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“Frack” should be the new obscenity

Read this article on fracking and you’ll agree with me. The oil companies have reached new despicable lows in their efforts to poison the air and water.

Like any good little privileged American, my first thought was…is this going on in my back yard? And the answer is no, it’s not, there is no fracking going on in Minnesota. However, we are one of the prime suppliers of industrial silica sand used in fracking, and we’ve got lots of mining going on in the southeastern part of the state. So we’re just enablers of fracking.

All that sand is going next door to allow lots of fracking in North Dakota, though. Sorry, neighbor. I do find it ironic that a state known for its regressive/conservative social policies is happily making a big chunk of its territory uninhabitable, though.

Comments

  1. pHred says

    Dude – where have you been ? Frack has been a curse word since the original Battlestar Galactica. Now we know why Starbuck was able to say it so vehemently.

    I have been devoting time each semester in my general education Environmental Science class to a discussion of fracing – since we are in New York and these kids are probably going to be voting on the issue in the nearish future.

  2. unbound says

    Frack has been an obscenity for a long time…via the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.

  3. says

    It would be going on in my backyard, were it not for the concerted efforts of hundreds of dedicated, incredibly hard-working environmental activists. Organizing works, people!

  4. steve84 says

    Technically, the BSG word is spelled “frak”, as a four-letter word. “Frack” is from the Original Series, but with a more harmless meaning.

    And also has made an appearance in many other shows and is lots of fun:

  5. fastlane says

    Funny seeing how much Katie Sackoff shows up in that clip. I got to meet her last weekend (and Tricia Helfer). :)

  6. says

    Heh. I’ve been to North Dakota. A large portion of it is already uninhabitable.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer place. Seriously. If North Dakota were a nicer place, it couldn’t happen. People wouldn’t let it.

    Count me among the yawners. They’re merely reaping what they sowed.

    Do they want something different? Then it’s up to them to elect better officials who will protect their interests. If not…again, yawning.

  7. truthspeaker says

    Probably the most outrageous thing about fracking is that the EPA is not allowed to regulate the chemicals that are used in fracking, because they companies don’t have to disclose what they are, because it’s a trade secret.

  8. rmpislv says

    I live in SE MN and the frac sand mining/distribution is a HUGE deal here. I normally am comfortable about being pretty open about my politics but my companies land-lord is a major player locally and I’m a little more sheepish than usual about being outspoken.

  9. says

    Heh. I’ve been to North Dakota. A large portion of it is already uninhabitable.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer place. Seriously. If North Dakota were a nicer place, it couldn’t happen. People wouldn’t let it.

    Count me among the yawners. They’re merely reaping what they sowed.

    Do they want something different? Then it’s up to them to elect better officials who will protect their interests. If not…again, yawning.

    Speaking of obscenities…

  10. mythbri says

    @Kevin

    We all live downstream. There are going to be more and more environmental impacts as fracking becomes more and more prevalent. Saying that the people in North Dakota are reaping what they sow is basically cutting of your nose to spite your face – no one wins in this situation, except for the people making masses of money.

    This link makes for interesting reading:

    http://www2.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing

  11. unbound says

    @Kevin – Er, just because there are large spaces between the farm houses in ND (eastern side mostly) and between the cattle ranches (western side mostly) doesn’t mean most of the state is uninhabitable. The entire population of ND is (or at least was) less than Washington DC.

    Just because the population is largely ignorant of the issues doesn’t mean they are less deserving of being protected from the aggressors.

  12. kantalope says

    Poisoning the water just opens up opportunities for the free hand of the market to bring in water from places that did not take economic advantage of fracking when it was available. So the newly frack-wealthy will have the money to import drinking water and unpolluted air from fracking poorer areas. Win-win for people with air and water trucks.

    Free Fracking Markets people.

    According to the map – the peeps in N Dakota can move to S Dakota and then Oklahoma if they don’t like their drinking water to taste like benzene (panzies). With their new mutated tentacles, loading up the moving boxes will be a snap, and be another opportunity for people with trucks.

  13. truthspeaker says

    Not to mention that the aquifer under North Dakota is also under Minnesota and several other states, and supplies drinking water to many residents of all of them.

  14. redpanda says

    re: kantalope

    I’d find your comment funny if I didn’t know so many people who seem to actually think this way :(

  15. Rawnaeris, FREEZE PEACHES says

    In Texas they aren’t even bothering to do it in the “middle of nowhere”. They are doing in the DFW Metro area, enough so that they are causing earthquakes. Mind, this is not an area that usually sees quakes, so even minor ones can cause structural damage.

