Fracking: Scientifically Proven Clean – But Is It ‘Junk Science’?

by L J Furman, MBA on March 24, 2013

in Energy, Hydraulic Fracturing, Methane, Oil


President Reagan against the US Flag

Ronald Reagan, Courtesy Google Images

The petrochemical industry says “Trust us. The Fracking fluids are water mixed with sand, and a few – 0.5% – other chemicals, household chemicals, like chlorine and benzine.”

According to SourceWatch,

There were more than 493,000 active natural-gas wells across 31 states in the U.S. in 2009, almost double the number in 1990. Around 90 percent have used fracking … according to the drilling industry.[2] Nationwide, residents living near fracked gas wells have filed over 1,000 complaints regarding tainted water, severe illnesses, livestock deaths, and fish kills.

While 1000 complaints on 493,000 wells is a low percentage, if fracking was safe and clean, why the complaints and controversy? President Reagan used to say “Trust people, but check.” Well,

  • If the speed limit was 350 miles per hour; then no one would get a speeding ticket.
  • If the tax code was “Whatever you feel like paying;” then I certainly would pay less taxes.
  • So if fracking was safe and clean; then why the complaints?

The industry says “Trust us, fracking is clean…. We adhere to all regulations…. ” But what are the regulations?

The industry says, “99.5 percent of [fracking] fluids consist of water and sand, some chemicals [0.5%] are added to improve the flow.”  The thing is, we really don’t know what the “Stuff” is – the companies that do fracking claim their secret sauces are “trade secrets” and lobby effectively to keep them secret.  We do know, as noted before, that the fracking industry is exempt from eight (8) major regulatory laws:

  1. The Clean Water Act due to the “Halliburton Loophole” passed when the former CEO of Halliburton was Vice President of the United States,
  2. The Safe Drinking Water Act, also due to the “Halliburton Loophole,”
  3. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which exempts fracking from federal regulations pertaining to hazardous waste,
  4. The Superfund Law, which requires that polluters remediate for carcinogens like benzene released into the environment, except if they come from oil or gas,
  5. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act,
  6. The Clean Air Act,
  7. The National Environmental Policy Act, and
  8. The Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

In 2010, the E.P.A. began a study mandated by Congress on the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies. The EPA also subpoenaed Halliburton for information regarding the chemicals it uses in fracking. (NY Times).

In a statement, the E.P.A. said it had made a voluntary request for the information from eight other major drilling companies, all of which had either provided the information or pledged full cooperation by early December.

By contrast, Halliburton said only that it would “endeavor to complete its response” by the end of January, according to a letter accompanying the subpoena by Peter S. Silva, the agency’s assistant administrator for water.

“E.P.A. believes that Halliburton’s response is inadequate and inconsistent with the cooperation shown to date by the other eight companies,” Mr. Silva wrote.

More recently, in December, 2012, Bob Siegel, on Triple Pundit, wrote, Major Pro-Fracking Studies Discredited

Three university research programs on fracking were discredited due to lack of scientific rigor and conflicts of interest.

University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Charles Groat and Dr. Raymond Orbach resigned in the midst of controversy when an independent review of a study performed by a team he led found numerous errors and flaws, as well as a conflict of interest.

The study, entitled, “Fact-based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development,” claimed that there was no link between fracking and water contamination. However, when a watchdog group called the Public Accountability Initiative uncovered the fact that Dr. Groat was on the payroll of a natural gas fracking company called Plains Drilling and Exploration to the tune of $1.6 million, an independent investigation was ordered.

SUNY Buffalo, Shale Resources Public Accountability Initiative also blew the whistle on similar shenanigans at the State University of NY at Buffalo. The university’s Shale Resources and Society Institute was shut down after independent reviewers found that the study showed “significant bias towards the oil and gas industry.”

Penn State: several faculty members withdrew from a similar study in progress. Without any faculty participation, the study could not be published under Penn State’s name. Marcellus Shale Coalition paid $148,000 for three previous studies, but pulled the plug on this latest one when the faculty members declined to participate.

Tom Considine has since left Penn State for the University of Wyoming, where he apparently still works closely with the oil and gas industry.

At the local level, lobbyists from Halliburtion persuaded Pennsylvania to limit disclosure requirements (here).

I can almost hear President Reagan chuckle over the notion that ‘Fracking’ is aptly named.

Part 4 in a Series.

  1. L. Furman, 3/12/13, Hydro Fracturing, aka Fracking, Dirty & Ugly, but What Choice do we Have?
  2. L. Furman, 3/14/13, Fracking,Best Practices versus Current Practice
  3. L. Furman, 3/18/13, Fracking – Above the Law
  4. L. Furman, 3/24/13, Fracking – Scientifically Proven Clean – But Is It Junk Science?

An analyst with Popular Logistics, Lawrence J. Furman holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, and an MBA in “Managing for Sustainability” from Marlboro College, Vermont. He also has experience in information technology. He can be reached at ‘L Furman 97” at G Mail.


Previous post:

Next post: