Anti-Fracking Activists Getting Desperate

An anti-fracking group out of Colorado is trying to reach out to First Lady Michelle Obama, with a full page advertisement in the New York Times on Mother’s Day, asking Michelle to help “hit the pause” button on hydraulic fracturing. Of course, hitting the “pause” button is a misnomer — these groups want to hit the stop button and then destroy the DVD player:

DENVER — First Lady Michelle Obama has received a Mother’s Day greeting from moms who oppose fracking.

In a full-page advertisement in Saturday’s New York Times, Mrs. Obama was asked to help hit the pause button on the controversial oil and gas drilling procedure.

The ad, sponsored by the group “The Mother’s Project,” was co-signed by several Colorado groups, including ones in Green Valley Ranch and Aurora.

Janet Damon of “Green Valley Ranch Families Against Fracking” said she hopes national leaders “from our First Lady Obama to our President to the wives of other congressmen would look and say this is something no mother should have to worry about.”

Damon and Sonia Skakich-Scrima of “What the Frack?! Arapahoe” believe the high-pressure underground drilling technique is hurting the environment and must be slowed and stopped.

“We’re seeing impacts to ground and surface water across the country and in Colorado,” said Skakich-Scrima. “Those you can’t fix, they’re not fixable.” She said air emissions that may well be toxic are a major concern, too.

We have talked hydraulic fracturing often here at Resourceful Earth, but I’d like to get further into the technical details behind fracking for a second. Check out the image below (open in a new tab to see full size):

As you can see, the actual fracturing of rock is taking place very deep below the surface of the ground, over a mile below the surface in this example. By contrast, water from underground aquifiers is typically much shallower, closer to 400-500 feet deep. In between those two locations is roughly a mile of rock. It’s quite clear that its next to impossible for the chemicals shot all the way down to the fracturing location can enter the water that people use for drinking.

This is why films like Gasland are remarkably misleading. They don’t even bother to explain any of this stuff and just find areas where water has been contaminated and insinuate that hydraulic fracturing is responsible. Recently the EPA visited one of the featured locations in Gasland — Dimmock, Pennsylvania — and found that the water was safe. Do we expect a correction to the propaganda which masquerades as an objective documentary? (a: no):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said drinking water is safe to consume in a small Pennsylvania town that has attracted national attention after residents complained about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas.

The EPA has completed testing water at 61 homes in Dimock, Pennsylvania where residents have complained since 2009 of cloudy, foul-smelling water after Cabot Oil & Gas Corp drilled for gas nearby.

“This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” Roy Seneca, a spokesman for the regional EPA office, said about the final set of data released Friday. The agency released data for only 59 of the homes as they could not contact residents at two of them.

Dimock became ground zero for the debate about fracking after Josh Fox, the director of Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary called “Gasland,” visited the town and met residents who feared their water was contaminated by the drilling.

However, it is theoretically possible for hydraulic fracturing fluids, etc. to enter water aquifers via the drilling well, which must go down through the water table. If the well is not sealed properly its possible for fluids or natural gas to leak out into the water table, because the well has to go from the surface all the way down to 5000-6000 feet. This is all made more complicated by the fact that in areas where wells have been drilled, there isn’t always good information on what kind of chemicals the water contained before drilling (as you know, many residents in rural areas have always been able to light their sinks on fire due to methane). It’s hard to believe this has never happened, and its quite clear that if activities related to fracking have polluted your water table, you don’t care what specific aspect of the project contributed to the problem: you only care that your water is not drinkable.

Ideally, it would be easy to identify cases of water contamination (and the drillers responsible), and contracts would be written such that if a drilling company contaminated your water supply, they would be responsible for paying for water supplies for the individuals effected until water from the aquifiers was again drinkable. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t always work in ways we would consider ideal.

Having said that, the environmentalists are unwilling to acknowledge that overall, hydraulic fracturing has been an amazing success. Relative to the number of wells drilled, the number of potential problems reported is miniscule. The enormous drop in natural gas prices has benefited American households and energy intensive industries. It (along with the EPA) has also replaced a lot of coal fired power plants in the United States, which environmentalists claim to favor, yet they rarely acknowledge that this should be an upside to them, as windmills and solar panels are not yet able to replace significant portions of the U.S. electricity market.



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