    NPR Source Link

  16. Rawnaeris, FREEZE PEACHES says

    I seem to have dropped an “it” from my second sentence. Even though I previewed to make sure the link came out right.

    Should read “They are doing it(fracking) in the DFW Metro area”

  17. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Not doing it is unamerican cause then the Arabs win, and also you destroy freedom thru regulation. If you interfere with big business, the magic that made America great goes away.

  18. unclefrogy says

    I agree with “truthspeaker” here the fact that what they are using, how they are actually doing what they are doing, is kept secret is just wrong!
    The trade secret reason given just sounds like B.S.
    Makes me wounder if they have to use “additives” into the injecting fluid that it would be illegal to discharge into the environment or dispose in a landfill.
    Do they use them because without them they do not get the “efficiency” to make the process profitable enough for development? If the cost of cleanup and remediation were added to the over all cost would it still be worth it to develop?
    They need to answer those questions because after the wells run dry the shit will remain.
    uncle frogy

  19. David Marjanović says

    The energy vultures are also eyeing the unique and pristine Karoo Desert in South Africa.

    Fuck! That’s where about half of our knowledge of the Middle Permian through Early Jurassic comes from!!! I want to get violent.

    the EPA is not allowed to regulate the chemicals that are used in fracking, because they companies don’t have to disclose what they are, because it’s a trade secret.

    *rageflail*

  20. Ben P says

    The article seems odd. I do in fact have Fracking going on in my back yard (the fayetteville shale) and the biggest problem so far is that the ultra-heavy equipment trucks utterly DESTROY roadways not meant to handle routine traffic from 120,000 pound trucks.

    Another common complaint is that people who do lease land often underestimate the physical damage that will occur with heavy trucks and drilling operations. Landmen sell it like you’ll have an access road and a small drill pad. Maybe 2 years later that’s whay it looks like, but while they’re drilling there’s daily heavy truck traffic and anything in the way of the trucks gets ground into mud.

    That said, the drillers here definitely aren’t exempt from the clean water act, I know that for a fact. I haven’t heard about exemptions from the clean air act, but I have heard that the silica sand is not considered an “air pollutant” under the CAA, so that might be what they’re referring to. Silicosis is a common workers comp claim for oil field workers because so few of them wear respirators like OSHA says they’re supposed to.

    I haven’t noticed any really significant deteroration in water quality, I have heard some others complain about the same. Don’t know if that’s very localized or some people are more sensitive to it than others. I do know the state environmental protection agency does monitor closely for spills of fracking fluid. It’s pumped in, pumped out and transported out on heavy trucks. Don’t know what they do with it after that.

    What his employer never told him was that the drilling mud, as well as the wastewater from fracking, is not only highly toxic, but radioactive.

    that’s just plain hyperbolic. Most drilling muds are made from Bentonite, which is decidedly not radioactive. If the native shale and clay has concentrations of ore that are radioactive, some of that can come back out with the drilling mud, I find it very difficult to believe that any natural ore, after being diluted, would have sufficient concentration to create dangerous radioactivity. Toxicity on the other hand, yeah, I have little doubt.

    The story about little rose only really confirms that the story’s hyperbolic. Some particularly callus vets might say “shoot the (pet) horse” but I know several vets and they wouldn’t dream of giving that advice without seeing the animal first, and probably then they’d do it themselves with a barbituate injection.

  21. Ben P says

    One would think that with the price of natural gas being so low, companies wouldn’t be so quick to frack everywhere.

    Just goes to show that maybe the free market can’t solve all of our problems.

    You have your cause and effect backwards. Many oil companies are cutting production at the moment because prices are so low.

    When oil prices spiked 3-4 years ago, that started a boom in natural gas production as suddenly all these gas fields where production hadn’t been economical before could be exploited at a profit. It became a gold rush and companies wen’t wild, over developing the market. Subsequently, the market was flooded with natural gas and the price crashed. Now they’re mostly just pumping from existing wellheads rather than drilling a lot of new ones. Once prices go back up they’ll explore more.

  22. unclefrogy says

    @ 24

    my guess as to why they are interested in fracking for gas is because they really understand the real state of the energy reserves and not the BS the PR has been promulgating for years this would also relate to the “enthusiasm” for tar sands development

    uncle frogy

  23. Ben P says

    Probably the most outrageous thing about fracking is that the EPA is not allowed to regulate the chemicals that are used in fracking, because they companies don’t have to disclose what they are, because it’s a trade secret.

