Opinions need not be feared nor suppressed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Frickin' fracking?' revisited

Before I even happened upon the Times Leader story, "WVSA may treat wastewater from gas-drilling," I had received an e-mail alert from Kayak Dude pointing me in that direction.

While I'm no expert on the ramifications, or environmental impacts of such an undertaking, I do know that Kayak Dude is. And when he suggested that we "blogswarm" on this topic, I got all lazy and whatnot and suggested to him that perhaps he should write the corresponding story, send it to me and I'd post it. So far, that anti-fracking manifesto is yet to arrive in my e-mail inbox.

But, since the locals are finally getting themselves up to speed on all things hydro-fracking, I figured I'd republish what I posted way back on 7/26/2008, a hodgepodge of a thing I titled "Frickin' fracking?"

Take it away, Markie!

Reprint on!

Frickin‘ fracking? I’ve never been so hurt in my life. At the tail end of an email exchange yesterday, Kayak Dude hit me with the following: “You have finally evolved into a progressive, liberal environmentalist.”


Needless to say, I immediately became hysterical and went out to the kitchen hunting for a bottle or two of Drano to drink. We didn’t have any, so Wifey put it on the grocery list. And since I’m typing this now, that means my purposely and ridiculously elevated BAC didn’t deliver the desired result either. Rats!

So I followed the link he sent me and read the story on drilling for that much-ballyhooed Marcellus Shale in very, very southern New York state. That very same Marcellus Shale that is supposedly sitting directly under our backyards. That very same Marcellus Shale that will be discovered after we lease out our backyards to companies drilling for natural gas. That very same Marcellus Shale that will make us all richer than our wildest of wild dreams not including Godzilla, Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge.

Now, as far as drilling for natural gas is concerned, I pictured a drill bit just a tad bit longer than Wilkes-Barre or something thereabouts. But that’s not how this thing works. To break through the rock formations and expose the shale deposits, fracking is the latest available know-how.

Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing of bedrock, involves high-pressure injection of chemicals, grotesque amounts of water siphoned from local tributaries and sand to fracture rock formations. And after those rock formations are fractured, nobody really knows where those chemicals might end up at. Water aquifers are the most likely place, as in, the water table could become rendered unusable by human beings and furry animals alike. And we wouldn‘t want to make all of the furry little animals rabid as all hell, would we?

So, if and when you lease your land to a drilling company, you’re inviting said company to pump a frightening chemical cocktail into the soil beneath you. And if that’s not enough of a cause for concern, fracking requires millions upon millions of gallons of water to be successful. Water that can only come from our local streams, ponds and rivers.

I sent an email requesting drilling specifics to Chesapeake Energy Corp. one of the largest leaseholders in the Marcellus field, but I received no reply. Shock of shocks, no?

On a somewhat personal note, after the protracted battle to deep-six the inflatable dam at Wilkes-Barre resulted in a glorious victory for the River Rats and their unsung leader, Kayak Dude, I figured he was thoroughly satisfied with his doggedly Herculean efforts and was heading off to the environmentalist retirement home. Yeah, I figured he’d be content with hugging trees and raising spotted mosquitoes from here on out.

But when that aforementioned email exchange included this blurb, “This is gonna get ugly”, I thought to myself, Rutro! The napping behemoth sleeps no more. Can “no fracking” t-shirts be in the works before very long? We shall see.

Anyway, this is the first I’ve heard of “fracking” and fracking fluids. But, with practically everybody with any available land to speak of currently courting these drilling outfits in hopes of becoming modern day Beverly Hillbillies, I think we need to get ourselves up to speed in a big, big hurry.

I can do without energy to a great degree. I can ride a bike and leave the motor vehicle parked right where it is. I can turn down the thermostat during the coldest of winters. And I can ignore the heat during the hottest of the hot summers. But I can’t do without a safe water supply.

