If the print dialog box does not automatically appear, open the file menu and choose Print.
Article published April 28, 2012
Drilling issues are real
Joseph P. McMurryButler Township
Deke Forbes, in a letter to the editor last month, urged people to welcome the gas industry. While it’s true, as Forbes stated, that hydraulic fracturing has been in use since the 1940s, the current combined technology known as “high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing” (Google “Old and New Hydraulic Fracturing: What’s the Difference?”) has been in widespread use for 10 to 15 years at most, and has been plagued with problems throughout its short history. To wit, PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center has culled from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection records a total of 3,355 violations of environmental laws by 64 different gas drilling companies covering the period Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2011. Of those violations, 2,392 were identified as likely to pose a direct threat to the environment — not reporting or paperwork violations. Another truth in Forbes’ letter is that only 0.5 percent of fracking fluid consists of chemicals, but let’s put that number into perspective. According to Simona Perry, a research scientist at Rensselaer (N.Y.) Polytechnic Institute: “While these chemicals typically compose less than 0.5 percent by volume of the hydraulic fracturing fluid, with a 3-million-gallon fresh water consumption rate per well per day, this could result in approximately 15,000 gallons of these chemicals being transported, stored and mixed on one well site per day.” Forbes claims that many of the chemicals used in fracturing are found in common household items. True, the report “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing,” released by the U.S. House of Representatives, lists instant coffee and walnut hulls as components of fracking fluid. It also lists diesel fuel, benzene and toluene. In all, 29 toxic compounds were found in 652 different fracturing products that were either known or possible carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. And then there are the undisclosed substances that the industry claims are “proprietary” or “trade secrets” — the ones that doctors aren’t allowed to tell anyone about under Act 13. If they were innocuous substances, the industry would not be required to disclose them to doctors as possible causes of illness. The “mandated concentric layers of thick-walled steel pipe and cement” that Forbes extols have been a perennial problem for the industry. Cement casing violations for the first eight months of 2011 had already exceeded the total for all of 2010, according to DEP violations data. Faulty well casings have often been implicated in drilling-related groundwater contamination, including the infamous 2009 case in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County. Forbes claims that such cases do not exist, but that is not true. In May 2011, the DEP fined Chesapeake Energy $900,000 for contaminating the drinking water of 16 families in Bradford County. Forbes cites “misinformation ignorant of the truth” behind fears and concerns regarding shale gas drilling, but that, too, is false. The reports I have cited are reliable, and only a small sampling of all that has been published. The issues are real. The concerns are many. It is not “panic and fear-mongering,” as Forbes claims.