    Do you have…you know… a source for this?

    What you’re probably thinking of, but didn’t repeat right is that the EPA hasn’t public ally released the results of its study of Fracking Chemicals on the water table because the release of the study would release the trade secret formulas for the chemicals. That decidedly does not mean the chemicals are not regulated or won’t be subject to regulation.

  24. Ben P says

    Regarding environmental regulation exemptions:

    http://www.independentwatertesting.com/education-center/148-what-is-the-halliburton-loophole.html

    Ok, I’ll accept that. I was thinking specifically of surface spills of fracking flud, which I’ve been professionally involved in lawsuits over.

    Those statutory provisions specifically exempt the specific practice of injecting fluid into the gas wells, but for example if they’re putting the flud in a retention pond, or spill some of it, that’s definitely subject to EPA regulations.

  25. Pteryxx says

    I do know the state environmental protection agency does monitor closely for spills of fracking fluid. It’s pumped in, pumped out and transported out on heavy trucks. Don’t know what they do with it after that.

    They dispose of used fracking fluid (contaminated water) by pumping it back down wells that don’t produce any more. Supposedly these old wells are properly sealed, monitored, safe for nearby aquifers, yadda yadda, just like the fracking wells.

    http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/about/faqs/saltwaterwells.php

    http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2013/03/29/fracking-disposal-wells-pose-challenges-in-texas/

    The amount of wastewater being disposed of in Texas wells has skyrocketed with the spread of fracking, to nearly 3.5 billion barrels in 2011 from 46 million barrels in 2005, according to data from the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator. On average, companies in Texas dispose of 290 million barrels of wastewater — equivalent to about 18,500 Olympic-size swimming pools — each month.

    The state has more than 8,000 active disposal wells, about 850 of which are large commercial operations, according to the Railroad Commission. That is far more than other drilling states like Pennsylvania or Ohio. Texas has another 25,000 wells that accept waste fluids and use them to retrieve additional oil and gas.

    Correlation between injection wells and earthquakes – Science Daily

  26. says

    Ben P:

    Now they’re mostly just pumping from existing wellheads rather than drilling a lot of new ones

    You’re joking, right? Right now in New York there’s huge debates raging over fracking that hasn’t happened yet, with individual municipalities taking the initiative to zone drilling out of their jurisdictions (which has resulted in lawsuits because the natural gas companies don’t want to be denied access anywhere in the state).

  27. Pteryxx says

    Scientific American coverage from 2012:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-fracking-wastewater-wells-poisoning-ground-beneath-our-feeth

    In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.

    There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

    [...]

    A ProPublica review of well records, case histories and government summaries of more than 220,000 well inspections found that structural failures inside injection wells are routine. From late 2007 to late 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined — more than 17,000 violations nationally. More than 7,000 wells showed signs that their walls were leaking. Records also show wells are frequently operated in violation of safety regulations and under conditions that greatly increase the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination.

  28. Ben P says

    You’re joking, right? Right now in New York there’s huge debates raging over fracking that hasn’t happened yet, with individual municipalities taking the initiative to zone drilling out of their jurisdictions (which has resulted in lawsuits because the natural gas companies don’t want to be denied access anywhere in the state).

    I think my post must have carried an implication that I didn’t mean.

    I’m really talking about a pretty short term time frame, 4, 6, 8, 12 months. Maybe 24 months at most. Companies were exploring like mad until about late 2009, 2010 when the price collapsed by half. Then they radically pruned back their new development.

    But virtually all the gas companies know that the natural gas price isn’t going to stay low forever, and indeed will probably skyrocket in the 10-20 year timeframe. Will probably be so they’re not walking away from their drilling rigs, they’re just slow-walking it for the moment.

  29. Larry says

    But we must let the gas and oil companies do their fracking because Freedom!!

    And you have the right not to drink the chemical sewage flowing from your tap.

    Its a win-win.

    And in 20 years, when the boom has busted and the companies have packed up and moved away, leaving a vast polluted landscape, well, thats the price of Freedom!

  30. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    Here in Pennsylvania, every time anyone suggests that there should be tighter regulations on the natural gas industry, better and more frequent inspections, and that they should pay for the damage being done to the local infrastructure, the answer is the same: If you regulate, they will all leave instantly.

    I have no idea if frakking can be done safely and with minimal environmental damage. No one knows. Because it has never been tried.

  31. Pteryxx says

    Ben P

    Companies were exploring like mad until about late 2009, 2010 when the price collapsed by half. Then they radically pruned back their new development.

