylvania has increased in tandem. Click image to enlarge.

By Brett Walton Circle of Blue

A study published last week in the Procedings of the National Academy of Science shows how two pollutants associated with shale gas — chloride and total suspended solids — enter rivers and streams.

“Surface water quality hasn’t really been the focus of the popular press or the scientific community.”

–Tom Barnard, water consultant

Used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped deep underground to break apart shale formations to release the natural gas trapped within the rock. There is concern that the chemicals used in fracking may contaminate groundwater and that the fracking process itself causes methane to seep into wells. Th U.S EPA is conducting a study to be released in 2014 regarding the effects of fracking on drinking water.

Typically, groundwater gets most of the attention in the fracking debate, but rivers are also affected by the rush of shale gas development across the United States, according to Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, which are responsible for the PNAS study.

Researchers looked at two pollutant sources:

  • the facilities that treat wastewater from gas development
  • the well pads from which drilling takes place

Wastewater Treatment and Chloride Connection

The team found that adding more treatment plants in a watershed increases chloride concentrations downstream, but it does not affect total suspended solids (TSS), a measure of sediment and small particles in water.

“I’d like to see the data broken down into two sets, before and after the regulation [that gas companies can not send wastewater to any Pennsylvania municipal facility]. Do these new approaches fix this problem?”

–Brian Rahm, researcher New York State Water Resources Institute  Cornell University

Chloride is found in flowback water, the liquid that spews out of a well after it has been hydraulically fractured to release natural gas. Between 10 percent and 70 percent of the millions of gallons of water that are pumped into the ground literally ‘flows back’ to the surface, along with naturally occurring heavy metals and salts that were picked up underground, in addition to the chemicals that were used in the fracking fluid.

Most of this wastewater is trucked to treatment plants, but chloride is difficult to remove with standard treatment technologies, especially those used at municipal facilities.

The PNAS study found that, on average, an additional 1.5 treatment plants in a watershed led to an increase in chloride levels by 10 percent downstream.

Well Pads and Total Suspended Solids

Well pads have a different effect. The study looked at the period in which land is cleared and the well is constructed — in other words, the time in which dirt is moved and when it could wash into rivers. Well pads, it turns out, do not increase chloride contamination, but they do raise TSS downstream. High TSS levels harm rivers by decreasing the amount of dissolved oxygen, raising water temperatures and blocking sunlight. They can also clog pipes and other infrastructure in the water.

The study found that adding 18 well pads in a watershed increases observed TSS concentrations by 5 percent.

Pennsylvania Regulations
In Pennsylvania, gas production  has increased roughly 10-fold since 2009, largely because of the Marcellus Shale Formation, the largest source of shale gas in the United States, which bends snakelike through the core of the Appalachian Mountains.
Wastewater associated with fracking in Pennsylvania has increased in tandem — permitted treatment facilities accepted 3,000 barrels of liquid waste in 2004 and 17.7 million barrels in 2011, according to last week’s PNAS study, citing statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
But in 2010, Pennsylvania announced new treatment standards for facilities accepting shale gas waste and banned waste shipments to municipal treatment plants, though some plants were grandfathered under the old standards.
Then, in 2011, PADEP requested that gas companies voluntarily not send wastewater to any municipal facility.
Now, essentially no fracking wastewater is being sent to municipal plants, according to Brian Rahm, a researcher at the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University. Which raises an important question: since those shipments have stopped, have chloride levels in rivers gone down? The PNAS study does not address this issue.
“I’d like to see the data broken down into two sets, before and after the regulation,” Rahm told Circle of Blue. “Do these new approaches fix this problem?”

The authors used more than 20,000 water quality observations in Pennsylvania between January 2000 and December 2011, a time period that extends well before deep shale gas development began in the state. They plotted the location of nearly 5,000 individual wells. But lead author Sheila Olmstead cautions that this study looks at average effects, not the contamination from any particular well.

“On average, we do see systematic effects across all watersheds,” Olmstead told Circle of Blue, adding that the results could help shape federal and state regulations.

The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, for example, exempts most construction activities for oil and gas development from the Clean Water Act.

“Maybe we need to rethink that, if the well sites are causing water quality problems downstream,” Olmstead said.

As if on cue, energy companies agreed on Wednesday to a set of voluntary standards for fracking operations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, the Associated Press  reports, New York is also included, but the state has so far banned fracking within its borders. The standards — to be overseen by an independent board — guide wastewater disposal, groundwater protection, and well design, among others.

Brian Rahm, a researcher at the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University, reviewed a draft copy of the PNAS paper. He told Circle of Blue that the study’s conclusions about sediment pollution are particularly important because of the pace of shale gas development: roughly 4,000 well pads — each the size of several football fields — have been built in Pennsylvania since 2008.

Rivers Neglected in the Shale Gas Debate

In the debate about groundwater contamination from methane and the media attention dedicated to the few salacious bursts of flammable well water,  Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams have received scant attention, Tom Barnard told Circle of Blue.

“Surface water quality hasn’t really been the focus of the popular press or the scientific community,” said Barnard, a water consultant and a part-time researcher with the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research at Wilkes University in northeastern Pennsylvania. “The focus is on the injection of chemicals in groundwater and then on air quality. Surface water comes third.”

A group of shale gas experts — surveyed by Resources for the Future as part of the same Sloan Foundation grant that funded the PNAS study — shared the opinion that surface water has been neglected.

“How do you trade off the benefits of shale gas with these effects on rivers?”

–Sheila Olmstead, lead author PNAS study, Resources for the Future

More than 200 representatives from government, industry, academia, and NGO groups were asked what areas deserve the most attention in order to reduce environmental and health risks from shale gas development. In the February 2013 report Pathways to Dialogue, 12 risk areas were cited most frequently and seven of those related to surface water quality. The only two risks unique to shale gas — in other words, not shared by conventional gas development — also involved surface water quality.

The results of the PNAS study can lead new research in many directions, Olmstead said. While the study identifies river pollution from shale gas, it does not assess the ecological effects of adding more chloride and sediment. Being an economist, Olmstead wants to look next at the monetary costs of water quality.

“How do you trade off the benefits of shale gas with these effects on rivers?” she asked.

Rahm, who studies water quality in the Marcellus Shale region, cited this pragmatic approach as one of the study’s strengths: public discussion about the effects of shale gas is rife with innuendo, and the research history is relatively short and dogged by conflicting numbers and agendas.

“This is the type of paper that develops a constructive dialogue,” he said. “It acknowledges that there will be some impacts for shale gas. But is this something we find acceptable?”

Author: Brett Walton Brett Walton is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.

 

Fracking Poses a Risk to Our Water Supply

By Crux Guest Blogger | May 17, 2013 11:01 am

by Richard Schiffman

The recent boom in fracking has turned America into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, almost overnight.

Proponents say that this burgeoning industry has ensured U.S. energy independence for years to come, and created a more climate-friendly alternative to dirtier-burning fuels like coal and gas. It has arguably also hastened the demise of the coal industry, as power plants switch in large numbers to the cheaper gas, resulting in U.S. CO2 emissions sinking to their lowest levels in nearly two decades. And with less smog-producing particulates and deadly mercury in the air, we can hope that respiratory illnesses like asthma may begin to decline.

But fracking poses its own risks. While our air has been getting cleaner, opponents argue that America’s water has been getting dirtier as the result of the hydraulic fracturing of shale. Fracking uses lots of water—up to seven million gallons for every well drilled—which is mixed together with sand and a witch’s brew of industrial chemicals, then blasted a mile into the earth to the shale formations where the natural gas is located. This high pressure stream shatters the rock and releases the gas, which geysers up to the surface to be recovered.

But what exactly happens to the water which is shot into the earth? A study published today in the journal Science says that we don’t entirely know the answer to this yet—and what we don’t know may harm us.

The missing half

What we do know is that about half of the fracking fluid gushes back up to the surface. “People focus on what exactly are the chemicals that we are putting into frack fluid,” said Radisav Vidic, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Pittsburg, in a Science podcast. “But a more significant problem is what comes out—because the quality of what comes out is many, many times worse than the quality of the water that was injected into the well.”

That’s because the frack water picks up contaminants underground—a variety of salts, benzene, heavy metals, organic compounds and radioactive substances such as radium-226, which is found in high levels in the Marcellus Shale formation that is being fracked from West Virginia to Pennsylvania.

The hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Courtesy EPA

Vidic says that disposing of this briny and highly contaminated water can be a problem. Either it is re-injected deep into wells in the earth where, theoretically, it remains for perpetuity; or it is purified in a waste treatment facility and then either recycled or discharged into a river.

If all of this goes smoothly, our water supply remains pristine. But the study warns that accidents can, and do, happen. In one well-publicized incident, improperly treated fracking fluids were discharged into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water for most of Pittsburgh, forcing 325,000 residents of the region to switch to bottled water for several weeks.

Another potential problem area is the roughly half of the water used in fracking which does not migrate back to the surface through the drilling shaft, but remains interred underground. Ideally, Vidic says, this contaminated water will never come in contact with the groundwater, which sits in the aquifer thousands of feet above it. But he adds that there is a lot that we still don’t know about how water moves underground.

A leaky system

Gas companies argue that the frack fluid is prevented from fouling the groundwater by the thick cap of bedrock which sits between it and the aquifer. However, the Pennsylvania researchers point out that geological formations are not watertight. There can be networks of fractures in the rock which permit toxic fracking fluids to flow back up towards the surface under certain circumstances.

Marcellus Shale underlies a U.S. East Coast region from New York to Virginia. Courtesy USGS

This flow underground might account for some of the reports of tainted water in wells near gas drilling sites. But there are also other ways that fracking fluids can get into our water; for example, through cracks in well casings, well blowouts, and surface spills from trucks or containment ponds. Anthony Ingraffea at Cornell University found that there was an 8.9 percent failure rate among wells in the Pennsylvania Marcellus region in 2012, and he predicts that leaks and other problems will become increasingly common as the wells age.

What kind of impacts might these leaks have? There have been numerous anecdotal reports of illnesses in people living near fracking wells, but not yet any long-term epidemiological studies. One stumbling block is that the chemical mix added to the fracking fluid is a mystery. Many of the scores of industrial chemicals being used are not currently regulated by the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, says the Science study, due to a loophole introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney which exempts natural gas drilling from certain provisions of the environmental law. Drillers have so far refused to reveal their formulas, claiming this is proprietary information.

But Vidic and his colleagues say that companies need to disclose the exact composition of the injection fluid—information which is critical for scientists and regulators in their efforts to ensure water quality. The researchers also point out that states including Pennsylvania are not yet consistently collecting the kinds of hard data about surface water and well water quality which would allow us to assess the impact that fracking is having.

Until this monitoring takes place, they argue, fracking’s effect on our water supply is anybody’s guess.

Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet and author of two books based in New York City.

 

 

 

If fracking enters the town of Oxford, skeptics say, you won’t be eating radioactive apples and using a geiger counter to test your maple syrup anytime soon.

So where does the truth lie? Will radioactive frack liquid seep into maple trees and contaminate syrup? Will apple cider from Upstate New York orchards be condemned by the EPA and FDA as toxic and inedible?  Or is that mere fear-mongering  by outside “Fracktivists”  who want to preserve a bygone way of  quaint rural life for their weekend and vacation homes?

 

Pennsylvania maintains a LIST OF THE HARMED, which has increased significantly with the recent inclusion of Amish families harmed by fracking: 

The list of harmed in PA now includes the Amish  has increased drastically within the last few months  see the  following :….http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/

 

 

Colorado ‘promotes’ natural-gas catastrophe that now threatens Colorado River

By Joel Dyer

Parachute Creek is now officially contaminated with cancer-causing benzene and heaven knows what else. A carcinogenic stew is now making its way quickly down the creek and presumably into the Colorado River a mere four miles away from the source of the contamination, a natural gas plant run by Williams, the international oil and gas company headquartered in Tulsa, Okla.