Now here’s some necessary reading:

From The Times Leader, July 2, 2008:

State, gas drillers discuss water, land protection

Experts have known about the Marcellus Shale layer, which runs from upstate New York into Virginia and touches northern Luzerne County, for decades. They believe it contains enough recoverable gas to supply America’s natural gas demand for two years. However, technology has only recently advanced enough to tap the shale, which lies as much as 8,000 feet below the surface.

J. Scott Roberts, DEP deputy secretary in the Office of Mineral Resources Management, announced additions to the agency’s usual drilling permit specifically for Marcellus Shale that include detailed estimates of water use.

Paul Swartz, the river basin commission’s executive director, said companies need to make timely applications and factor the permitting process into their drilling timelines. Two permits were approved at the commission’s meeting on Thursday, he said, but another 84 – about a year’s worth of work – still await approval. Though there is a water-use threshold for requiring a permit, he said any work in the Marcellus would exceed that threshold and require a permit.

From NBC Channel 34, Binghamton, New York:

Gas Drilling

"This is going to make the plume in Endicott look like a walk in the park."
That's because retrieving natural gas from Marcellus Shale - one of the largest gas reservoirs in the world - uses a process called fracking, where water, sand and chemicals are pumped into a well.

Fractures in the wells, either naturally occurring or ones created through fracking, could potentially contaminate drinking water aquifers.

From Salon.com:

EPA to citizens: Frack you

Haire's doctor blames her health problems on the scenery's relatively recent addition: 600 natural gas wells, drilled by oil companies over the past two years. Every few feet, 150-foot-tall drill rigs, graced with American flags, rise upward into the sky. Compressor stations, banks of rectangular huts with five-foot-diameter fans, sit back from the road and pump the gas into underground pipelines.

Haire is not alone. Several dozen people in the area blame a rash of health problems on the wells, says Colorado lawyer Lance Astrella. For 15 years, Astrella was a successful attorney for the energy industry. For the past 15 years, he has been defending citizens like those in Garfield County, who blame the wells near their homes for their cancerous tumors, rectal bleeding and chronic headaches. Between January and March of this year, eight people called the Garfield County oil and gas department, complaining about black smoke and strong chemical odors they worry are making them sick.

Scientists and environmentalists say the health hazards of the natural gas wells stem not only from air pollution but "fracking fluid," a mixture of carcinogenic chemicals, used in many of them. Laura Amos, 43, an outfitter who lives 20 miles from Haire, recently developed a tumor in her adrenal gland, which she blames on her exposure to the chemicals. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a half century-old process in which a gas company injects water, sand and the chemicals into the wells. Developed by Halliburton, the corporation formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, fracking loosens the rock and maximizes the flow of gas to the surface.
At least 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie in the tight sand and coal bed formations below Garfield County, according to gas companies and industry geologists. Over the next eight years, energy companies expect to build more than 10,000 additional wells in the county.

From The River Reporter.com:

What’s in that fracking fluid?

Take, for instance, a substance called ZetaFlow. It’s a compound produced by a Texas-based company called Weatherford Fracturing Technologies, which is added to the millions of gallons of water that are used, under high pressure, to fracture the deep-lying shale deposit. The Durango Herald in Durango, CO has identified ZetaFlow as the agent that sent a nurse to an intensive care unit for several days in April.

According to an account in that paper and other news sources, a nurse at Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center came in contact with a gas worker who was allegedly doused with ZetaFlow. The nurse, Cathy Behr, became ill and within five days she said she went into liver, heart and respiratory failure.

Trust me, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg whereas available links and information are concerned.

The question is, is this fracking safe? Or do we need to band together and tell the EPA to funk the fracking already?

I leaning towards, yes, we do.

Note: There you go, Dude. I fired the first shot. When can I expect my bumper stickers and t-shirts?

End reprint!

And there you have it. Gort brought it up, I've weighed in all over again, and we'll see just who else might read some of this stuff and feel sufficiently outraged to go and run a bit further with it. While that may not qualify as a "blogswarm," it's better than nothing.

Now go hug your favorite tree (a nubile boxelder?), and I'm heading back to Art Bell-land, where the documented crazies all hang out at this time of night.


No comments: