Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Community

Hydraulic fracturing

Nature vs. Natural Resources—The Case For and Against Fracking

Genesis 1:1-31  

        God made the heavens and the earth and it was good.

 

Genesis 2:15  

        Humans are commanded to care for God’s creation.

 

Natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, fracking, foreign oil dependency, shale gas, Utica Shale, Marcellus Shale, energy independence—these are all words that have been in the news a lot lately.

Whether you know it or not these topics are also entering the presidential and senatorial campaigns. All of these terms relate to the relatively young natural gas industry in our country. An abundance of natural gas is hidden in the Utica and Marcellus Shale predominantly found in the eastern part of the United States, the Appalachian mountains, and in the eastern part of Ohio. How this industry develops will have a huge impact on our country, state, and local towns in many ways whether environmentally, financially, or politically. Many people with deep, deep pockets behind the scenes stand to gain a lot with the development of this industry and they are counting on the general population to remain ignorant about the topic.

Hydraulic Fracturing Panel Discussion Oct. 1—Franciscan University

Fortunately, if you live near the Steubenville, Ohio area you will have an opportunity to review the topic and ask questions of those involved in the industry. Students for a Fair Society will host a two-person panel on the costs and benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing, Monday, October 1 at 6 pm in the Tony and Nina Gentile Gallery of the J.C. Williams Center at the Franciscan University.

Panelists include Dr. Yuri Gorby; Howard A. Blitman, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York; and Father Neil Pezzulo, of Glenmary Home Missioners in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Panelists will touch on the industry’s benefits, both short and long term, to the economy – its costs, with a special focus on the poor and vulnerable – and to our health and the environment, helping the audience come to their own conclusions.

Students for a Fair Society is a group dedicated to upholding the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church in its fullness. Concerning ourselves with matters of life, solidarity, and justice….

The event is free and open to the public.

My introduction to fracking

I first became aware of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is commonly called, through the documentary Gasland. The documentary paints a scary picture of an environmental disaster created by this new industry. It is filled with images of dead and dying animals, people with unexplained illnesses, and water faucets that spew fire when a flame is held next to the running water.

What happened to the EPA?

As a citizen I was outraged that these things should be allowed to happen. How could it happen when we have the EPA and the Clean Air and Water Act? As a journalist my instincts led me to research. I found that the Clean Air and Water Act does not apply to the fracking industry because of the infamous Bush/Cheney Act of 2005. Then Vice President Dick Cheney was successful in inserting an exclusion that exempted disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process claiming it disclosed proprietary formulas. Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton which is one of the largest companies providing hydraulic fracturing services to gas companies.

What is in these chemicals? Why don’t the companies want to reveal them?

From citizen to crusader

The crusader in me then turned to my keyboard to inform my readers of what I see as impending doom—especially since our own state is blindly pushing ahead so it can reap its portion of the buried treasurer. Some estimates say Ohio alone has enough oil and gas below our surface to equal the size of Saudi Arabia. I wrote extensively about fracking (see the listings below) but I was haunted by the feeling that I still wasn’t finding the heart of the topic. Or, at least, I hadn’t yet defined it in my own heart.

Slowly I realized my repulsion for this new industry is because I view it as an attack on Mother Nature. It is not just because of the gallons of unknown chemicals that are forced underground but what these chemicals are doing to our environment. The oil companies claim their process is safe and the chemicals are encased in steel and concrete and there is no way it can seep into our water supply. Yes, and that is the same explanation that was given before the BP oil spill in the Gulf a few years ago.

Also, millions of gallons of water are needed to frack a well. To frack a well, chemicals mixed with sand and water are forced into the well under pressure which then breaks apart the layers of shale and releases the gas trapped between the layers. The mixture that comes to the surface, known as  brine, contains unknown chemicals, sand and water and must be disposed of safely. Since it is a toxic soup it cannot be discarded into streams or flushed into the local wastewater system which goes through the sewage plant. Experts say the only safe way of discarding the brine is to put it in underground abandoned wells and mines. However, this is less than ideal because they are finding the underground storage is causing earthquakes.

Where does the water come from for the process? We are talking about massive amounts of water. The companies are taking it from the local lakes, rivers, and streams. Are we sacrificing one natural resource for another?