I’m outraged by what has happened, and everybody in this state should be as well. It didn’t have to happen. We could have stopped it. We just chose not to. State authorities, along with the company, have been watching this slow-motion catastrophe unfold for months, all the while taking one half-measure after another, supposedly in an effort to stop the benzene from reaching the creek. One can only assume that our state’s gas-friendly regulators have allowed Williams to use a half-assed approach full of half-measures because it was half as expensive as doing the right thing from the get-go.

This is, of course, just the latest example of why it is insane to have one government agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), charged with acting as both the oil and gas industry’s primary promoter as well as its supposed chief regulator. You’d have to be dumb enough to drink fracking fluid to think that such a conflicting arrangement could work with any efficiency when it comes to public safety and protecting the environment. Right, governor?

So how did the catastrophe at Parachute Creek occur, and how bad is it? It’s still hard to say exactly, because the story keeps changing, either because the parties involved are telling bald-faced lies or they are the most incompetent group of people to ever walk upright.

Even now, after the contamination in the slow-moving groundwater plume under Williams’ gas plant has been allowed to make its way all the way to the creek, the company and the state still aren’t being forthcoming about what exactly is in the water besides benzene. When it comes to hydrocarbon contamination, if there is benzene in groundwater, then there are almost certainly several other equally or even more dangerous contaminants along with it. But at this point, it’s unclear if the Williams contamination has even been tested for all of the potential contaminants it contains. I have to say, such secrecy is incredibly irresponsible, considering that Parachute Creek water is supposed to be used as part of the town of Parachute’s drinking-water supply. I guess the COGCC is wearing its promoter hat when it comes to making Williams tell us exactly what it has spilled into our water. Lord knows, we wouldn’t want the company to have to go to any additional expense.

And it’s not just the Parachute water supply that’s being affected. Cattle and horse operations downstream are using the water for their animals, and several farmers depend on the creek’s water for irrigation.

This is a big deal. I recently spent a few days with a fellow down by Walsenburg who had the misfortune of irrigating his crops with water contaminated by a gas company six years ago.

The land he irrigated is still dead and won’t even grow grass. As a result, he is on the verge of losing his fourth-generation farm and dairy.

Not mad yet? Let’s take a look at the timetable on this calamity and see if that pushes you over the edge.

On March 8 of this year, Williams called the COGCC and reported verbally that it had found some contaminated soil.

On March 15, Williams told the COGCC that it had found contaminated groundwater. Oil and gas companies are required to file a written report on a spill with the COGCC within a few days of any incident. The exception is very small spills.

On March 18, The Denver Post reported that Williams had dug a trench about 60 feet above Parachute Creek and was pumping out tens of thousands of gallons of contaminated groundwater. The company claimed that the creek was not in danger because its consultants said the creek charged the groundwater, as opposed to the groundwater moving into the creek. The COGCC also said this was the case.

Despite the claim that the groundwater was moving away from the creek instead of toward it, the company dug a new trench even closer to the creek and started pumping out contaminated water from that ditch as well.

In a story on March 28, The Denver Post reported that groundwater monitoring wells just 30 feet from the creek were detecting benzene at 3,600 times the safe level for drinking water.

Despite the claim that the groundwater was not moving toward the creek, a claim that the COGCC was still parroting as late as April 3, Williams then reportedly started drilling more monitoring wells just 10 feet from the creek.

So here’s the picture. Williams and the COGCC keep saying that the creek isn’t in danger because the groundwater moves away from, not towards the creek. All the while, the company keeps finding contaminated groundwater getting closer and closer to the creek — 60 feet, then 30 feet, then 10 feet.

Then, on April 10, Williams announces for the first time that it has determined the source of the contamination. On that day, The Denver Post reported, “A failed pressure gauge led to a leak that spilled 10,122 gallons of natural gas liquids from a valve, starting on Dec. 20, Williams spokesman Tom Droege said. Crews have cleaned up 5,964 gallons so far, Droege said. The leak was discovered and stopped on Jan. 3, he said.”

What? Suddenly, out of the blue, after claiming for months that it had no idea where the contamination was coming from, Williams figures out that it was a 10,122-gallon spill from a leak that began nearly five months earlier, in 2012, a leak that had been discovered and stopped on Jan. 3, more than two months before Williams reported finding contaminated soil to the COGCC? And if there was such a massive spill in December, why hadn’t Williams reported that spill in writing to the COGCC?

Wait for it … Williams says that at the time, it believed that the spill was only 42 gallons, and therefore so small it didn’t have to tell anyone.

That’s right, the company claims it did nothing wrong because it couldn’t tell the difference between a 10,000-gallon spill and a 42-gallon spill. In a painful irony, it was on Earth Day, April 22, that aerators were put in place along Parachute Creek to try to remove the benzene that had finally made its way into the creek downstream from the Williams spill. Nearly five months after the valve started leaking, and four months after the leak was stopped, and two months after contamination was reported to the COGCC, and weeks after one ditch and monitoring well after another kept getting closer and closer to the creek, and after months of assurances that the creek was not in danger and that the groundwater was miraculously moving away from the creek rather than towards it, the contamination finally flowed into Parachute Creek, a tributary of our Colorado River.

There was plenty of lead time on this spill for a groundwater recovery system to have been put into place along Parachute Creek. Such systems suck up and clean the groundwater before allowing it to enter surface water. It’s a common system that is being used in many contaminated locations, including the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the old Beech Aircraft facility just north of Boulder. But it’s not a half-measure, it’s not as cheap as what Williams was allowed to get away with, with the blessing of the COGCC.

As of today, Williams and the COGCC are still not making the list of chemicals in the contaminated plume, other than benzene, available to the public. As a result, Parachute Creek and the Colorado River can’t even be tested for what has been released.

This is the sad truth of what Gov. John Hickenlooper calls the state with the toughest oil and gas regulations in the nation.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

 

The controversies surrounding fracking and water have provoked some of the most intense debates and expressions of concern.  This page contains articles, interviews, videos, statistics and other facts about the impact of fracking on water, along with opinions and analyses of varied issues.

