Health and Wellness : GROWING EVIDENCE FRACKING POLLUTES

Discussion in 'Black Health and Wellness' started by Kemetstry, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Kemetstry

    Kemetstry going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Oil and gas drilling pollutes well water, states confirm

    [​IMG]
    Keith Srakocic / AP file
    Marchers concerned about water pollution protest against hydraulic fracturing and gas well drilling in Pennsylvania on Nov. 3, 2010.
    By Kevin Begos, The Associated Press
    PITTSBURGH — In at least four states that have nurtured the nation's energy boom, hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them, according to a review that casts doubt on industry suggestions that such problems rarely happen.
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    John Heller / AP
    Environmental protection groups participate in a global Frackdown Day to protest hydrauling facturing in PIttsburgh on Sept. 22, 2012.
    The Associated Press requested data on drilling-related complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas and found major differences in how the states report such problems. Texas provided the most detail, while the other states provided only general outlines. And while the confirmed problems represent only a tiny portion of the thousands of oil and gas wells drilled each year in the U.S., the lack of detail in some state reports could help fuel public confusion and mistrust.
    The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past five years.

    Just hearing the total number of complaints shocked Heather McMicken, an eastern Pennsylvania homeowner who complained about water-well contamination that state officials eventually confirmed.
    'Surprised'
    "Wow, I'm very surprised," said McMicken, recalling that she and her husband never knew how many other people made similar complaints, since the main source of information "was just through the grapevine."
    The McMickens were one of three families that eventually reached a $1.6 million settlement with a drilling company. Heather McMicken said the state should be forthcoming with details.
    Over the past 10 years, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to a boom in oil and natural gas production around the nation. It has reduced imports and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for companies and landowners, but also created pollution fears.

    Extracting fuel from shale formations requires pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break apart rock and free the gas. Some of that water, along with large quantities of existing underground water, returns to the surface, and it can contain high levels of salt, drilling chemicals, heavy metals and naturally occurring low-level radiation.
    But some conventional oil and gas wells are still drilled, so the complaints about water contamination can come from them, too. Experts say the most common type of pollution involves methane, not chemicals from the drilling process.
    Some people who rely on well water near drilling operations have complained about pollution, but there's been considerable confusion over how widespread such problems are. For example, starting in 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection aggressively fought efforts by the AP and other news organizations to obtain information about complaints related to drilling. The department has argued in court filings that it does not count how many contamination "determination letters" it issues or track where they are kept in its files.

    Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the leading industry group in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that "transparency and making data available to the public is critical to getting this historic opportunity right and maintaining the public's trust."
    When the state Environmental Department determines natural gas development has caused problems, Forde said, "our member companies work collaboratively with the homeowner and regulators to find a speedy resolution."
    Findings
    Among the findings in the AP's review:
    — Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.
    — Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.
    — West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.
    — A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven't confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.
    In Pennsylvania, the number of confirmed instances of water pollution in the eastern part of the state "dropped quite substantially" in 2013, compared with previous years, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz wrote in an email. Two instances of drilling affecting water wells were confirmed there last year, she said, and a final decision hasn't been made in three other cases. But she couldn't say how many of the other statewide complaints have been resolved or were found to be from natural causes.
    Public trustReleasing comprehensive information about gas drilling problems is important because the debate is no longer about just science but trust, said Irina Feygina, a social psychologist who studies environmental policy issues. Losing public trust is "a surefire way to harm" the reputation of any business, Feygina said.
    Experts and regulators agree that investigating complaints of water-well contamination is particularly difficult, in part because some regions also have natural methane gas pollution or other problems unrelated to drilling. A 2011 Penn State study found that about 40 percent of water wells tested prior to gas drilling failed at least one federal drinking water standard. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that don't have private water-well construction standards.
    But other experts say people who are trying to understand the benefits and harms from the drilling boom need comprehensive details about complaints, even if some cases are from natural causes.
    In Pennsylvania, the raw number of complaints "doesn't tell you anything," said Rob Jackson, a Duke University scientist who has studied gas drilling and water contamination issues. Jackson said he doesn't think providing more details is asking for too much.
    "Right or wrong, many people in the public feel like DEP is stonewalling some of these investigations," Jackson said of the situation in Pennsylvania.
    In contrast with the limited information provided by Pennsylvania, Texas officials supplied a detailed 94-page spreadsheet almost immediately, listing all types of oil and gas related complaints over much of the past two years. The Texas data include the date of the complaint, the landowner, the drilling company and a brief summary of the alleged problems. Many complaints involve other issues, such as odors or abandoned equipment.
    Scott Anderson, an expert on oil and gas drilling with the Environmental Defense Fund, a national nonprofit based in Austin, notes that Texas regulators started keeping more data on complaints in the 1980s. New legislation in 2011 and 2013 led to more detailed reports and provided funds for a new information technology system, he said.
    Anderson agreed that a lack of transparency fuels mistrust.
    "If the industry has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to let the facts speaks for themselves," he said. "The same goes for regulatory agencies