    Yeah not so much. The domestic price of natural gas collapsed, within the US, so companies are trying to export the natural gas instead of ramping down production. Not to mention natural gas is cheap in the US largely because the fracking industry’s under-regulated and not paying penalties, clean-up costs, or even fair prices for the water used in fracking those wells.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/potential-surge-us-lng-exports-shale-natural-gas-boom-splits-corporate-america-one-side-gets-allied

    As a result, the boom in production has created a rare fissure that runs through the heart of corporate America, pitting manufacturers such as Dow Chemical against energy giants such as the Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), which have been seeking to raise the price of natural gas by pushing the government to allow them to export to more countries. That concerns manufacturers, which warn that such an export-heavy policy will result in higher energy prices in the U.S. and hurt manufacturing. The policy proposal has also spawned a rare alliance between manufacturers and environmentalists, who have long argued that fracking diverts water from agricultural uses and pollutes the water supply.

    Energy companies have been urging the U.S. Energy Department to let them export their gas to nations with which the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement, or FTA, something only the Energy Department can permit, provided it determines that such ventures are consistent with the “public interest,” as required by the Natural Gas Act. As of this date, 17 applications for multibillion-dollar facilities to turn the commodity into liquefied natural gas, or LNG, for export are under review by the Energy Department.

  32. mikeyb says

    Fracking is a mechanism by the corporate intelligencia to keep energy prices artificially low so we can simultaneously avoid dealing with investing in alternative energy resources, conservation and delay dealing with global warming for as long as possible, probably until we heat things up till it gets to be 150 degrees in Texas in July, but even then the republithugs and liberturds will find excuses for ignoring the problem.

  33. says

    Pteryxx:

    The domestic price of natural gas collapsed, within the US, so companies are trying to export the natural gas instead of ramping down production.

    Which makes sense in light of, oh I don’t know, the natural gas pipeline controversies. Sure, go ahead and run a pipeline from Canada on south so you can ship the gas abroad. Hell, run it through my backyard! How dangerous can it be?

    Not that New Yorkers aren’t fighting against that as well or anything.

  34. says

    If you regulate, they will all leave instantly.

    And yet, right next door in New York, after 5+ years of activism, passing moratoria, bans, regulations, and more, with yet more legislation in the offing, the fracking companies appear just as eager as ever to set up shop.

    Hmmm.

  35. pHred says

    As I understand it most of the gas companies are actually willing to do this at a net loss on the methane because of the market value of the heavier gases.

    And yep – this battle has been raging in NY for years now. The gas companies keep saying that they are going to leave (“I’m taking my ball and I’m gonna go home – pout!”) but then they never do.

  36. says

    And according to the (I’m sure) stellar reporting at that powerhouse of a newspaper The Times Journal (the news of Schoharie County)†, the Constitution Pipeline would serve to move natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England. so I guess it’s not all being exported.

    And despite the fact that there is exactly zero benefit to the communities to have this pipeline run through their land, there’s talk of seizing private property through imminent domain.

    So, yeah. Natural gas companies can go take a flying fuck at a bridge for all I care.

    †It’s a weekly paper.

  37. says

    Sally! Did you see that the mid level state courts upheld municipal fracking bans? Huzzah!

    I work with one of this region’s most active anti-fracking organizers, so yeah, that news was pretty much shouted in my ear first thing this morning by a giddy, laughing, dancing (but adorable) loon of a young man. :) Good news.

  38. mothra says

    No 8, Keven said

    “Heh. I’ve been to North Dakota. A large portion of it is already uninhabitable.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer place. Seriously. If North Dakota were a nicer place, it couldn’t happen. People wouldn’t let it.

    Count me among the yawners. They’re merely reaping what they sowed.

    Do they want something different? Then it’s up to them to elect better officials who will protect their interests. If not…again, yawning.”

    Your ignorance is not helpful. Those of us who do live here are in very much the same situation with regards to fracking as with the campaign against womens’ health going on in our state. Our state legislature has been voting with special intrests rather than good-of-the-state and its people for the last two sessions. The ND legislature meets only every other year (fortunately). The upside is it limits their damage; the downside, once they miss a cycle of necessary legislation they are then WAY behind the curve.

    The ND legislature has not allocated the necessary monies to repair the infrastructure the oil trucks are destroying (and neither have those companies). The companies have invested NOTHING that cannot simply be abandoned when they withdraw. A bill that was narrowly defeated in the recently concluded legislative session would have reduced the state tax on oil companies (legislators are such fools as to think oil companies would withdraw when there is profit to be made). This is perhaps the only state where Walmart store shelves are not stocked (pallots left in isles) because no one in the oil patch not associated with oil, can earn even a semblence of a living wage.