  • The series begins with a video of an interview with Dave Bohlander,a resident of Bradford County Pennsylvania, the heart of fracking.  FROM THE FRONTLINES presented this interview from Dave’s home in Wyalusing, PA.  Although he never signed a gas lease, the water wells on his wife’s 7th generation family farm were contaminated after the Slick Water Hydraulic Fracturing began. Mr. Bohlander discusses the major impacts that gas drilling in his area has had on his property, his water, and his quality of life. He then reflects on what he believes about the meaning of gas fracking on our liberty, individual rights, property rights, American values, politics, money, and the future of Pennsylvania and the nation itself.

More recent news:

From Colorado, where water contamination near Parachute, CO, threatens a major tributary to the Colorado River:

High Benzene Levels Found by Spill Near Parachute

by KREX News Room
by Jacklyn Thrapp

Story Created: Mar 29, 2013 at 7:36 AM MDT

Story Updated: Mar 29, 2013 at 7:36 AM MDT

PARACHUTE, Colo. (AP) – Samples taken from monitoring wells near an oil-like leak close to a Williams Midstream natural gas plant show high benzene levels near Parachute Creek.But Williams and state officials say there’s no evidence of contamination in Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said Thursday the wells showed benzene levels of 5,800 to 18,000 parts per billion. That’s far above the state health standard of 5 parts per billion.More monitoring wells will be drilled about 10 feet from the creek to get more details on groundwater impacts.Company workers looking for the source of the leak are focusing on a valve box for a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from the natural gas plant.

Comments: Morgan said yesterday at 3:56 AM

i posted a comment several days ago wondering why it has taken these jokers 3 weeks to even find the leak, what’s the priority here? and why, if you submit a post that is un-complimentary does it just disappear??

Wannabet? said yesterday at 8:12 PM

Wanna bet?!! Wait until reports come in that aren’t controlled by the COGCC or gas companies!! There is no way it isn’t contaminated!!!! Stay away from the cancer causing water!! Cancer rates have quadrupled in GJ, Rifle, and Silt since drilling started 10 years ago.

  • Oxford’s Dairy, Corn, Organic Farmers and Maple Syrup Producers

 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Draft Regulations Released November 29, 2012

The DEC permits a well pad 500 feet from a water well, domestic supply spring or water well or spring used as a water supply used for livestock or crops.

–Section 560.4

SETBACKS

*A well pad may be as close as 500 feet from a residential water well, domestic supply spring or water well or spring used as a water supply for livestock or crops; an inhabited dwelling or place of assembly; the boundary of a primary aquifer.

*A well pad may be as close as 2,000 feet from a public water supply, public water supply reservoir, natural lake or man-made impoundment.

These setbacks apply only to the well pads on the surface, not to the underground wellbores.  Horizontal drilling underneath both kinds of aquifers is allowed.  Drilling under lakes and rivers is also allowed.  The regulations do not require monitoring water wells for contamination.

–Section 560 560.4 Setbacks and Section 560.4(a)(1 and 3-5)

NO PROTECTIONS FOR SURFACE WATER

In the DEC’s revised regulations, there are virtually no protections of any kind for surface water.  Beef cattle and dairy cows typically obtain their water from surface sources: creeks, streams, ponds, and pasture run-off.  There are no setbacks for them. Nor for other free-range farm animals.  Nor for farms that water livestock or irrigate crops from creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds.

There are no setbacks for pastures, fields, vineyards, or orchards.  There are no setbacks for paddocks, feeding pens, chicken coops, stables, silos, greenhouses, milking parlors, or barns.  There are no setbacks for food processing activities, including slaughterhouses, cider houses, maple sugar shacks, sorting and packing buildings, canneries, creameries, granaries, wineries, breweries, mills, or warehouses where produce is chilled before shipping.

HORIZONTAL HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

The regulations do not prohibit drilling and fracking operations from occurring immediately adjacent to any of the above nor do they prohibit drilling and fracking from occurring UNDER any of the above.  Horizontal fracking operations send lateral wellbores that radiate out for a mile or more, like spokes on a giant subterranean bicycle wheel.

Pennsylvania, there’s an industrial revolution going on. Battalions of drilling rigs are boring into the earth to extract natural gas from an underground layer of shale called the Marcellus formation.
Rocks on the shore of the Lackawanna River in Duryea, Pa., are discolored by iron oxide and sulfur compounds — pollutants left behind by past coal mining in the state. Enlarge image

Rocks on the shore of the Lackawanna River in Duryea, Pa., are discolored by iron oxide and sulfur compounds — pollutants left behind by past coal mining in the state.
David Gilkey/NPR

And as the wells multiply all along the western end of the state, people worry they may be facing another toxic legacy.

The first one came from coal mining. All over the state, you can see bright orange rivers and streams. The aquatic life was killed by acidic runoff from abandoned mines.

“Are we really going to let this happen to Pennsylvania again?” asks David Yoxtheimer, a hydrologist at Penn State who grew up here. “Are we going to make sure that we have enough money and that these companies’ feet are held to the fire to make sure that once their operations are done, they put everything back together, tidy it up, and make it look like nothing happened there in the first place?”

Progress isn’t always pretty. In the natural gas boom, a lot of the ugliness has to do with water.

An Unexpected Nuisance

Drillers need billions of gallons of water. It’s their dynamite: They use it to split rock.

And they need trucks to move that water. Everywhere you drive in Pennsylvania’s gas country, you’re stuck behind a truck. You get mud all over your car. One-stoplight towns have traffic jams at noon.

Dan Lopata, who’s in charge of water for Chesapeake Energy, says trucks are a pain for everybody.
Science And The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers

Explore key components of the natural gas production process — and the questions scientists are asking.

“The transportation of all the fluids is probably our biggest expense, and that’s our highest exposure to the local community,” says Lopata. “That’s what they see driving up and down the road are the trucks.”

I asked Lopata if those trucks annoy local people. “I would say yes to that question,” he replied.

I visited a Chesapeake Energy well site in the northeast part of the state; it was half the size of a football field. Machinery and workers were everywhere, all surrounded by forest. Deer in the woods, and John Deere on the pad.

