FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
The following questions represent the most frequent inquiries that Oxford Visionaries encounter from individuals, Oxford residents, interested environmental groups, and community-based activists. Certain complex responses answering questions about factual matters, such as research findings and explanations about such matters as air quality and compulsory integration represent a consensus of the Oxford Visionaries Steering Committee.
What is fracking?
The gas industry now drills for gas by penetraing fresh water aquifers and tracts of land such as farms to creating fractures in shale to gain access to gas. Fracking fluid — millions of gallons of water combined with hundreds of tons of chemicals — are pumped under high pressure. Waste byproducts, many of which are carcinogens, heavy metals, volatile compounds, and radioactive minerals, erupt along with methane. There is no way to carry out this process safely. The result is serious threat to health and the environment.
What is the main problem that the industry has been unable to solve?
The problem is that cement well casings fail. Failure cannot be prevented in known percentages of wells from the very beginning, progressing over time to the point where a majority of casings fail — resulting in major, widespread, permanent contamination. Once the ground and water are contaminated, it is impossible to restore them to a healthful condition.
Why can’t the water be treated and restored?
The chemicals used are not biodegradable, and there is no treatment capable of removing the contaminating chemicals. The drilling companies use three methods of disposing this highly toxic wastewater: re-injecting it into wells, re-fracking; spraying it into the air, polluting air and increasing ozone; and dumping it into streams and rivers, contaminating food supplies, air and water indefinitely — for thousands of years. (See a concrete explanation in the video interview of a former Pennsylvania gas worker turned whistleblower — the “Breaking News” page)
Why does the government permit this to occur?
The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydrofracking from key provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and Superfund Act. All of these laws were designed to protect us from contamination by such industrial processes as fracking. Regulation is therefore the responsibility of the states.
How much money do the gas companies pay landowners for leasing rights?
We hear of gas companies paying landowners varied prices per acre for the mineral rights for hydrofracking operations. Locally in Chenango County NY we’ve seen figures ranging from as low as $20 per acre to thousands of dollars per acre.
What do these gas and oil companies typically pay per acre?
The payments vary widely for an upfront bonus for leased acreage to produce shale gas. $7.50 per acre, $100 per acre, $1,500 per acre, and most commonly these days in SW Pennsylvania, $3,000 per acre. In fact, we are realizing as these leaseholds change hands with multi-national corporations is they are worth much much more. A December 19, 2012 article about Norway’s STATOIL ASA purchase of more Marcellus acreage, the average price per acre was $8428.50.
How much do workers for gas drilling companies earn?
Typical Range: $30,000-$101,000
Operating heavy equipment is just one aspect that makes this job dangerous. Well drillers also work long hours in remote locations, setting up and monitoring the drilling process. Workers are rewarded for their sacrifices with typically high earnings.
Is the mission of the Oxford Visionaries simply to ban hydrofracked gas drilling (fracking) in the Village and Town of Oxford?
No. The mission of the Visionaries is much broader than to prohibit fracking in Oxford The mission entails development and implementation of a comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure a high quality of life, including a healthful environment, for all residents of Oxford.
Is there a clear, reliable, brief summary of the hydrofracking process and the main controversial issues surrounding the process?
Yes — read all about it right here — an up-to-date summary from Grist online newsletter:
“Fracking”: It sounds more like a comic-book exclamation (kapow! boom! frack!) than a controversial method for extracting natural gas and oil from rock deep underground. By turns demonized as a catastrophic environmental threat and glorified as a therapy for our foreign oil addiction, fracking has become a flashpoint in our national energy policy.
First developed in the 1940s, fracking — literally, “hydraulic fracturing,” or “smashing rock open with lots of water” — only began to boom around 2005, but today, it’s used in nine out of every 10 natural gas wells in the U.S. As many as 35,000 wells are fracked each year [PDF], according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And shale gas (often fracked) now accounts for 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production, up from virtually nil a few years ago.
Scientists assure us that fracking can be done safely — at least in theory. They are still working to understand the long-term implications of using this technology at large scale in the real world, however, where things spill, accidents happen, and people have their health, homes, schools, airports, groundwater, and even cemeteries to worry about.
We know scientists aren’t the only ones looking for answers. So below, we tackle six key questions about fracking.