Gas and oil are the blood of our country

I realize we need gas and oil. Our country’s livelihood depends upon our transportation system. We need gas and oil to manufacture goods and then transport them to their destinations. Whether by land, water, or rail, all forms of transportation need gas and oil to run. People who depend upon these jobs need gas and oil to be able to go to and from their work. Yes, the blood of our country is gas and oil. I understand we need it for a healthy commerce.

However, something else we need is clean water and air. Without these two elements we are not able to sustain life. Wars have been fought over safe water supplies.

Native Americans revere the earth

In examining my feelings on this topic I first turned to the philosophy of the Native Americans who I knew respected and revered all of nature. I have often thought that if the white man had listened to and respected the beliefs of the first Americans and their worship of nature; we would not be in the environmental mess we are today.

Our first obligation is to protect our most precious resource—our Mother Earth who gives us life. The Native Americans viewed our earth as a living and breathing entity that is holy and is to be worshipped.  A Native American chant says:

Where I sit is holy
Holy is the Ground
Forest , mountains, rivers
Listen to the Sound
Great Spirit Circling
All around me 

Grant Redhawk of the Balckfoot Nation (AKA Two Feathers) said:

Air moves us
Fire transforms us
Water shapes us
Earth heals us
And the circle of the wheel goes round and round
And the circle of the wheel goes round…

As a child growing up in West Virginia one of my favorite Bible verses was Psalm 121– I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. To me this meant that since I was surrounded by the beautiful hills of West Virginia surely I was also surrounded by the Lord who made heaven and earth. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that my help came from my God who manifested himself in these majestic hills and surrounded me constantly.

The Catholic Church’s view of the environment and seven generation thinking

When I saw that the Hydraulic Fracturing Conference was being hosted by the Students for a Fair Society of the Franciscan University I did some research to know more about the organization. Keith Michael Estrada, who is coordinating the conference, was kind enough to send me more information about the Society, the Conference, and the official stand of the Catholic Church on the environment. He said that the Church’s official teachers, the Bishops, point to a strict care for all of creation, temperance and fairness when using the goods/gifts of the earth, and a constant keeping in heart and mind the future generations who will inherit the land.

I was struck by the similarity to the philosophy of the Native Americans who refer to “seven generation thinking.”  In the Native American world, where life is viewed as interconnected, every decision has physical, economic, social, and spiritual consequences, and all these impacts must be carefully considered. This interconnectedness is what Native Americans refer to as “seven generation thinking,” says Ivan Makil, former president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and a partner in Generation Seven, a consulting firm that specializes in advising tribes on appropriate economic development considerations.

The environment is God’s gift to everyone….

Estrada also included the quote from Pope Benedict XVI… “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other….” from Charity in Truth.

Estrada also included a quote from the late Pope John Paul II:

Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. . . . Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray.  Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.  On the Hundredth Year

Are we poisoning Mother Earth

So I am finally able to more clearly define my concerns and reservations over the fracking industry. Without more information, guidelines, and regulations it appears we are poisoning our Mother Earth. We are endangering our own health and possibly the lives of future generations for the greed of more fuel for today. We are rushing into an unknown future and selling our souls and laying them at the altar of money and greed. We could possibly be giving up abundant clean water and fresh air for progress.

Creation reveals the nature of God

Who would think that a mountain Methodist girl from West Virginia could find clarity from the Native Americans and the Catholic Church? Who would think that these extremely diverse entities would have a common ground? The answer to the dilemma of nature vs. the need for natural resources is as close as a walk out our front door into God’s creations. Creation reveals the nature of God (Romans 1:20). Creation and all created things are inherently good because they are of the Lord. (1Corinthians 10:26)

Another source of inspiration and reassurance of God’s omnipotent powers speaks to me often and that is the old hymn This Is My Father’s World. I pray that we will be able to maintain the purity of God’s world.

 

This Is My Father’s World

1.            This is my Father’s world,

               and to my listening ears

               all nature sings, and round me rings

               the music of the spheres.

               This is my Father’s world:

               I rest me in the thought

               of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

               his hand the wonders wrought.

2.            This is my Father’s world,

               the birds their carols raise,

               the morning light, the lily white,

               declare their maker’s praise.

               This is my Father’s world:

               he shines in all that’s fair;

               in the rustling grass I hear him pass;

               he speaks to me everywhere.

3.            This is my Father’s world.

               O let me ne’er forget

               that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

               God is the ruler yet.