    As for electing ‘better’ officials. Do you think the gerrymandered districts in Pennsylvania in anyway creates a state legislature representative of the people? In ND, the majority of people are located in 3 areas, the eastern edge (Red River “valley”), the State Capital in Bismarck, and in the oil patch. Legislative districts and representation in both the ND house and sennate do not reflect this. So we have in ND, as in many rethuglican controlled states, a ‘tail wags the dog’ situation. On initiated ballots the populous eastern edge of the state (influenced no doubt by the good state of MN) usually votes blue rather than red- and often carries the backward rethuglicans into modernity.

    Other than those particular people whe are reaping windfall profits by land leases, the average ND citizen is for fracking with regulation. If the womens’ reproductive health/ rights issues make it to a ballot (or fracking regulations ever do), ND citizens would very likely undo all or most of what the legislature has done (much like what did in fact happen in SD when people actually got to vote on the womens reproductive rights issues). The ND legislature also passed a law to make it more difficult for citizens to gather signatures and put referenda on ballots.

    Now Kevin, go look up information concerning some of the issue I have raised here, then read and (I hope) learn.

  39. Amblebury says

    I have no idea if fracking can be done safely and with minimal environmental damage. No one knows. Because it has never been tried.

    It can and it has Ogvorbis, in countries other than the US. NZ, for example. I’ll try and get you some information as quickly as I can.

    The problem with fracking in the US, and it is a big problem, is that lack of industrial regulation. It’s not that it can’t be done safely (and there are scenarios in which it shouldn’t ever be done) it’s that there aren’t enough rules, regulations and an independent inspectorate established. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that.

    The best way to deal with poor practices, would be to find out what good practices are and point to the companies’ inadequacies.

  40. yazikus says

    @mothra, thank you for that! As someone who lived in ND once, and leaving was beyond my control, I thank you.

    As for electing ‘better’ officials.

    Currently my state is trying to pass legislation to undo several really great things the voters have made themselves clear on. So yeah, it doesn’t always work like that.

  41. sugarfrosted says

    That’s not ironic at all, it’s exactly what I would have expected North Dakota to do.

  42. sumdum says

    Thanks for the reminder. In the Netherlands they wanna start this thing as well, so I signed an anti-fracking petition.

  43. says

    Currently, the natural gas from fracking is displacing the use of coal in US power plants. Burning coal is not particularly clean. By all means, let’s push for tighter environmental regulations on fracking. And offshore drilling. And coal mining, for that matter. And let’s put a carbon tax in place, to encourage the move from fossil fuels.

    But just saying “fracking sucks” isn’t really a policy.

  44. Rob says

    We’ve certainly heard the horror stories about fracking down here in NZ. Indeed, there have been examples of localised surface contamination in the past in Taranaki. The increasing use of the technique here prompted investigation (which is still ongoing). Here is the part one interim report:

    http://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/all-publications/evaluating-the-environmental-impacts-of-fracking-in-new-zealand-an-interim-report/

    I guess this speaks to the NZ experience, not US, but interesting nonetheless.

  45. Fred Magyar says

    Hey, It’s now 450 ppm or bust! And unless you are all riding bamboo bicycles and producing your own electricity with self installed PV panels, it’s time to stop singling out the oil pushers and look in the mirror and admit that ‘WE’ collectively have an oil addiction problem! Anyone going cold turkey?!

  46. DLC says

    What I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around is this : if the process essentially just uses water with a lot of pressure behind it to break up shale formations deep underground, how come they need all those toxic chemicals ? Shouldn’t high pressure water or steam, perhaps punctuated with the odd charge of TNT do the job ? It just seems like they’re making tea by creating a fusion generator to swap atoms around until they get Darjeeling, instead of just going to the store.

  47. says

    DLC, even if the water were pristine, it would be laden with hydrocarbons when it came out. From the very deposits they’re exploiting.