1. How does fracking work?
Hydraulic fracturing involves cracking rock formations by pumping fluid into wells at high pressure, forcing oil or gas out of the rock. It’s also known as hydrofracking and fracing, and, most commonly, fracking (not to be confused with the colorful suggestions of autocorrect programs, “franking” or “freaking”).
Done right, fracking can squeeze natural gas from layers of rock that would otherwise be too difficult or costly to exploit. Often this rock is a very tight, clay-rich, sedimentary mud stone known as shale — for example, the Marcellus Shale formation in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland; the Bakken Shale in North Dakota; and the Barnett Shale in Texas. Drillers also use fracking to release gas from fine-grained sands known as tight sands, and to free methane from coal beds.
It takes more than a garden hose to get this job done. Frackers pump up to 4 million gallons [PDF] of fluid as far as 10,000 feet below ground at up to 4,200 gallons per minute. The pressurized fluid creates tiny cracks, or fissures, in the shale around a borehole far below ground level. Gas flows out of the rock and up to the surface.
The wells’ L shape, enabled by advances in “horizontal drilling” over the last decade, makes it possible to tap many small pockets of gas scattered across wide, thin rock layers. Horizontal drilling, combined with fracking, makes it worthwhile for companies to tap gas stores that just wouldn’t have been economical a few years back. And none too soon, since we’ve already harvested [PDF] much of the low-hanging fruit (read: the big, easily tapped gas deposits).
2. What’s in that fluid?
There are three basic ingredients in fracking fluids:
- Water: An Olympic-size swimming pool holds about 660,000 gallons of water, and a single fracking well can use seven or eight times that amount. Energy companies often buy water from farmers, lease surplus water from municipalities, or buy treated wastewater.
- Sand: Grains of sand, acting as “proppants,” keep cracks in the shale open so gas can flow out of the rock and up the well. In place of sand, some drillers use ceramic pellets or other particles.
- Chemicals: A chemical cocktail of “additives,” in industry speak, helps to dissolve minerals, reduce friction, prevent corrosion, thicken the fluid (so it can transport the sand), clean out debris, prevent clay from swelling, and fight bacteria, among other jobs.
At various stages, the list of chemical ingredients may include hydrochloric acid, petroleum distillates, ammonium persulfate, calcium chloride, boric acid, citric acid, borate salts, and many more additives. Exposure to high amounts of some common frack-fluid chemicals, like ethylene glycol (a key antifreeze ingredient), have been linked to serious health problems, such as kidney, heart, and nervous-system damage. Others, like sodium chloride (table salt) and guar gum (a common food thickener derived from beans) are generally benign.
3. Do those chemicals get into drinking water?
Maybe you’ve seen this startling scene from the Oscar-nominated film GasLand:
As it turns out, the faucet here was spewing naturally occurring methane, which is difficult to attribute to fracking in a direct, conclusive way. Nonetheless, people’s concern that fracking can taint our drinking water with unsavory and possibly dangerous elements is not unfounded.
A study published in May 2011 in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between methane in drinking water supplies and proximity to shale gas drilling. Seven months later, the EPA said for the first time that chemicals used in fracking had been found in drinking water in Pavillion, Wyo., home to hundreds of natural gas wells. And in July 2012, the U.S. EPA said its tests of wells around Dimock, Penn., had revealed barium, arsenic, or manganese at levels high enough to present health concerns in the water supplies of five households.
Remember, fracking involves millions of gallons of fluid for each well. That fluid must be transported via pipelines or trucks and stored in tanks or ponds prior to injection into the well. There are lots of opportunities for spillage (of the wastewater, as well as fracking chemicals like hydrochloric acid). Shoddy well casings can allow gas to leak out of the well and into water aquifers. Equipment failures and well blowouts can send wastewater flowing into nearby creeks.
Anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of the original fluid volume [PDF] doesn’t come back out of the well right away. It remains “stranded” underground for years. The wastewater that does bubble to the surface, which can now contain salts, minerals, and low-level radioactive materials leached out of the soil and rock, must be recycled or disposed of. Most frequently, this water is injected back into the earth, though it is sometimes pumped to ill-equipped municipal sewage plants — which can be bad news for rivers. (The EPA is now working on standards for shale gas wastewater treatment and disposal.)