To get the natural gas out of the Marcellus layer of shale, engineers drill about a mile deep, then out horizontally through the shale layer. Explosive charges create cracks in the shale. Engineers then mix water with sand and chemicals. Big pumps drive this slurry down into the shale. The fluid is so highly pressurized that it opens the cracks wider and liberates gas.

What comes gushing up is called “flowback,” a bubbly mix that looks like muddy champagne. Chesapeake senior director Brian Grove points to the 12-foot-high steel well head that’s attached to several big hoses. That’s the plug at the opening of the well where gas will emerge. “It will come up through the well head,” he explains over the din. “We will then put it through a large-scale separator, which will send water in one direction into steel tanks to be recycled, and then the gas will go in the other direction.”

What To Do With Toxic Wastewater?

Flowback is nasty stuff. Grove explains that the water has been exposed to what once was a seabed. “When you expose fresh water to it, you absorb the salts. That is something you don’t want to spill on the surface.”

Besides salt, the water picks up minerals that had been buried in the rock, some of them toxic and some radioactive, like barium. And it still contains some of the chemicals that engineers add to the frack water, some of which are classified as toxic as well.
Map: Natural gas drilling (4:3)
interactive

Natural Gas: Conventional Drilling Areas And Shale Basins

This wastewater flows back up out of the well for about a month, but the well will continue to regurgitate a salty brine for years, which has to be collected and disposed of. How the industry handles this wastewater is a controversial issue.

For a while, the wastewater was dumped directly into rivers, untreated. Some drillers shipped it to municipal water treatment plants, which weren’t equipped to handle the toxic material in the waste. A current practice is to pump it temporarily into man-made, lined holding ponds. But some of those ponds have leaked. Trucks leaked wastewater as well. And there are the claims, most noticeably made in the HBO documentary Gasland, that backyard drinking water wells were being polluted by drilling.

Grove says the industry should have warned people about the kind of mess fracking can make. “I think the biggest mistake the industry made early on in Marcellus development was just remaining silent,” he told me. “I think the industry as a whole has, for 50 or 60 years, operated largely in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana. The folks that moved east were people that were not used to having to explain themselves; they were used to being understood.”

So, under a lot of public pressure, the state Department of Environmental Protection cracked down. Since 2008, the DEP has tightened rules for holding ponds where frack water is stored, to keep them from leaking. Another big change was to tell drillers to stop running frack water through public water treatment plants.

A New Model For Wastewater: Treat And Re-use

These rules helped create a new business: recycling frack water. Chesapeake Energy recycles its frack water itself, but other companies send their wastewater to recycling plants such as Eureka Resources in Williamsport, Pa.

Eureka is in an old brick factory next to the Susquehanna River. The first thing you see are water trucks pumping polluted frack water into tanks. I put on a hard hat and went in to talk with plant owner Dan Ertel about this new business.

“We saw an absolute lack of any water treatment businesses or companies here,” Ertel says. So in 2008 Eureka modified off-the-shelf technology and set up a factory to clean up the peculiar mix of gunk in frack water. The gunk is solid material like dirt, but also minerals like calcium, barium, sulfur compounds and others pollutants. They also remove any radioactive material that might have come from the shale.

Then drillers take the water — still too salty to go into rivers — and use it again to fracture shale at another well. What isn’t recycled goes to waste wells in Ohio or into holding ponds or steel tanks in Pennsylvania. The solid material left over is shipped to landfills, as regulated by state law.

Ertel says now that they can’t dump water in streams, more drillers are showing up on his doorstep. “Basically what we’re seeing is, we’re seeing a gradual, controlled but necessary crank-down of regulation,” he says.

Ertel says his company can also put frack water through a more rigorous process so it can go back into rivers. But that costs more. For now, about 90 percent of frack water is recycled in Pennsylvania and then re-used in fracking.

That’s an improvement. But that recycled water still requires more trucks to haul it around. Marty Muggleton says it’s time to fix the truck problem. Muggleton is vice president of TerrAqua Resource Management, another recycling company in Williamsport.

“Nobody likes them,” he says of the trucks. “And nobody likes to pay for them. The communities would like the least amount of truck traffic. The operators would like to allocate the least amount of money to support truck traffic.”

Muggleton’s company is designing centralized water treatment facilities closer to fracking sites, and pipelines that would replace water trucks.

Following The Frack Water

But no matter how it’s moved, it’s inevitable that water is going to get spilled. Since 2008, more than 5,000 new wells have been drilled in the state. Those wells have brought with them more than 700 violations of state law related to water, with fines totaling over $1.5 million. And spills tend to take place out of sight — at frack pads up in the woods, or at recycling plants. People worry about what they can’t see.
Andrew Gavin (left) of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission checks the readings from a device set up to monitor water quality at Gray’s Run stream, near Williamsport, Pa.

Andrew Gavin (left) of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission checks the readings from a device set up to monitor water quality at Gray’s Run stream, near Williamsport, Pa.
Maggie Starbard/NPR

So scientists are trying to see for them. One of them is a hydrologist, Andrew Gavin. He works for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the day I met up with him, he was at a very nice trout stream called Gray’s Run. It’s surrounded by forest — and a frack site. As we pulled on waders, Gavin explained what the commission was up to.

“What we’re doing in this monitoring project is really establishing what the general health is of the streams, so we can measure if there any changes in the quality of the water.”

Gavin and his team regularly take “grab samples” of stream water near fracking sites. The commission has also planted battery-powered monitors in over 50 streams. If something unusual gets in the stream, their computers in Harrisburg alert them. There are other groups in the state monitoring stream water around frack sites as well, employing both volunteers as well as scientists.

Over the past four years, the water used for fracking has won more protection. But scientists say they need to be vigilant. Frack water chemistry, for example, can be surprising. Water engineer Jeanne VanBriesen at Carnegie Mellon University points out that bromide in frack water behaved in an unexpected way when it went through public water treatment plants. It reacted with chlorine to create compounds that were potentially hazardous.

“We’re not omniscient,” she says of water scientists. “We can’t see everything, and sometimes there are downstream effects, particularly ones that involve the waste systems that interact with each other.”

VanBriesen also wonders about what happens to all the frack water that’s left underground. Pennsylvania is already a pin cushion. Oil and gas drilling has gone on for over a century here, long before fracking arrived.

“There are lots of holes in Pennsylvania,” she says. “Knowing where the old ones are is very important when you’re putting in a new one.”
George Jugovic Jr., who runs the environmental group PennFuture, says the location of a lot of those wells is unknown. “We have over 300,000 oil or gas wells that have been abandoned,” he says, “that are out there somewhere, that have not been properly plugged and that can serve as conduits for contamination to migrate up into existing groundwater.”

Brian Grove of Chesapeake argues that it’s unlikely that the water left behind in the Marcellus shale layer could ever contaminate groundwater — it would have to travel upward at least a mile through rock. But a study by the Ground Water Protection Council of fracking water in Texas and Ohio found that water used in drilling has in fact come back up through old, unplugged wells.

Yoxtheimer, the Penn State hydrologist, says fracking has been a “lightning rod” for the nation’s environmental movement. And he says Pennsylvania, like it or not, has been a case study for other states, like New York, that are weighing whether to allow hydraulic fracturing. “I think it’s been very interesting to watch the industry change its practices because of public pressure,” he says.

Pennsylvania’s government appears to be listening. There’s a new law that charges a fee for each well drilled. The fee is not as high as some wanted, but it should generate millions of dollars for Pennsylvania and the counties where drilling takes place. And the state has also raised the bond amount that companies must post to cover the costs of cleanup once they’ve left.

  • Connee RobertsonMarch 3, 2012 10:45 pm
    I live in Cleburne County, Arkansas.They have been fracking all over this county for a few years now..our wells have either run dry or gone bad. Animals have gotten sick… I lost a horse when they began fracking on the property that I have them on. I forced them to fence off the water pit they put in.They are ruining what was once one of the prettiest areas of the Ozarks and they want to frack under our lake here… where we get all of our drinking water from.This is a nightmare. I was the only one who stood up against them when they came into our county. Now, everyone wants them gone. Nightmare!! We had the best drinking water in the whole country at one time… not now.

 

EPA Fracking Study

As, you know, the EPA is studying the impacts of shale gas industrialization on water, or as they try to more narrowly define it, the impacts of fracking a well on groundwater.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/125784033/EPA-Fracking-Study

Which tends to overlook a lot of other negatives, including the effects over time. . .

http://blog.shaleshockmedia.org/2012/12/21/epa-wont-find-what-theyre-not-looking-for/

And it completely overlooks the impacts of shale gas industrialization on that stuff we breath – air. The EPA “study” is just what it says it is – the impact on groundwater and aquifers of the instantaneous moment of running the frack. And precious little else. Which is kind of like studying the mortality rate of choking to death on cigarette smoke while smoking. Wait a minute, it’s exactly like that. Wonder why that is ?  (Hint: watch The Sky is Pink by my spiritual advisor, The Josh)

Nevertheless, the EPA is taking input on the subject, so would not hesitate to send them some information, including copies of the papers listed below, deadline is April 30th. But why wait ? Dr. Shah is going to check up on them “in a few weeks.” Tell them what you think:

• Email: Send information by email to : ord.docket@epa.gov 

Attention Docket ID No. EPA– HQ–ORD–2010–0674. 

• Fax: Fax information to: (202) 566– 9744, Attention Docket ID No. EPA– HQ–ORD–2010–0674.

• Mail:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Docket Center, Mail Code: 28221T
1200 Constitution Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20460

Attention Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–ORD–2010– 0674.

Information on groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing: 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/65704543/Casing-Leaks

http://www.scribd.com/doc/65577477/How-Gas-Wells-Leak

http://www.scribd.com/doc/117395586/Fracking-Flowback-Brine

http://www.scribd.com/doc/80574646/Well-Failures

http://www.scribd.com/doc/76316348/Gas-Wellbore-Leaks

http://www.scribd.com/doc/88489724/Horizontal-Well-Leaks

http://www.scribd.com/doc/76174462/Schlumberger-Gas-Leak-Study

http://www.scribd.com/doc/97207776/Ground-Water-Impacts-of-Gas-Wells

http://www.scribd.com/doc/73405864/Anomaly-in-the-Duke-Methane-Study

http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123

New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Cann-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123 Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

A Cabot Oil and Gas hydraulic fracturing site on Jan. 17, 2012, in Springville, Pa. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, May 1, 2012, 2:29 p.m.

A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.

More than 5,000 wells were drilled in the Marcellus between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to the study, which was published in the journal Ground Water two weeks ago. Operators inject up to 4 million gallons of fluid, under more than 10,000 pounds of pressure, to drill and frack each well.

Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth’s underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry’s argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment.

But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”

“Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said the study’s author, Tom Myers, an independent hydrogeologist whose clients include the federal government and environmental groups.

“The Marcellus shale is being fracked into a very high permeability,” he said. “Fluids could move from most any injection process.”

The research for the study was paid for by Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Park Foundation, two upstate New York organizations that have opposed gas drilling and fracking in the Marcellus.

Much of the debate about the environmental risks of gas drilling has centered on the risk that spills could pollute surface water or that structural failures would cause wells to leak.

Though some scientists believed it was possible for fracking to contaminate underground water supplies, those risks have been considered secondary. The study in Ground Water is the first peer-reviewed research evaluating this possibility.

The study did not use sampling or case histories to assess contamination risks. Rather, it used software and computer modeling to predict how fracking fluids would move over time. The simulations sought to account for the natural fractures and faults in the underground rock formations and the effects of fracking.

The models predict that fracking will dramatically speed up the movement of chemicals injected into the ground. Fluids traveled distances within 100 years that would take tens of thousands of years under natural conditions. And when the models factored in the Marcellus’ natural faults and fractures, fluids could move 10 times as fast as that.

Where man-made fractures intersect with natural faults, or break out of the Marcellus layer into the stone layer above it, the study found, “contaminants could reach the surface areas in tens of years, or less.”

The study also concluded that the force that fracking exerts does not immediately let up when the process ends. It can take nearly a year to ease.

As a result, chemicals left underground are still being pushed away from the drill site long after drilling is finished. It can take five or six years before the natural balance of pressure in the underground system is fully restored, the study found.