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  2. Kemetstry

    Kemetstry going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Scientists: Bad fracking wells taint water
    [​IMG] Corbis: Jim LoScalzo, EPA
    A hydraulic fracturing drill rig is silhouetted at dusk near Tunkhannock, Penn.
    2 hr ago By Sean Cockerham of McClatchy Washington Bureau


    WASHINGTON — Faulty fracking wells are to blame for drinking water contamination in Texas and Pennsylvania, according to new findings from researchers at five universities.
    “People’s water has been harmed by drilling,” said Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental and earth sciences at Stanford University. “In Texas, we even saw two homes go from clean to contaminated after our sampling began.”
    Construction problems with natural gas wells are responsible for the tainted water, the researchers found. That includes poor casing and failed cement jobs meant to seal the steel drilling pipe from surrounding earth and rocks and prevent water contamination.
    The researchers said there was no evidence the water was contaminated by the process of hydraulic fracturing itself, known as fracking. Fracking is when high-pressure water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to break shale rock and release oil and natural gas.
    That’s an important finding in the debate over fracking, which has unleashed an American energy boom but also allegations of pollution and health problems.
    “The good news is that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity,” said Thomas Darrah, an assistant professor of earth science at Ohio State University. He led the research while working as a research scientist at Duke University.
    The researchers from Duke, Ohio State, Stanford, Dartmouth and the University of Rochester discovered clusters of methane contamination in drinking water wells along the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale in north Texas, near Fort Worth.
    Methane, the principal component in natural gas, is not known to be toxic, but it can be explosive and is a potent greenhouse gas.
    The researchers found the Texas water contamination in southern Parker County. Their findings challenge the position of Texas oil and gas regulators that there is no evidence to connect reports of rising methane in several local wells to natural gas production.
    Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees drilling, said in an email that she has no comment at this point.
    “Our staff is currently reviewing the study, which will take a period of time to complete,” Nye said.
    A spokesman for Fort Worth driller Range Resources said his company also has not had a chance to study the findings, released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Range Resources has denied allegations that it was responsible for methane contamination in Parker County.
    “The extensive testing conducted by Range and the Texas Railroad Commission prove that the two Range wells could not have been the source of the gas in any water wells, nor did any other aspects of our work,” said company spokesman Matt Pitzarella in an email.
    The university researchers said they analyzed 20 drinking water wells overlying the Barnett Shale of Texas and found contamination in five of them. They said the contamination likely wasn’t from the Barnett Shale itself, but rather the shallower Strawn formation.
    The Barnett Shale and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale are at the center of a fracking boom that’s made the United States into the world’s largest natural gas producer.
    The researchers used noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers to analyze more than 130 water wells in the two states over the past two years, focusing on areas of suspected contamination.
    They said the “novel combination” of tracers let them distinguish between naturally occurring methane and contamination caused by fracking wells.
    “This is the first study to provide a comprehensive analysis of noble gases and their isotopes in groundwater near shale gas wells,” said Ohio State’s Darrah.




