Back at the AAAS Meeting, I was really annoyed by a session on fracking, the process by which natural gas is extracted from shale deep underground. As I wrote at the time, regarding the industry shills who spoke:
I left before the whole thing had wrapped up, because it was that or start throwing stuff at Martin and Gorody. Honestly, their presentations made me more convinced than ever that we need strict regulations governing the development of the shale. While the gas will inevitably be extracted (unless somebody comes up with a cheap and readily manufactured solar cell with 60% efficiency tomorrow), if the people running the operation are assholes to this degree, they deserve to be positively mummified in red tape.
A while later I wrote a calmer and more detailed post about the issue, which hits close to home, literally: my hometown of Whitney Point is in one of the areas where gas companies want to start fracking.
In both cases, I got comments from people saying I was too harsh to the industry, and that safety concerns were overblown, because there have been umpty-zillion wells drilled but not one documented case of fracking leading to contamination of drinking water. Only, as the New York Times reports today, that isn’t exactly what you might call true:
The report is not recent — it was published in 1987, and the contamination was discovered in 1984. Drilling technology and safeguards in well design have improved significantly since then. Nevertheless, the report does contradict what has emerged as a kind of mantra in the industry and in the government.
The report concluded that hydraulic fracturing fluids or gel used by the Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company contaminated a well roughly 600 feet away on the property of James Parsons in Jackson County, W.Va., referring to it as “Mr. Parson’s water well.”
“When fracturing the Kaiser gas well on Mr. James Parson’s property, fractures were created allowing migration of fracture fluid from the gas well to Mr. Parson’s water well,” according to the agency’s summary of the case. “This fracture fluid, along with natural gas was present in Mr. Parson’s water, rendering it unusable.”
the Times also notes that there may very well be more of these cases, but the industry has used legal dodges to keep them from coming to light:
In their report, E.P.A. officials also wrote that Mr. Parsons’ case was highlighted as an “illustrative” example of the hazards created by this type of drilling, and that legal settlements and nondisclosure agreements prevented access to scientific documentation of other incidents.
“This is typical practice, for instance, in Texas,” the report stated. “In some cases, the records of well-publicized damage incidents are almost entirely unavailable for review.”
So, why am I mean to gas industry shills? Because they’re lying assholes who shouldn’t be trusted any farther than I can throw a gas drilling rig. There will be plenty of reasons why they claim this case can be dismissed, and why they technically didn’t perjure themselves by testifying to Congress that there has never been a documented case, and blah, blah, blah. The fact remains, that one of their strongest go-to arguments for the safety of fracking is, in fact, a systematic deception.
So, I say again: if these gas deposits are going to be developed at all, the companies doing the drilling need to be regulated to within an inch of their life. They simply can not be trusted to deal honestly and openly with anybody.