               This is my Father’s world:

               why should my heart be sad?

               The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

               God reigns; let the earth be glad!

 

 

WHAT THE FRACK IS ALL THE FUSS OVER NATURAL GAS?

Published on May 24, 2011 by Sheila Dobbie in Current EventsNature

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/24/what-the-frack-is-all-the-fuss-over-natural-gas/

 

Editorial: Question mark

Published on May 25, 2011 by Sheila Dobbie in Current EventsNature

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/25/editorial-question-mark/

 

Fracking brings risk Ohioans should avoid

Published on May 25, 2011 by Sheila Dobbie in Current EventsNature

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/25/fracking-brings-risk-ohioans-should-avoid/

 

The Fracking Song

Published on May 27, 2011 by Sheila Dobbie in Current EventsNature

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/27/the-fracking-song/

 

What the Frack Is All The Fuss Over Natural Gas (Part 2)

Published on May 27, 2011 by Sheila Dobbie in Current EventsNature

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/27/what-the-frack-is-all-the-fuss-over-natural-gas-part-2/

 

What the Frack? The battle heats up

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/14/what-the-frack-the-battle-heats-up-2/

 

Senate OKs ‘fracking’ in parks

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/20/senate-oks-fracking-in-parks/

 

Ohio taking in flood of Pennsylvania’s toxic brine for disposal

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/20/ohio-taking-in-flood-of-pennsylvanias-toxic-brine-for-disposal/

 

Is natural gas a windfall or just fool’s gold?

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/30/is-natural-gas-a-windfall-or-just-fools-gold/

 

Editorial: Due diligence | The Columbus Dispatch

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/30/editorial-due-diligence-the-columbus-dispatch/

 

Fracking Fray Still in the News

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/08/09/fracking-fray-still-in-the-news/

 

More news on fracking

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/08/11/more-news-on-fracking/

 

 

 

More news on fracking

Did you read yesterday’s lead editorial in the Columbus Dispatch titled Shale’s Promise? It must be true what they say, “great minds run in the same channel” because it closely parallels my blog of the previous day titled Memo raising questions in the fracking fray. Or did they read my blog?

Prosperity is headed to our state, according to the editorial, not only in the form of what the wells are projected to bring in but also in the construction and steel industries. Plans are underway to remodel or build new plants to make the steel casings needed for the wells. Business leaders see this as an opportunity for a cheaper energy source, and the petrochemical industry expects a shale-gas boom to provide cheaper raw materials.

However, the editorial warns against a gold-rush mentality and cautions the industry to do things right. It quotes Ohio’s state attorney general, Mike DeWine, cautioning landowners to beware of sharp operators who might try to trick them into signing away rights to the gas and oil on their property too cheaply. The editorial also states that protecting the environment should be given equal priority to developing the business.

In a bit of encouraging news, the editorial says that Gov. Kasich sent a letter to dozens of oil and gas companies in May inviting them to consider the opportunities in Ohio, but also noted the need to protect public safety and the environment, asking them to make a “commitment to responsible corporate citizenship.”

The editorial closes by saying ,”Kasich declared himself “simply thrilled” to hear the bullish Chesapeake report, predicting a boom to the state and if the shale-gas reserves prove as rich as reported and can be extracted without damaging Ohio’s surface and ground water, he’s right to be. “

In other related news, Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, said that the shale resources can transform the state’s economy. “I believe that we could be at the beginning of a new and extended positive chapter in Ohio’s economy, and it’s essential that we properly marshal our economic development, job training, environmental and regulatory assets to make this work right and work well for Ohio,” he said.

In a “it could be good or it could be bad” category a federal panel just released a report approving the fracking process but qualified its announcement by saying the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can continue safely as long as companies disclose more about their practices and monitor their environmental impact.

The committee’s report could pave the way for more gas exploration but calls for new standards to limit harmful air emissions. In 2001 shale gas accounted for less than 2% of the total U.S. natural gas production, today it is 30%, and the Energy Information Administration projects that it will amount to 45% by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy says companies must do more to reduce air pollution and threats to groundwater. The report also says companies should follow best practices to limit leaks of methane and other air pollutants to safeguard streams and groundwater.

The report also calls for:

  • ·         Companies to use better seismic monitoring to ensure that only gas bearing shale is fractured
  • ·         Full disclosure on the chemicals used for fracking
  • ·         More research on the potential of shale gas to contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies.

