By Craig Masters
On December 8, the EPA issued a report possibly linking the chemicals which might be used by oil companies
in the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The report was the result of three years of Federally funded studies. With virtually no scientific validation, no direct evidence linking any chemical specifically identified as connected to any well in the study’s target area, and no definitive conclusion, the study is being heralded by the anti-oil elitists as breakthrough evidence that fracking is going to poison our water or worse.
The wells used in the testing were drilled by the EPA, not industry professionals, according to Doug Hock, a spokesman for Encana Corp (ECA), the Calgary-based company which owns 123 wells in the Pavillion, Wyoming, area. Hock explained the synthetic chemicals such as glycols and alcohols that turned up in the testing are just as likely “the result of contamination from their own sampling.” No third party review has been conducted to date.
Currently, in Aurora, a well is being planned that will use fracturing. Armed with the timely release of this ground breaking EPA report, and always ready to capitalize on ignorance and fear, anti-oil activists have descended on Aurora. Successfully selling fear of the process has created headlines across the Denver metro area. In Aurora, Ward Two Council member, Renie Peterson, held an informational session at the city’s municipal building to provide residents details about the project and fracking in general. “Constituents, they don’t understand, and of course fear triggers outrage,” Peterson said before the meeting.
Then, of course, comes a real expert. A fellow named Eric Neeley appeared on KWGN news. “As a scientist that studied a lot of neurotoxins and neurodegenerative diseases, I know some of these chemicals they’re putting in the ground and what they can do long-term to human health,” said Eric Neeley, a Cross Creek resident opposed to the Anadarko project. Mr. Neeley did not identify his field or credentials and was not specific about why, where, when, or how he studied what he believed to be some chemicals he thinks might be included in the injection fluid.
Shaul Turner, the KWGN on-air reporter covering this morning’s meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reported that fracking is a process used in nearly 90% of the country’s wells. This may be a high estimate, but the reality is that the process is not new. In fact, it is more than sixty years old. Older than the majority of the protesters being whipped into an anti-oil frenzy by the typical half-truths and red herrings spreading across the internet like a prairie fire.
To hear the news from Aurora, you might get the idea that this whole process was something new and unproven. That is simply not the case. Aurora residents could learn a great deal by simply driving a few miles up into Weld County where they can find more than a few wells producing due to fracturing. In fact, the city of Greeley received more than a million and half dollars just from selling water to well owners. Actually, the real concern about these wells may be their consumption of water – not their potential for pollution of it.
According to Exxon-Mobile’s, Rex Tillerson, there are over a million wells in which fracturing has been used. Even if we completely accept a two decades old report by the EPA that dealt with Mr. Parson’s well up in Jackson County, Wyoming, we would have maybe 2 cases – out of a million plus wells – in which chemicals ‘similar’ in nature to those used in nearby fracturing processes have been detected in drinking water aquifer systems. In Mr. Parson’s case the contamination was traced to a combination of equipment problems and human errors. The other case, in West Virginia, was at least partly attributed to a nearby chemical processing plant. Although the details of that settlement are mostly sealed, I can personally verify that even today, more than twenty years later, I have healthy family members living in the affected area. Nevertheless, both cases are from the 1980’s and earlier and much improvement in equipment and formulas have been made since.
The current excitement in Denver and Aurora remind me of a protest I saw a few years ago in Columbus, Ohio, where ‘students’ had obtained insider information about trucks carrying the dangerous radioactive water from the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident. Those ‘students’, citing evidence from the internet, blocked I-70 to prevent the trucks from passing through their city. The only problem was that that water had been quietly and safely moved without incident nearly 25 years earlier! I know this because I consulted on that move as well as the injection process used to safely dispose of the treated water.
And so it is today, the “media” is trotting out self-proclaimed experts to explain the validity of the EPA’s report on wells in Wyoming and then somehow use that information to “prove” the danger to residents in Aurora. There is little doubt that the anti-oil groups of “students, environmentalists, occupy campers, and academicians” will pick up tiny bits of truth and be able to wax eloquently about how their analysis applies to irrelevant data to prove how evil big oil companies are killing our children.”
Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, referred to the recent release of an EPA report as “unsubstantiated statements” coming from the EPA which stretch the data and cause unwarranted alarm and concern about a proven technology that allows our industry to safely extract oil and natural gas. Hinchey called the EPA’s announcement irresponsible and suggested we call into question its motives.
A perfect example of what debate judges call a red herring is a quote in The New York Times by Carla Greathouse, the author of the EPA report critical of fracturing who said, “…if fracking is so safe, let the public review all the cases.” She is referring to settlements where the court documents were sealed; a very common practice in civil law cases to protect the rights and privacy of both parties. More importantly, what does she mean by “all the cases?” Studies of all of the million plus wells or just the handful of suspect cases that meet the needs of anti-oil protesters.
Consider the vague wording in the report itself. In one sentence the report seems to draw a conclusion like this, “Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies…”
“Likely!” It took Federal regulators three years to come up with a report that could only conclude, basically, that chemical compounds likely associated with gas-production practices, including hydraulic fracturing, were found in groundwater samples in Pavillion, Wyoming. Three years of Federal study led to conjecture that maybe some of the chemicals, that may or may not be of the same type used by the drilling company, might have caused residents to complain about the smell and taste of the local drinking water. The report isn’t even for sure if the water is not safe to drink!
If you have ever traveled where sulphur in the water can really clear your sinuses, you might begin to understand that there are many smells and tastes to water in the world that are not anyone’s fault. Sometimes it’s just the way God left it – He may have had a reason, but He probably hasn’t told the EPA yet!