4. Does fracking cause earthquakes?
It can. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), fracking “causes small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern.”
Of course, residents near fracking sites may have a different standard for “concern.” Just ask around Lancashire, in the U.K., where two small earthquakes registering 2.3 and 1.4 on the Richter scale in 2011 have been linked to fracking. According to the International Energy Agency [PDF], fractures in this instance just so happened “to intersect, and reactivate, an existing fault.”
Re-injecting wastewater into fracking wells can also cause earthquakes that are “large enough to be felt and may cause damage,” according to the USGS. Scientists have fingered wastewater injection as the culprit behind quakes last Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (magnitude 2.7 and 4.0, respectively) in Youngstown, Ohio, which didn’t used to be earthquake country.
5. Is there an environmental upside to fracking?
Perhaps. Fracking helped produce so much natural gas that a supply glut drove gas prices down to a 10-year low in the winter of 2011-2012, according to the EIA, and that has made it more competitive with other fuels. That’s good news if you consider that natural gas does burn cleaner than either coal or oil. It produces less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and less sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain and an air pollutant linked to respiratory problems including asthma and emphysema. In fact, when lower gas prices made the fuel more competitive with coal for electricity this year, it helped the U.S. reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions.
But when you look at the whole natural gas package, from production through use and waste disposal, it’s clear that natural gas exacts a steep environmental toll — particularly when it’s fracked. In addition to the amount of water involved, and the huge quantities of chemical-containing wastewater, there is air pollution from heavy machinery at the drill sites and hydrocarbons released by the wells, which scientists are just beginning to investigate.
In Garfield County, Colo., preliminary research out of the Colorado School of Public Health suggests residents living within half a mile of natural gas drilling sites are exposed to higher levels of air pollutants, including benzene and xylene, than folks living farther way.
Other studies suggest that if methane, a principal component of natural gas, leaks during drilling, transport, or fueling, it can cancel out the greenhouse gas emission benefits of burning natural gas instead of gasoline in cars. It doesn’t take much, because methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
6. Can anything be done to stop the fracking boom?
Internationally, fracking has encountered stiff opposition over water pollution and other environmental concerns. Bulgaria and France have banned the practice, the United Kingdom and Romania have suspended it, and still more countries in Europe are considering the moratorium route. South Africa slammed the brakes on shale gas exploration in 2011, but it lifted its moratorium on fracking in September 2012.
Here in the States, the practice has met resistance on the local level from groups concerned about possible (and still poorly understood) consequences for health, rural landscapes, ecosystems, and the final resting places of veterans. New York residents living near the northern border of the Marcellus Shale and within the Utica Shale region have been especially vocal in opposing fracking. More than 130 municipalities in New York State have enacted moratoriums or banned fracking outright. Pittsburgh banned natural gas drilling in 2010, becoming the first city in shale gas-rich Pennsylvania to do so.
So far, however, the winners in this fight are those who benefit from squeezing cash — er, gas — from shale. That includes not only energy producers but also landowners who lease surface or mineral rights and state and local governments that make millions in tax revenue. The boom has also made a good talking point for politicians touting their contributions to national energy independence. And it’s one more sign that we’re hell bent on getting every ounce of fossil fuel the earth has to offer, never mind the long-term risks.
How did tiny Oxford come to make its big decision to prohibit fracking?
See our separate page describing the history and future of Oxford’s community-wide efforts. go to www.oxfordvisionaries.org/how-oxford-village-board-amended-its-zoning-law-to-prohibit-fracking or go to the Web Page with that title to read the full story of how we did it!
What is New York’s “Compulsory Integration” law?
The short explanation is that if the DEC issues a drilling permit, the law stipulates that the landowner may create a 640-acre “spacing unit” for the gas well, measuring a square mile–about the size of the Village of Oxford itself. If 60% of that unit consists of the land leased to a gas company, then the 40% remaining mineral rights can be claimed from adjoining land, whether that owner likes it or not. As a letter to the editor of the Norwich Evening Sun explained, the neighbor, who may strenuously object to fracking itself, must comply and, in effect, become a business partner of the neighbor who leased his land.