It is encouraging to see that some recommendations are coming out at the beginning of this boom, however, only time will tell if these recommendations carry any weight. It would be great if this country could become completely independent of foreign oil, maintain a cheaper supply of energy at home, and extract this fuel in a clean and safe manner. It is up to the public to maintain vigilance and continue to pressure the companies to provide a safe environment.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2001/08/10/shales-promise.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/national_world/2011/08/11/Federal-panel-to-endorse-fracking-in-gas-drilling.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/science-environment/2011/08/fracking-panel-report.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/2001/08/07/memo-raising-questions-in-fracking-fray.html

 

 

Fracking Fray Still in the News

Even though I haven’t discussed fracking lately it is still very much in the news. Over the weekend it was revealed that what appears to be a handbook for conning (or convincing) landowners to sign leases for natural gas drilling was found by a Greene County resident near her driveway.

The handbook outlines tactics and talking points for “landmen” or door-to-door energy company representatives. It paints Ohio residents as friendly but gullible and advises the representatives to deal with the men whenever possible warning that the women will ask more questions and the men are more likely to sign. It also instructs the landmen not to mention groundwater contamination or lost property values and to downplay natural gas drilling and rather emphasize they are drilling for oil. It also says to describe the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) as being radioactive free even though it concedes that it is not.

Many Greene County residents and environmentalists feel the memo belonged to Jim Bucher, a landman for West Bay Exploration Co., based in Traverse City, Mich.; however, executive vice president Tom Stewart of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association is convinced the memo is a hoax backed by the environmentalists.

Laura Skidmore,who found the memo inside a binder, said she was stunned by the contents. Residents say many of the talking points outlined in the memo were used by Bucher in his talks with the residents. Beginning last fall Bucher began sending packets containing lease documents to Greene County residents and followed up with home visits and phone calls. Meanwhile, local environmentalists were busy educating the public as to the hazards of natural gas drilling and fracking and the documentary Gasland was shown at the local theater.

Skidmore and her neighbor, T.J. Turner, took the notebook to Victoria Hennessey, president of the Greene County Environmental Coalition, who took action to publicize it. She scanned the memo and posted it on the organization’s website, called the media, and notified lawmakers. The memo can be viewed at http://www.greenlink.org/uploads/pdfs/OIL_TalkingPoints.pdf

Please click on the link above and read the memo—it is quite an eye-opener.

Also in the news, big figures are being thrown about by oil and gas companies. The Chesapeake Energy Company said it expects to generate $15 billion to $20 billion from drilling in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio. For a comparison, Ohio had $665 million in oil and gas production in 2009. These are figures from only one company but several other companies are also planning to enter the state such as Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Corp. These figures from the Oklahoma based Chesapeake Co. are significant as they represent the first estimates related to the Utica shale in Ohio. The Marcellus formation is already producing returns in the southeastern part of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and nearby states. These formations have previously been inaccessible but with the introduction of hydraulic fracturing or fracking the rich gas can now be harvested from the shale.  The Utica shale is several thousand feet below the Marcellus layer and runs across the eastern half of the state, including the Columbus area.

 “There is a great deal of potential, but it’s really hard to determine how big it will be,” said Jerry Jordan, chairman of Knox Energy in Columbus. His company owns about 500 oil and gas wells in central Ohio. If the Utica lives up to its promise, Knox is one of many local businesses that stand to share in the windfall because of existing lease rights.

Jordan, 75, comes from an oil-business family, and he has been in the business all of his life. That experience, along with his training in geology, makes him skeptical when big numbers are thrown around. He points out that most of the state’s oil and gas companies are family owned and cannot compete with larger corporations who can afford to drill deeper into the Utica layer and maintain a series of wells. This could mean most of the profits will go to larger companies out-of-state.

However, as I have written about previously, this process comes with many risks including contamination to air and water including ground water and drinking water. In addition, the EPA has raised concerns about the disposal of the liquid waste that is a byproduct of fracking.

“We’re really pretty far from where we need to be in order for this activity to take place in Ohio, to protect our natural resources and community health,” said Ellen Mee, director of environmental-health policy for the Ohio Environmental Council, an advocacy group. She urges the state to look at what is happening in other states. She also points out there is now more doubt about shale gas than publicly portrayed. A report was published in the New York Times citing internal emails from the industry voicing doubts.