  48. Pteryxx says

    DLC, here you go:

    http://www.energyanswered.org/questions/what-chemicals-are-used-in-fracking-fluid

    The number of chemical additives used in fracking fluid depends on the conditions of the specific well that is fractured. A typical fracture treatment will use very low concentrations of between three and 12 additive chemicals, depending on the characteristics of the water and the shale formation. It’s important to note that each component serves a specific, engineered purpose. From limiting the growth of bacteria to preventing well casing corrosion, chemicals are included in fracking fluid to ensure that the job is both effective and efficient.

    http://fracfocus.org/water-protection/drilling-usage

    Each component serves a specific, engineered purpose. For example, the predominant fluids currently being used for fracture treatments in the gas shale plays are water‐based fracturing fluids mixed with friction‐reducing additives (called slickwater). The addition of friction reducers allows fracturing fluids and sand, or other solid materials called proppants, to be pumped to the target zone at a higher rate and reduced pressure than if water alone were used. In addition to friction reducers, other additives include: biocides to prevent microorganism growth and to reduce biofouling of the fractures; oxygen scavengers and other stabilizers to prevent corrosion of metal pipes; and acids that are used to remove drilling mud damage within the near‐wellbore area.

    Fluids are used to create the fractures in the formation and to carry a propping agent (typically silica sand) which is deposited in the induced fractures to keep them from closing up.

    If you noted the phrase “prevent corrosion” and that reminded you of anything, you may be correct:

    http://stopthedrilling.blogspot.com/2010/03/denton-county-flagged-for-having-high.html

    One source that can put Chromium into the air and water is gas and oil drilling. The industry uses Hexavalent Chromium as a anti-corrosive agent. It does have a dangerous down side and that is it is another chemical that can cause many health effects.

    This article in Emerging Health Threats states that Denton County has been flagged for having some of the highest levels of Chromium in the air.

    Other “hot spots” flagged by the researchers include Middlesex County in Massachusetts, and Denton County in Texas.

    Last summer large amounts of Hexavalent Chromium were found in drinking water wells in Midland, TX. The only industry in the area is Oil and Gas. Click here to read article.

  49. txpiper says

    “virtually all the gas companies know that the natural gas price isn’t going to stay low forever”

    No, it won’t. There are gas-producers all over the world planning LNG facilities. Japan would like to replace its nukes with gas-fired plants, in reaction to the Fukushima adventure. The general hostility towards coal and petroleum in the US is also driving the markets towards gas and gas derivatives in several directions, because it is considered “clean”. What do they heat with in Minnesota?

  50. fentex says

    That article was long on opinion and testimony but short on documentation.

    Surely if fracking is capable of killing cattle through seepages into the ground and water supply then it’s capable of killing people, in which case documenting it is important and surely possible but the only references to attempts in this article are claims to falsification of tests.

    It refers to evidence but only features a photo of a derrick. Where were the pictures of dying cattle and horse? The gruesome photo of the opened innards of an animal being autopsied? The inflamations it speaks of?

    As it is it constitutes little more than a similar account a anti-vaccine campaigner may give of all the horrors they witness and people claim in proximity to vaccines.

    If the evils it describes are real then they’re serious enough to deserve sober and well documented accounting in the absence of predetermined expressive opinion so that people may be convinced without suspicion of hyperbole or prejudice.

  51. David Marjanović says

    The ND legislature meets only every other year

    what is this I don’t even

    what

    That sounds like the People’s Congress in China!

    Walmart store shelves are not stocked (pall[e]ts left in [a]isles) because no one in the oil patch not associated with oil [...] can earn even a semblence of a living wage.

    Still out of words.

    It’s now 450 ppm or bust!

    What do you mean by “or”? What, pray tell, do you mean by “or”?

    http://stopthedrilling.blogspot.com/2010/03/denton-county-flagged-for-having-high.html

    Gah. That stuff is srs bzns.

  52. erichoug says

    Meh, I’ve seen this same stuff in Oklahoma, Bakersfield and up in the Bakken. I completely agree that they should be disclosing the chemicals that are used. But, I can tell you from personal experience, that most of the time what they are using is just a shitload of water and a big ass compressor. They mostly steam the shale formations downhole to break loose the sticky hydrocarbons.

    For the most part the chemicals are known. The State of Texas requires disclosure of the chemicals used but not the concentrations .

    Just to put another twist on it, keep in mind that many people who claim these injuries are people who do not own the mineral rights to the land being fracked. They may have a legitimate illness or they may be trying to shake down the oil companies. I am not saying they aren’t sick but I am saying that we shouldn’t take their claims at face value just as we wouldn’t take the claims of the oil companies at face value.

    I still say the best way to deal with these issues is by reducing demand. If you can reduce demand for oil by 30% then fracking becomes largely unnecessary. If we want to keep living 30, 40, 60 miles from where we work and having 2-4 cars per family then we will continue to frack.

    Personally, I would love to see us move more towards a european city model where we take public transport live in a higher population density and really strive to make a liveable, workable city.