The lengthier, detailed answer from the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which assumes a positive attitude toward gas drilling, adopts the view (see “Law Lesson” in the official explanation below) that the State is protecting rights to compensation of the neighbor who did not sign a lease. The DEC discussion below addresses the basic question of how compulsory integration is implemented if a landowner did not sign any gas leases and may actually oppose drilling:
Landowner Option Guide
Following is the text of the Division of Mineral Resources’ brochure titled “Landowner’s Guide to Compulsory Integration Options.”
What happens if I don’t lease my oil and gas rights, but my acreage is assigned to a well?
Effective August 2, 2005, an applicant for a permit to drill an oil or gas well in New York State must include, in the permit application, a map showing the area that will be assigned to the well. This area, called a spacing unit, may include some or all of your acreage even if you haven’t signed an oil and gas lease.
After the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues a well permit, you will be required to elect an option for how your unleased acreage in the spacing unit will be integrated with other properties in the unit. Your election will be finalized by issuance of a compulsory integration order after a public hearing. This process consolidates control and management of well operations with the well operator who holds the permit from DEC. If you have leased your oil and gas rights to someone else, then you are not required to make an election; your lessee will make the decision if necessary.
Each option presents different risks and potential rewards. The option you select may subject you to certain costs and obligations, and there is no guarantee that a well will make money. You should carefully consider all the implications of your decision. If no permit is issued, then your acreage will not be affected.
What to Expect
If DEC issues a well permit based on a spacing unit that includes your unleased tract, the following is what you should expect to happen before the hearing:
- DEC will assign a hearing date when the permit is issued.
- At least 30 days before the hearing, the well operator will send a notice directly to you. It will include the following:
- Date, time and place of hearing
- Proportion of your acreage to total acreage in spacing unit
- Estimated well costs, including plugging costs
- Election form for choosing your integration option
- Draft integration order
- You will have 21 days after receiving the form to make your election.
- If you elect to be an “Integrated Participating Owner,” payment for your share of the estimated well costs is due to the well operator by the hearing date.
After you receive the hearing notice and before the integration hearing, you still may enter into a lease or other private agreement regarding development of your oil and gas rights. If you establish an agreement with someone other than the well operator, you should provide the notice package to that person or company immediately.
Compulsory integration hearings are held in Albany, New York, on a regular schedule.
Compulsory Integration Options
If your acreage remains unleased but it is in a spacing unit, you must choose one of the following:
- Integration as a royalty owner
- Integration as a non-participating owner
- Integration as a participating owner
In most cases, you will be making this choice before the well is drilled and before you know whether the well will be a success that pays for itself, a marginal producer that never pays for itself, or a dry hole. Even if a well initially produces hydrocarbons, it is impossible to know in advance whether it will continue to produce for many years or for a very short time, such as a month or less. It is certain that the amount of oil or gas a well produces will decrease over time. The rate of decrease is another factor that cannot be predicted.
Integration as a Royalty Owner
Costs – If you elect this option, you are not liable for any charges or fees associated with well operation. A dry hole costs you nothing. This is the default option if you do not make a selection.
Compensation – If the well produces, the well operator will begin paying you a royalty shortly after production starts. The royalty will be no less than one-eighth of the revenue received by the well operator for the share of production attributable to your acreage. An integration order is not a “forced lease” and will not award you a signing bonus.
Integration as a Non-Participating Owner
Costs – If you elect this option, you will have the same responsibilities as a Participating Owner, but you do not risk your own money by paying your share of costs up front. A dry hole costs you nothing.
Compensation – You will not receive any compensation from the well operator, not even a royalty, until the well operator has, through the sale of your share of production, recovered your share of the costs plus a “risk penalty” of 200% of your share of costs, for a total of 300%. This means that the well must pay for itself three times before you are compensated. After the well pays for itself three times, or if you buy out of the risk-penalty phase by making a payment, you will receive your share of production and be treated as a Participating Owner.
- If you have leased to someone other than the well operator, then your lessee may owe you a royalty during the risk-penalty phase. This is determined by your lease, and the well operator has no obligation to you.
- If your lessee elects to be integrated as a non-participating owner, then the well operator must make royalty payments to your lessee during the risk penalty phase. These payments will be on a graduated scale from 1/16 up to 1/8, based on the percentage of the lessee’s costs that have been recovered through sale of production.
Integration as a Participating Owner
Costs – If you elect this option, you must pay your share of estimated well costs by the time of the integration hearing. This money will not be refunded if the well is a dry hole or does not pay for itself.