Myers’ research focused exclusively on the Marcellus, but he said his findings may have broader relevance. Many regions where oil and gas is being drilled have more permeable underground environments than the one he analyzed, he said.

“One would have to say that the possible travel times for a similar thing in Arkansas or Northeast Texas is probably faster than what I’ve come up with,” Myers said.

Ground Water is the journal of the National Ground Water Association, a non-profit group that represents scientists, engineers and businesses in the groundwater industry.

Several scientists called Myers’ approach unsophisticated and said that the assumptions he used for his models didn’t reflect what they knew about the geology of the Marcellus Shale. If fluids could flow as quickly as Myers asserts, said Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University who has been a proponent of shale development, fracking wouldn’t be necessary to open up the gas deposits.

“This would be a huge fracture porosity,” Engelder said. “So I read this and I say, ‘Golly, does this guy really understand anything about what these shales look like?’ The concern then arises from using a model rather than observations.”

Myers likened the shale to a cracked window, saying that samples showing it didn’t contain fractures were small in size and were akin to only examining an intact section of glass, while a broader, scaled out view would capture the faults and fractures that could leak.

Both scientists agreed that direct evidence of fluid migration is needed, but little sampling has been done to analyze where fracking fluids go after being injected underground.

Myers says monitoring systems could be installed around gas well sites to measure for changes in water quality, a measure required for some gold mines, for example. Until that happens, Myers said, theoretical modeling has to substitute for hard data.

“We were trying to use the basic concepts of groundwater and hydrology and geology and say can this happen?” he said. “And that had basically never been done.”

 

  • Texas Study Finds Increase in Water Used for Fracking

by Kate Galbraith
January 15, 2013

A new University of Texas at Austin study has found that the amount of water used in the drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing has risen sharply in recent years as oil and natural gas production has surged.

But the 97-page study, funded by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, also found that the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing would level off sometime in the decade starting in 2020, as water recycling technologies matured and the industry’s rapid growth rate cooled.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a water-intensive practice in which liquids are pumped underground at high pressure to retrieve oil or gas trapped in rocks, like shale.

The Texas Water Development Board circulated the study last week to regional water planning groups around the state. Those groups are preparing the state’s next water plan, due out in 2017.

The study is an update to a 2011 study that was prepared by UT-Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology using funding from the Water Development Board. This study was also prepared by UT-Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology, but it was funded by the oil and gas association. It is considerably shorter than the earlier study (97 pages vs. 357 pages), but it is more narrowly focused on oil and gas. (The earlier report did further analysis of other water-intensive activities in the mining sector, like coal mining.)

Dan Hardin, the Water Development Board official who circulated the study to regional water-planning groups, said that the board had not funded the updated study because of financial constraints. “Because of our budgetary situation, we did not have the funds available to commit to it at the time,” he said. However, the board agreed with the methodology of the study, he said.

Jean-Philippe Nicot, a research scientist with the Bureau of Economic Geology who served as the lead author of the study, said that oil and gas association funding had not constrained his work. In fact, he said, it had resulted in better industry cooperation than the 2011 study, which he had also worked on.

“I must say, they let me do my work, no problem,” he said.

The new study (which cost $95,000, according to the oil and gas association) “doesn’t change the high-level picture” of the use of water for fracking, according to Nicot. It found that total water use for fracking in Texas rose by about 125 percent, from 36,000 acre-feet in 2008 to about 81,500 acre-feet in 2011. (For comparison, the city of Austin used about 107,000 acre-feet of water in 2011.), About one-fifth of the current total comes from recycled or brackish water, a category that has been growing.

“We are using more and more brackish water, and reuse or recycled water, and we think that is all positive,” said CJ Tredway, a consultant with the oil and gas association on water issues.

Nicot said that using brackish or recycled water was more expensive for the industry, but in some dry areas drillers had no choice.

In the Permian Basin, for example, “there is not much fresh water,” he said. “There is a lot of brackish water.” The study found that about one-third of the water used in fracking in the Midland area was brackish.

The total amount of water used in fracking in Texas is expected to level off in the 2020 decade at about 125,000 acre-feet, per year, the report states. Nicot predicted that water-recycling technologies pioneered in the Pennsylvania drilling area known as the Marcellus Shale would become more cost-effective and then make their way to Texas.

Oil and gas account for less than 1 percent of the state’s total water use, according to the report. Hardin of the Water Development Board agrees with that figure, though usage for the mining sector as a whole [which includes coal and other types of mining] is 1 percent to 2 percent, he said.

However, water use for fracking in drilling-intensive rural counties can be high. The 2011 study mentioned that in Dimmit, Webb and LaSalle counties — all in the Eagle Ford Shale — more than 50 percent of total water use comes from the broad category of mining. (Mining would mostly consist of hydraulic fracturing, in this instance.) The current study did not contain such estimates, though clearly water usage in heavily drilled counties remains significant.

Cyrus Reed, acting director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said that high water use by the oil and gas industry in West and South Texas remained a concern. He said he viewed the report as a useful planning document, but more study needed to be done.

“While Sierra Club believes this more accurate look at oil and gas water use, based in large part on actual water use from an industry database and interviews with individual companies, is a great first step, we continue to support a more robust requirement that the Railroad Commission [which regulates oil and gas in Texas] both collect and aggregate water use data for the regional water planning process,” he said in an email.

Nicot said that given the fast-changing nature of technology and the resurgence of drilling, he hoped to continue doing updated studies.

“I think we need to do an update fairly frequently, at least every other year, because the industry is evolving very fast,” he said.

DePasquale launches Marcellus water safety audit

    Jan 19, 2013 – As one of his first acts, new PA state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has launched a performance audit to determine how well state environmental officials have monitored the impact of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation on water quality and waste disposal. Mr. DePasquale, who took office Tuesday, sent a letter the next day to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer informing him of the audit covering activities from 2009 to 2012.Mr. DePasquale, a former DEP deputy secretary in the Rendell administration and Democratic House lawmaker, pledged to make this audit a priority during his campaign. He reaffirmed that goal in his inaugural address. “One of my first official duties as auditor general will be to initiate a performance audit of the Department of Environmental Protection to make sure our constitutional right to pure water is not compromised by natural gas drilling,” said Mr. DePasquale.