  53. md says

    Seems like a lifetime ago when American Democrats wanted energy independence from the Middle East. I remember taking that line of thinking seriously myself, thinking, foolishly ive long since learned, that some Democrats were arguing in good faith.

    You can’t get to Skeptic conferences around the world on solar powered jets or wind powered buses. Not yet anywhoo. Solyndra and Tesla and the Chevy Volt will have that fixed, after one more subsidy.

    Personally, I would love to see us move more towards a european city model where we take public transport live in a higher population density and really strive to make a liveable, workable city.

    And when people move back into cities around the country, as has happened in D.C. and Philly and a few other places, the anti-gentrification whine machine revs up. Make up your minds already.

  54. mothra says

    @63 David,

    I think it was G.G. Simpson who once said “In Africa, the Pleistocene has barely stopped breathing.” In ND, the 20th century is ‘the next new thing.’

    A state legislator from Dickenson, Stark County, ND, upon finding out that insects do not possess a pancreas, put out a news bulletin wondering why should we be spending so much money on research when all farmers have to do is spray their crops with sugar water. This was two years ago- will try and find the original citation. The guy is still a state representative.

  55. Pteryxx says

    Surely, surely, surely.

    If the evils it describes are real then they’re serious enough to deserve sober and well documented accounting in the absence of predetermined expressive opinion so that people may be convinced without suspicion of hyperbole or prejudice.

    Then I’m sure you’ll get right on calling out those nondisclosure agreements, pushing for local and federal tracking, transparency and oversight, and better funding and freedom to operate for the EPA, CDC and OSHA; as well as pressuring mainstream media to cover these stories fairly. Riiiight?

    “I hear [stories] thousands of miles apart, in various states, and to me — to an untrained medical professional — they sound alarmingly similar,” he says. “But when we go to federal or state health officials, or drilling officials, or any officials, and ask how common these are … nobody really knows. Nobody has systemically tracked how many health complaints there are, whether the complaints are similar, whether they can be tied to any specific chemical exposure or any environmental cause. It makes it very difficult beyond an anecdotal answer to get a handle on how widespread a problem this might be.”

    Part of the problem, writes Lustgarten, is that “the drilling companies have complicated efforts to gather pollution data and to understand the root of health complaints.”

    [...]

    The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a sister agency to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Lustgarten that a comprehensive study could cost upwards of $100 million.

    “When we talked in very loose terms about what it would take to do a study about the kinds of symptoms we’re seeing in the gas fields and look at these areas, they threw out this $100 million cost,” he says. “And they presented it as something that needs to be done and that it’s time to do, but they really don’t have the capacity, staffing or bandwidth to undertake it at this point.”

    The oil and gas companies have also stressed the need for research over individual anecdotal accounts, he says.

    “In general, they tend to be dismissive of individual complaints while expressing an understandable need for further research and concern for the health of individuals, but really shying away from any connection with their own activities,” he says. “You won’t hear the drilling industry say, ‘This isn’t an issue and we don’t have to study this.’ You won’t hear them say they don’t care about Susan Wallace-Babb. But you will hear them say ‘Susan Wallace-Babb appears to not like the industry and maybe she has health issues and maybe she wants the industry to leave [where she lives]. And by the way, we need to do a whole lot more research and it’s a decade-long effort and let’s just get started and not talk about blame at this point.’ “

    http://www.npr.org/2011/09/29/140872251/the-trouble-with-health-problems-near-gas-fracking

    Gee, that sounds familiar.

    New England Journal of Medicine, Legislative Interference with the Patient-Physician Relationship

    Four states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Texas) have passed legislation relating to disclosure of information about exposure to chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).10 Fracking involves injecting into the ground toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene to extract oil and natural gas.11 Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness; higher levels of exposure can cause cancer. In Pennsylvania, physicians can obtain information about chemicals used in the fracking process that may be relevant to a patient’s care, but only after requesting the information in writing and executing a nonstandardized confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement drafted by the drilling companies.12

    http://grist.org/natural-gas/for-pennsylvanias-doctors-a-gag-order-on-fracking-chemicals/

    Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else—not even the person they’re trying to treat. [bolds mine]

    Doctors also aren’t allowed to share that information with other medical professionals treating the same patient or patients. Every doctor has to sign their own nondisclosure agreement with the company they’re seeking chemical disclosure from – agreements drafted by and specific to each of the dozen or more drilling companies operating in a given area. (Except in Colorado which has a state-specific form used by all the companies in the state.) How many simultaneous lawsuits should an individual doctor risk?