Gov. John Kasich told the Columbus Metropolitan Club recently that shale gas is “the revolution that’s come to Ohio.” He said the state needs to “answer the environmental concerns that are out there” and that “Ohio can be the model for how to get this right.”

I’m hoping this is one promise a politician can keep. I am not entirely against harvesting this resource. After all, I like an environmentally controlled house that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter just like everybody else. And we all agree this state could use another source of income. But I also want to know that the air we breathe and the water we drink is safe and clean. The challenge before our state leaders and citizens is to make these two elements compatible. Can we harvest this natural resource in a safe and clean manner without harming our environment? The challenge is now before Ohio to make us a leader in the field.

http://www.archive.org/stream/TalkingPointsForSellingOilAndGasLeaseRights/OIL_TalkingPoints1_djvu.txt

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/08/08/mystery-fracking-memo-deepens-ohio-drilling-debate/

http://www.dispatch.com/content/search/index.html?site=dispatch&is=dispatch&cp=1&rpp=20&search-type=site-search&keyword=fracking&go.x=12&go.y=12

http://www.greenlink.org/uploads/pdfs/OIL_TalkingPoints.pdf

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2011/07/31/potential-of-shale-gas-boomishard-to-nail-down.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2011/08/07/memo-raising-questions-in-fracking-fray.html

 

 

 

 

 

Is natural gas a windfall or just fool’s gold?

Schematic cross-section of the subsurface illu...
Image via Wikipedia

Now that drilling for natural gas is a reality in the state, alarm bells are sounding from many experts. The Columbus Dispatch finally took a strong stand against the dangers of fracking in a recent editorial but I’m afraid it is too little too late.

In their editorial, Due diligence—Drilling regulators should make sure ‘fracking’ in Ohio is done safely, the Dispatch warns that the state should proceed with caution, making sure it understands the process and its risks well enough to protect the environment and the public’s enjoyment of the parks. They warn that the “gold-rush mentality” is troubling and this potential wealth does not come without risk. The editorial warns that we should proceed slowly and learn from the mistakes made by other states involved in harvesting shale gas. Water and air quality are key concerns as well as spills and blowouts at the surface causing ground contamination.

Water purity is a major concern in Pennsylvania where the state has banned the waste water from the fracking process used in drilling horizontal wells from entering their wastewater treatment plants due to major pollution from the known and unknown chemicals used in the process. The water treatment plants can’t handle the influx of chemicals and the water discharged from the plants is polluting the state’s rivers and streams. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced that it also will not allow the waste water to be treated in our water treatment plants leaving the waste from both Pennsylvania and Ohio to be disposed of in underground injection wells. This causes some experts to question whether our state has the capacity to handle all this. In an attempt to slow the influx of waste, the state raised the brine-disposal fee from 5 cents to 20 cents a barrel.

One bright spot is that last year the state did a major revamping of the mining laws giving regulators more authority to insist on safer well construction.

Included in the editorial is a call for regulators to require full disclosure of all chemicals used saying public safety and the environment are at stake. The editorial closes by saying:

Ohio has the benefit of learning from mistakes made in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but officials still should exercise the caution necessary to avoid making new ones.

Many are eager to reap the financial benefits projected to come from natural gas drilling citing the $128 million Pennsylvania received and $178 million collected by Michigan. However, in a political blog on the Dispatch’s website titled Officials plan to go slow on oil, gas drilling on public lands, Laura Jones, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said, “This will be a very deliberate, very measured process. There will be nothing happening fast.” It is projected that drilling in state parks and public lands won’t begin for at least a year while procedures and approvals are being put in place.

One step will be the creation of a five member Oil and Gas Drilling Commission to oversee drilling on state-owned land and grant leases. This commission may sound good on paper but I predict it will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for state and oil company officials since it is composed of four gubernatorial appointees and only one Natural Resources official.  The Ohio Environmental Council, among others, has expressed concern that the bill would give the commission, rather than state agencies that own the land, too much authority to grant drilling leases.

While the commission is being created and rules written, Natural Resources officials are  busy researching titles on land parcels to determine whether there are restrictions. House Bill 133, sponsored by Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, which established the Commission, is designed to allow the process to move as quickly as possible as the rules are promulgated according to Rep. Adams.