  •  Fracking Regulations RevisedJan 18, 2013 – The Interior Department will issue revised rules on the use of hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and gas on public lands, officials said Friday. The rules will replace a proposal released last May that was opposed by oil companies and state officials, who said they conflict with regulations in use on private lands and will add cost to drilling operations.Details of the revised proposal were not disclosed, but an Interior Department official said it would require disclosure of chemicals used in the process, control of methane emissions and careful management of drilling wastewater.
  • From Common Dreams: HOW GAS GIANTS SUBVERT THE LAW

    Ed Rendell Intervened For Oil Company to Stop EPA Contamination Case Against Range Resources

  • by Steve Horn

    A breaking investigation by EnergyWire appears to connect the dots between shadowy lobbying efforts by shale gas fracking company Range Resources, and the Obama EPA’s decision to shut down its high-profile lawsuit against Range for allegedly contaminating groundwater in Weatherford, TX.

    Ed Rendell

    At the center of the scandal sits former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the National Governors’ Association.

    Just weeks ago, the Associated Press (AP) broke news that the U.S. EPA shut down the high-profile Texas lawsuit and buried an accompanying scientific report obtained during the lawsuit’s discovery phase in March 2012.

    That confidential report, contracted out to hydrogeologist Geoffrey Thyne by the Obama EPA, concluded that methane found in the drinking water of a nearby resident could have originated from Range Resources’ nearby shale gas fracking operation.

    Range Resources – which admitted at an industry conference that it utilizes psychological warfare (PSYOPs) tactics on U.S. citizens – launched an aggressive defense against the EPA’s allegations that the company might be responsible for contaminating resident Steve Lipsky’s groundwater.

    AP explained in its investigation that resident Steve Lipsky, who has a wife and three young children, had “reported his family’s drinking water had begun ‘bubbling’ like champagne” and that his “well…contains so much methane that the…water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited.”

    In response, the Obama EPA ordered Range to halt fracking. Range was non-cooperative every step of he way, refusing to comply with the legal dictates of the discovery phase and not complying with the censored water sample study implicating the company with groundwater contamination.

    The new twist exposed by Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan  is that Ed Rendell, acting “as a spokesman for Range” Resources, “proposed certain terms” to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Exactly what was said remains unclear, but the EPA ultimately dropped its case against Range.

    Over a thousand pages of emails obtained by EnergyWire “offer behind-the-scenes insights in a case that has come to be seen as a major retreat by the agency amid aggressive industry push-back and support for natural gas drilling by President Obama.”

    Rendell: Range’s Chosen One or Rogue Lobbyist?

    The e-mails reveal  that Rendell intervened directly with Administrator Jackson at some point in 2011, presumably after his term as Pennsylvania’s governor came to a close on Jan 18, 2011. An EPA attorney’s email indicated that Rendell said he was there “as a spokesman for Range.”

    According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Rendell took almost $200,000 from the oil and gas industry in the run-up to his 2006 electoral victory and while governor, he described himself as the industry’s “best ally.” Upon completion of his gubernatorial stint, Rendell immediately fled to the private sector. He currently works both as an Operating Partner at Element Partners and as a Senior Advisor at Greenhill & Co., Inc.

    Element Partners describes itself as a firm that, among other things, provides “services to the energy, industrial, and environmental markets” and “capital for growth, acquisitions, shareholder liquidity, recapitalizations, and buyouts.” It provides investment capital for numerous oil and gas industry clients.

    Greenhill is a similar firm, describing itself as a “leading independent investment bank focused on providing financial advice on significant mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, financings and capital raisings to corporations, partnerships, institutions and governments.” Like Element, Greenhall also provides investment capital for numerous oil and gas corporations. Prior to the completion of Rendell’s final term as governor, three of his former aides abruptly left their jobs to work as shale gas industry lobbyists. Their names: Kenneth Scott Roy, Barbara Sexton, and Sarah Battisti.

    Sexton, Rendell’s former Executive Deputy Secretary of the PA Department Environmental Protection (DEP), transitioned into a gig working as a lobbyist for giant Chesapeake Energy [Ed Note: Chesapeake and Norse hold all of the leases in the Oxford, NY area]   Battisti, another of Rendell’s cadre of Deputy Chiefs-of-Staff, became a lobbyist for BG Group (British Gas).

    The third, K. Scott Roy, became a lobbyists for Range Resources as Vice President for Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs.

    Is Scott Roy the Bridge Between Ridge, Rendell, Range and MSC?

    In his Range Resources bio, K. Scott Roy describes his former position as Ed Rendell’s “top advisor.” His official title was Executive Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Governor.  He also serves on the executive board of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, ndustry’s aggressive lobbying arm in statehouses located within the Marcellus Shale basin. Prior to serving in the Rendell administration, Roy worked in the office of former PA Governor Tom Ridge, who went on to serve as “strategic advisor” to the Coalition in 2012.

    It is as yet unclear what role Scott Roy played as one of Range’s hired guns to fend off the EPA lawsuit. Might he have contacted his old boss Ed Rendell for help pressuring the Obama administration to lay off Range? It seems a reasonable question to ask.

    Range Denies Rendell Worked on its Behalf

    Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella (of PSYOPs revelation notoriety) denied any connection between the company and Rendell.

    “I don’t know the extent of the governor’s involvement in energy-related matters, but he never functioned as a spokesperson of Range,” Pitzarella stated.

    Given the ties that bind Rendell to Range, though, the words “plausible deniability” come to mind.

    Coming full circle, it’s important to remember the human side of this story. Lipsky’s family now pays $1,000 per month for water deliveries. Life for them has changed forever.

    “This has been total hell,” dLipsky told the AP.  “It’s been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life.”

    Determining the truth of what happened with the EPA’s failed investigation and lawsuit against Range Resources won’t change the Lipskys’ predicament, but it would go a long way towards identifying the grasp of the oil industry’s tentacles on Washington.

     

 

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