    Flaws in EPA’s fracking study (HuffPo link)

    The EPA had planned to do both computer simulations of water contamination and actual field tests at drilling sites. But the agency hasn’t found a drilling company to partner with to test groundwater around a drilling site. That leaves the computer simulations. But the EPA said those won’t be able to address the likelihood of contamination “occurring during actual field operations.”

    “In its inability to find a single company willing to test water quality before and after drilling and fracking, the EPA is being thwarted in perhaps the most important part of its study of fracking’s impacts,” Earthworks said in a statement.

    EPA dismisses independent research after oil company complains

    Now a confidential report obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with company representatives show that the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study into a common form of drilling called hydraulic fracturing. Regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination.

    [...]

    Believing the case was headed for a lengthy legal battle, the EPA asked an independent scientist named Geoffrey Thyne to analyze water samples taken from 32 water wells. In the report obtained by the AP, Thyne concluded from chemical testing that the gas in the drinking water could have originated from Range Resources’ nearby drilling operation.

    Meanwhile, the EPA was seeking industry leaders to participate in a national study into hydraulic fracturing. Range Resources told EPA officials in Washington that so long as the agency continued to pursue a “scientifically baseless” action against the company in Weatherford, it would not take part in the study and would not allow government scientists onto its drilling sites, said company attorney David Poole.

    In March 2012, the EPA retracted its emergency order, halted the court battle and set aside Thyne’s report showing that the gas in Lipsky’s water was nearly identical to the gases the Plano, Texas-based company was producing.

    [...]

    The company insists the gas in Lipsky’s water is from natural migration and not drilling. Range Resources’ testing indicates the gas came from a different rock formation called Strawn shale and not the deeper Barnett shale, Poole said.

    In addition, he said, isotopic analysis cannot be used in this case because the chemical makeup of the gases in the two formations is indistinguishable. A Range Resources spokesman also dismissed Thyne and Jackson as anti-industry.

    Range Resources has not shared its data with the EPA or the Railroad Commission. Poole said the data is proprietary and could only be seen by Houston-based Weatherford Laboratories, where it originated. It was analyzed for Range Resources by a Weatherford scientist, Mark McCaffrey, who did not respond to requests for an interview.

  56. Pteryxx says

    Also found this while researching – the NYT on the dangers of fracking wastewater in Pennsylvania, which unlike other states allows it to be shipped to municipal sewage treatment plants instead of being injected into disposal wells. Some of it’s even shipped to treatment plants in other states – New York and West Virginia.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

    The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

    Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

    The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

    But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

    In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

  57. Fred Magyar says

    myeck waters @ 57

    “Gosh, Fred, you’re so hardcore.”

    Would you like a couple more hits of that black gold bro… come on ya know you really can’t live without it.

    I’m as hardcore as they get when it comes to saying that we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about and how we use energy. Today I’m actually taking some time off and watching
    live.solarimpulse.com

    BTW, to be clear, while SolarImpulse is a beautiful machine, the idea behind it is NOT to make solar airplanes. It’s about changing the way we think. So once again you wanna a little hit of the black stuff, huh?!

    We’re at 400 ppm now what’s another 50, eh? Ask James Hansen, is he hard core enough for you?

  58. madscientist says

    I disagree; the piece is nothing but fantasy and scaremongering. The descriptions make it absolutely clear that the author(s) know nothing whatsoever of the industrial gas extraction processes, what you’d typically see on site, and what sort of things do in fact go wrong. It’s nothing but a pathetic sob story. The gas companies will screw people over however they can, so effective regulation is essential, but that sob story just has nothing at all in common with reality.

  59. Fred Magyar says

    Thanks for the reality check madscientist! While I’m no great fan of the oil and gas companies I happen to have had the good fortune to have had the entire fracking process explained to me in great detail by a couple petroleum field geologists with 35+ plus years practical experience in the field. You are right that story is pure fantasy! Wasn’t there a dumb movie made with a script that pretty much follows that story line? But again I digress! The point is that it is irrelevant to the big picture. There is little doubt we all need to get off all forms of fossil fuel for two very simple reasons one, we can’t continue to burn it and expect to escape the long term environmental consequences. So for that reason alone our current industrial civilization is already kaput! And here’s some math to back up the first part:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9979#comment-960808

    The second reason is we are reaching a physical resource limit barrier. here’s a graphic I created that might clarify the concept for the uninitiated :
    http://i289.photobucket.com/albums/ll225/Fmagyar/Oilreserves-1_zps45f0ebc3.jpg