Although the drilling companies will eventually nominate the parcels for drilling it is expected the state will do the nominating for the first year.

Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said drilling on public lands “remains unnecessary, unwanted and unsafe,” echoing concerns about how drilling could impact the natural beauty of parks and about the use of a hydraulic fracturing technique on deep shale that could harm groundwater supplies.

But, are we being too eager to capture the golden goose? Are we pursuing only fool’s gold? Some oil and gas company executives and experts are beginning to question the financial feasibility of pursuing the gas buried deep beneath shale deposits.

In an article titled Natural-gas industry: Companies over-hyping wells, some experts say Investors banking on controversial drilling, that appeared in the Dispatch Sunday, June 26, and reprinted from The New York Times, experts express grave doubts. Energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts are skeptical about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of the wells and the size of their reserves. Some are even comparing the frenzy to the dot com bust and fall of the housing bubble.

 “Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February email. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy-research company, wrote in an email on Aug. 28, 2009. Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale-gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.

Industry officials are also expressing environmental concerns. Referring to the fracking process which can require more than a million gallons of water per well, they are saying that if shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.

The information was provided in emails obtained through open-records requests or provided to The New York Times by industry consultants and analysts who say they think the public perception of shale gas does not match reality. Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, remembers saying, “I think we have a big problem” when she first studied well data from shale companies in October 2009 after attending a speech by the chief executive of Chesapeake.

Her research showed that the math wasn’t adding up and the wells were petering out faster than expected. “These wells are depleting so quickly that the operators are in an expensive game of ‘catch-up,'” Rogers wrote in an email on Nov. 17, 2009, to a petroleum geologist in Houston, who wrote back that he agreed.

When the boom began in 2008 oil and gas companies were offering Fort Worth residents as much as $27,500 per acre for signing leases. By late 2008 the recession began and natural gas prices plunged by nearly two-thirds, throwing the drilling companies’ business models into a tailspin. Some company engineers were projecting a well life span to be 20 to 30 years but some federal energy analysts were doubtful based on the wells’ performances.

Given the many hazards and uncertainties surrounding retrieval of natural gas, I once again plead for caution. The fact that many industry insiders and experts are questioning the financial feasibility should make us question the road we are on—it is not too late for a course correction. We do not want to rape, pillage, and plunder our state when there is so much to lose.

What the Frack? The battle heats up

The battle over natural gas is heating up. This weekend I received emails from opposite camps concerning the natural gas issue. I received a notice from T. Boone
Pickens to his army asking me to urge my representatives in Congress to support
the Natural Gas Act (NAT GAS Act—HR 1380) and the next day I received a notice from a political action committee urging me to ask my representatives to
sponsor the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act.

I originally joined Pickens Army because he was preaching less dependence on foreign oil. His arguments were very convincing because OPEC is holding us hostage with the exorbitant price of oil. He was urging use of domestic resources including solar energy
and windmills. He proposed massive windmill farms which sounded good to me. Both
windmills and solar energy are a way of harvesting free natural resources to
meet our energy needs. I guess that solution was too simple and since it is a
free resource few people will make big money. Now his emphasis is on natural
gas. What else could I expect coming from an oil man? Below is his message:

Army:

I’ll keep this short, because it’s pretty obvious what the problem is and
there’s a very obvious solution.

According to the Federal Reserve Economic Database, the U.S. imported 62% of its oil – or 362 million barrels – last month alone. That’s $41.7 billion that was sent to
foreign countries for oil.

Our oil import numbers continue to be astronomical and our country continues to suffer as a result. In a time of economic turmoil, our crippling dependence on OPEC oil represents the height of fiscal irresponsibility – particularly when we have the ability to
use our own vast domestic natural gas resources.

We simply cannot afford to let this opportunity go to waste.

– Boone

The message also included a link to my representatives which
I have deleted since I no longer support his efforts to promote natural gas.

The next day I received a notice seeking my support for the
FRAC Act. As I have previously written, there are many dangers involved with
the controversial method of reaping natural gas from shale formations known as
hydraulic fracturing of fracking. Below is their information:

Dear Friend,

As an Ohioan, you’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about fracking.