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  3. Kemetstry

    Kemetstry going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Scientists see fracking as cause of earthquakes in heartland

    [​IMG] © Orlin Wagner/AP In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 photo, oil field workers drill into the Gypsum Hills near Medicine Lodge, Kan. An emerging oil boom has been sparked by modern technologies using horizontal drilling and a technique known as… WASHINGTON — Evidence is growing that fracking for oil and gas is causing earthquakes that shake the heartland.
    States such as Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Ohio are being hit by earthquakes that appear linked to oil and gas activity. While the quakes are far more often tied to disposal of drilling waste, scientists also increasingly have started pointing to the fracking process itself.
    "Certainly I think there may be more of this that has gone on than we previously recognized," Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland told colleagues last week.
    In addition to what Holland has seen in Oklahoma, a new study in the journal Seismological Research Letters concludes that fracking caused a series of earthquakes in Ohio a year ago. That follows reports of fracking leading to earthquakes in Canada and across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom.
    Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is when massive amounts of high-pressure water with chemicals is pumped underground to break shale rock and release the oil and natural gas inside.
    The process is responsible for the nation's energy boom since 2008, as it has allowed access to oil and gas trapped in the shale. But at the same time, earthquakes have spiked in the central and eastern United States.
    Before 2008 Oklahoma averaged just one earthquake greater than magnitude 3.0 a year. So far this year there have been 430 of them, Holland said.
    Scientists have linked earthquakes in Oklahoma to drilling waste injection. Shale drilling produces large amounts of wastewater, which then is often pumped deep underground as a way to dispose of it without contaminating fresh water. Injection raises the underground pressure and can effectively lubricate fault lines, weakening them and causing earthquakes, according to the U.S Geological Survey.
    USGS senior science adviser Bill Leith, speaking at an earthquake forum last week held by the U.S. Energy Association, said communities need to be worried about earthquakes from drilling waste injection. But quakes from fracking itself are rare, Leith said.
    Following a presentation at the earthquake forum, however, Oklahoma seismologist Holland suggested fracking is indeed playing a role in his state.
    "The time period in which I looked at could explain about 10 percent of the earthquakes," said Holland.
    A study published in the November edition of Seismological Research Letters concluded that fracking operations triggered a series of earthquakes up to magnitude 2.2 last year in Harrison County, Ohio.
    "Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to trigger earthquakes, and in this case, small ones that could not be felt, however the earthquakes were three orders of magnitude larger than normally expected," Paul Friberg, a seismologist with Instrumental Software Technologies Inc. and co-author of the study, said in an email.
    The authors concluded that the fracking likely triggered a slip in a previously unmapped fault. They suggested that "as hydraulic fracturing operations explore new regions, more seismic monitoring will be needed since many faults remain unmapped."
    Ohio imposed seismic regulations on fracking after regulators found it probably triggered minor earthquakes in March. But such restrictions are rare.
    There is a more of a move toward regulations for waste disposal wells. Oil and gas regulators in Texas, who have long expressed skepticism about the link between drilling and earthquakes, passed a rule last week that requires oil and gas companies to consult seismic records before drilling a waste disposal well. The action followed a swarm of earthquakes in North Texas near Fort Worth.
    Kansas has seen an increase in earthquakes as well, with more than 60 of them reported so far this year.
    Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, convened a task force that declared last month there wasn't enough information to determine the cause of the small Kansas earthquakes, despite the fact that the earthquake surge corresponds to increased oil and gas activity in the same area.
    USGS scientist Jason Rubinstein said in an interview that wastewater, injection and fracking are possible culprits for the Kansas quakes.
    Kansas officials are hesitant to point the finger at oil and gas. The official announcement of the task force findings declared that "oil and gas is a cornerstone industry in Kansas generating nearly $4.3 billion each year, and employing 118,000 Kansans each day




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  4. Kemetstry

    Kemetstry going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    New York to ban fracking; environmentalists cheer