Compensation– You will receive your full share of production. However, the well operator will have a lien on your share of production to pay any outstanding amounts that you owe.
Responsibilities of Integrated Participating and Non-Participating Owners
A decision to be integrated as a participating or non-participating owner subjects you to obligations that do not enter the picture if you elect to be integrated as a royalty owner. Some of the additional considerations are as follows:
Actual well costs. The actual cost to drill or plug the well may exceed the estimate that was provided before the hearing. You will be held liable for your share of the additional costs.
Completion and operating costs. If the well is successful, it will cost money to complete and operate. You will be liable for your share of these costs for the life of the well.
Gathering line costs. If the well is a producer, the well operator will provide you with the estimated costs to install a gathering line to bring the gas to market. You will have the option of paying your share up front or having your share plus 100% withheld from your share of production proceeds.
Subsequent operations. The law defines certain operations in the spacing unit, including additional work on the existing well or drilling of another well, when you again must decide to either pay up front or be subject to a risk penalty. Subsequent operations may cost as much as or more than the original drilling.
Other liabilities. As an integrated participating or non-participating owner, you are liable for your proportionate share of taxes and third-party claims related to drilling and operation of the well.
DEC’s integration order will not give the well operator the right to enter your property.
Sample Spacing Unit
The illustration shows one spacing unit with nine parcels–eight leased to the well operator and one unleased. All nine are “assigned to the well.” Assume that the nine parcels are all the same size. The unleased owner holds 1/9 of the acreage in the unit. Therefore, if the unleased owner elects to be integrated as a participating or non-participating owner, then he or she will be liable for 1/9 of the costs and will be compensated for 1/9 of the production. The owner of the unleased acreage must make an election prior to the hearing, which will most likely be scheduled before the well is drilled.
It is the policy of New York State to protect what is known as your “correlative right” to an opportunity to receive the benefits of oil or gas beneath your acreage. For unleased owners, this opportunity is ensured by the compulsory integration process.
Before compulsory integration proceeds, the operator must attest to control of oil and gas rights on at least 60% of the acreage in a spacing unit. The spacing unit is established when DEC issues the well permit. Compulsory integration is necessary only if the well operator does not control 100% of the spacing-unit acreage.
Get Good Advice
The benefits, costs and obligations of participating in an oil or gas well may affect you and your property for many years. Oil and gas exploration is a risky business. This brochure is not a substitute for legal or financial advice by knowledgeable professionals. DEC staff cannot advise you on which election to choose. You must judge for yourself how much risk you are willing to take and make an informed decision.
For Further Research:
The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law is Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law. Article 23 includes the following sections that are related to the compulsory integration process:
Section 23-0301: The state’s policy on protecting the rights of oil and gas owners
Sections 23-0501 & 0503: Procedures for permitting wells and establishing spacing units
Section 23-0901: The election and compulsory integration process
more detailed explanation is contained in the DEC’s statement, which follows:
What are the statistics describing the Village of Oxford? and the Town of Oxford?
See published information below:
Village Information for Oxford New York
Area Code 607
VILLAGE OF OXFORD
20 LaFayette Park
P.O. Box 866
Moratorium on Gas Exploration, Extraction and Disposal within the Village of Oxford.
There will be a Public Hearing on Tuesday November 13th at 7:30 PM at the American Legion Banquet Hall located at 17 South Washington Ave in the Village of Oxford. This Public Hearing is an opportunity for the Public to submit written comments and/or make comments to the Village Board regarding the Moratorium on Gas Exploration, Extraction and Disposal within the Village of Oxford. Hard copies of the Moratorium and Appendix are also available at the Village Hall during normal business hours.
The survey below seeks your assistance in participating in a monitoring program to identify and record on this incident log any occurrences of unpleasant odors emanating from various locations around the village. The objective is to discover the origin and seek to eliminate the source.