High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is a method of drilling for natural gas by pumping a mixture of water and chemicals, including known toxics and carcinogens, deep underground, and it’s already responsible for more than 1000 documented cases of poisoning water in states across the country.1

Fracking wells are spreading at an alarming rate. But even more alarming, thanks to the work of Dick Cheney and his infamous energy policy, frackers don’t have to disclose the chemicals used in their fluid to the EPA, and the process is
totally exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The FRAC Act, a bill that has been in the Senate since 2009, would correct both these problems. As public concern over fracking has grown, the bill has gained some momentum, but we still need more Senators actively working to pass it. Will you urge Sens. Brown and Portman to support the bill?

While state leaders in Ohio welcome new gas drilling, fracking in other states is polluting Ohio’s water as well. Ohio has been storing, treating and dumping waste water from fracking projects in other states into Ohio rivers. 2

Fracking is currently underway in 36 states. While some state regulations do exist, they vary widely. But water contamination isn’t constrained by state boundaries, and we need a strong baseline national standard to make sure fracking chemicals are publicly disclosed everywhere fracking is taking place, and that this practice isn’t putting our nation’s drinking water at risk.

Yet somehow, the EPA has been handcuffed from regulating fracking since 2005, in what has become known as “the Halliburton loophole.” Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was CEO before becoming Vice President, patented fracking in the 1940’s and remains the third largest producer of fracking fluids. And in trademark Bush administration style, Halliburton staff were actively involved in a 2004 EPA report on fracking safety.

The “Halliburton loophole” remains a dangerous legacy of the Bush Administration and if we’re going to protect our nation’s water, we need to close it.

If you’re not familiar with the dangers of fracking, here’s a little more background: Fracking a single gas well uses as much as millions of gallons of water, and hundreds of tons of chemicals. While the exact contents of the fluid remains largely undisclosed, scientific examination reveals that it can contain diesel fuel, which includes benzene, as well as methanol, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid and many others.3

The fluid is injected thousands of feet underground at extremely high pressure, literally cracking the earth to release trapped gas. Unfortunately, it must pass through our water table, where the fluids, along with natural gas, can leak through well casings into our drinking water.

If you’ve ever seen the picture of the man lighting his tap water on fire from the recent documentary Gasland, that was
because of nearby fracking.4

Fracking also poses serious risks to our rivers and streams from insufficiently treated, and often radioactive waste water, and from above ground spills of fracking fluid. An important investigative series by the New York Times recently concluded that “the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”5

Yet, the oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials — unchecked — directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.

That’s got to change, and the FRAC Act is an important step in providing a strong national standard to protect our nation’s water from the dangers of fracking.

Tell Sens. Brown and Portman: Co-sponsor the FRAC Act to protect our water from dangerous fracking. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Thanks for fighting the unchecked oil and gas influence threatening our water.

Elijah Zarlin,
Campaign Manager

CREDO
Action from Working Assets

1. Fracking,” Food and Water Watch.
2. Ohio and Fracking,” EarthJustice.
3. Hydraulic Fracturing 101,” EARTHWORKS.
4. Burning Tap Water and More: GASLAND Exposes the Natural Gas Industry,” Treehugger, June 25, 2010.
5. Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers,” New York Times, February 26, 2011



   

Share on FacebookPost to your feed wall Tweet  thisPost to Twitter

As in most controversial issues you will find “experts”
representing both sides of the issue. Many scientists, engineers, and PhDs will
say hydraulic fracturing is perfectly safe. But if it is so safe why did the
industry take steps to exempt the process from the EPA regulations and pass
legislation to keep secret the chemicals used?  In addition, accidents do happen and we all
remember the disastrous mess of the Gulf oil spill last year. We don’t want the
same thing to happen in our own backyard.

Our country, and in particular our own state of Ohio, are on
the precipice of a dangerous and slippery slope. The discovery of huge gas
deposits beneath the previously unapproachable shale could be the answer to our
financial and oil crisis—if it is harvested in a safe manner. This could mean
no more dependence on foreign oil and could bring in large revenues for
personal and state bank accounts.

Everyone could profit from this discovery but it must be
done in a way that won’t destroy our clean air and water. Currently, the
fracking process is just too dangerous with too many unknowns—including what
chemicals are used and their affect on the environment—to blindly fall for this
gold rush. What benefits can we possibly reap if we are dead or too sick to
enjoy them? Please contact your state representative to halt the explosive
growth of the natural gas industry in our state until safer methods are set in
place. Hurry before it is too late.