    By MARY ESCH,
    [​IMG] © AP Photo/Mike Groll Acting health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker presents the department's findings on hydraulic fracturing during a cabinet meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. At right is environmental conservation…
    ALBANY, N.Y. — Handing environmentalists a breakthrough victory, New York plans to prohibit fracking for natural gas because of what regulators say are its unexplored health risks and dubious economic benefits.
    New York, which overlies part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that has led to a drilling boom in Pennsylvania and other nearby states, has banned shale gas development since 2008, when the state began an environmental review of the drilling technique also known as hydraulic fracturing.
    Wednesday's announcement, though not final, means a ban is all but etched in stone.
    "Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, adding that the decision "will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: Fracking is too dangerous and must not continue."
    Industry and its supporters expressed outrage at the decision.
    "We are very disappointed that it appears the governor is unwilling to be a leader and is going to pass the buck at the expense of New Yorkers," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.
    "This technology has been used for over 65 years in the United States. It's been demonstrated repeatedly after drilling millions of wells that we're able to do it while protecting the environment and protecting the people."
    Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he is recommending a ban, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, responded that he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on the decision.
    The Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, Martens said, and after that he will issue an order prohibiting fracking.
    About 30 anti-fracking activists cheered the decision at a rally outside Cuomo's New York City office, chanting "Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for saving our air!" and "New York banned fracking — and next, United States!"
    Zucker and Martens on Wednesday summarized environmental and health reviews that concluded fracking carries risks that haven't been studied enough.
    The drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, which also runs under Ohio and West Virginia, was made possible by high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which releases gas from rock by injecting wells with chemically treated water at high pressure.
    The technique has generated tens of billions of dollars in industry profits and landowner royalties, and has reduced energy bills and fuel imports. But it has also brought concerns and sparked protests over air and water pollution, earthquakes, property devaluation and truck traffic.
    Zucker said he had identified "significant public health risks" and "red flag" health issues that require long-term studies before fracking can be called safe. He likened fracking to secondhand smoke, which wasn't fully understood as a health risk until many years of scientific study were done.
    Martens noted the low price of natural gas, the high local cost of industry oversight, and the large areas that would be off limits to shale gas development because of setback requirements, water supply protections and local prohibitions. Those factors, he said, combine to make fracking less economically beneficial than anticipated.
    Even if drilling were allowed in New York, it probably wouldn't take off any time soon because of the uncertainty around regulations and legal challenges and the huge number of promising drilling locations that remain in Pennsylvania, David Spigelmyer, president of the industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition, said last week.
    The Marcellus Shale is enticing to energy companies because of its proximity to the major demand centers of New York City and New England, which is paying more for gas because of delivery constraints. But the regulatory uncertainty remains too high to commit to drilling in New York, Spigelmyer said.
    In states where fracking is not yet allowed or is happening but is subject to criticism, New York's move excited some anti-drilling activists.
    "The more fracking expands, the more opposition grows," said Sharon Wilson, of the group Earthworks, who has organized anti-fracking activists in Texas, California and Colorado. "Industry is its own worst enemy because they continue to deny the impacts."
    Fracking supporters decried the New York move. Karen Moreau, executive director of New York's branch of the American Petroleum Institute, said the Cuomo administration is denying landowners the right to develop their mineral resources.
    "The secretary of energy, the U.S. EPA administrator and President Obama recognize the benefits of fracking, and yet the Cuomo administration simply did not want to anger their activist base," Moreau said.
    Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the Joint Landowners Coalition, which represents leaseholders, accused Cuomo of appeasing "environmental extremists" for political gain.
    "Is our health department ignoring impacts of other energy options and suggesting that we continue with our reliance on coal and nuclear energy?" Fitzsimmons said. "Did our health department consider the health effects of poverty and unemployment?"
    Cuomo said he is expecting lawsuits will be filed "every which way from Sunday."
    In California, energy companies have been using a type of fracking to extract oil for many years and are pushing to expand such drilling. Environmental groups hope the New York decision will influence Gov. Jerry Brown, who has largely supported fracking. A scientific study is due to be released next month.
    Californians will ask now, "If it's not safe for New Yorkers, why should we think it's safe for us?" said Charles Margulis, with the California branch of the national Center for Environmental Health, a nonprofit organization.
    ___
    Associated Press writers Jon Fahey and Jenn Peltz in New York, Emily Schmall in Dallas and Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.
    [​IMG] © AP Photo/Mike Groll New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo watches a presentation on hydraulic during a cabinet meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Cuomo’s administration will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing…





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