Take the Odor Survey (PDF)
VILLAGE BOARD COMMITTEES
|Code Review||John O’Connor||Joseph Spence|
|Community/Economic Development||Matt Voce||Dale Leach|
|Fire||Joseph Spence||Dale Leach|
|Parks||Matt Voce||John O’Connor|
|Police||Joseph Spence||Matt Voce|
|Public Works||Dale Leach||Matt Voce|
|Water||John O’Connor||Joseph Spence|
|WWTP||Dale Leach||John O’Connor|
Appointed Term Expires
|Clerk-Treasurer – 2 Yr||Patricia Nelson||2014|
|Acting Village Justice||Kathleen Moser||2013|
|Village Court Clerk||Vacant||2013|
|Health Officer||Chenango County Health||2013|
|Registrar of Vital Statistics||James Hemstrought||2013|
|Village Historian||Vicky House||2013|
|Waste Water Commission||Greg Ross – Chairperson||2013|
|Zoning Board of Appeals||Ann Scorza Co- Chairperson||2015|
|Mary E. Smith Co- Chairperson||2014|
|Planning Board||Anna Stark – Chairperson||2014|
|Tree Committee||John Godfrey – Chairperson||2016|
|Village Attorney||Roger Monaco||2013|
|Code Enforcement – Unsafe Bld.||Gene Rood||2013|
|Code Enforcement – Zoning||Lew Ford||2013|
VILLAGE CONTACT INFORMATION
Mayor Terry M Stark 843-9414 TStark@stny.rr.com
Village Clerk Patricia Nelson 843-2512 VGOxford@stny.rr.com
Taxes/Water/Sewer FAX 843-9731
Village of Oxford 20 LaFayette Park PO Box 866 Oxford, New York 13830
Regular Office Hours – Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
John O’Connor 843-6238 PO Box 324
Joseph S. Spence 843-5646 PO Box 659
Dale B. Leach 843-8752 PO Box 646
Matthew T. Voce >843-5122 PO Box 1217
Village Board meets Last Tuesday of the Month – 7:30 PM – Village Hall
2nd Tuesday as necessary
Village Justice Charles K. Race 843-9772 PO Box 1203
Acting Village Justice Kathy Moser 843-9772 PO Box 1203
Police Chief Richard Nolan 843-2333 PO Box 866
Superintendant Richard Paden 843-8831 PO Box 866
VILLAGE WASTE WATER TREATMENT
WWTP Operator Kirk Noetzel 843-9525 PO Box 866
WW Commissioner Greg Ross 843-8845 129 Park St.
CODE ENFORCEMENT & BUILDING PERMITS
Zoning Officer Lew Ford 843-7602 PO Box 866
Unsafe Buildings Gene Rood PO Box 866
Chenango County Code Office 337-1796
Chairperson Anna Stark 843-9414 PO Box 48
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
Chairperson Ann Scorza 843-5445 PO Box 866
Chairperson John Godfrey 843-9300 PO Box 866
Chairperson Vickie House 843-9531 PO Box 866
THE TOWN OF OXFORD:
Town Planning Board of Oxford
According to the 2000 census the population of the town was 3,992. 24% of the residents were under 18.
The total number of Village voters is 864
The total number of town voters outside the Village is 1464.
The combined number of Town/Village voters is 2,328.
Number of ban/moratorium petitions signed from Town and Village 1040
2009 local election number of Town and Village voters 269
2011 local election number of Town and Village voters 210
The total number of gas lease holders is approximately 150 including couples, siblings, children and voters registered elsewhere.
Norse Energy (NorNew) 72
Chesapeake Energy 6
Oxford landowners with listed gas drilling leases 88
What is the likely (typical) effect of fracking upon air quality?
This explanation is in response to the following inquiry; there are detailed research-based reports available from EPA:
I don’t remember any worse air quality than we had here in the tri-state area yesterday morning. It smelled like burning coal to me, something I experienced as a youngster in our hometown where many people had coal-fired furnaces for home heating. When I mentioned the putrid air to a friend who works in environmental issues, she explained it further this way:
Any of the sulfurs burning off will give off that smell…only this time instead of it being bituminous coal alone, it’s frack gases venting, people’s coal stoves, exhausts, and several chemicals used to keep the drill slick have sulfur and when the gases vent…there’s the smell. Those same chems can cause respiratory ailments.
When the ‘mud’ is brought back up for the retaining ponds, etc. Heavy metals are released, in addition to those escaping during the venting process, and those particulates will ( along with certain weather conditions) trap gases along with those particles. This is an extremely dangerous mix when there’s a temperature inversion. It can cause illness and even death in sensitive populations.