I have a friend who posted an awful picture of a deer covered in cancer on his Facebook page. The caption read “Cancerous deer shot in Dimock PA. Lived near a stream where fracturing water had been said to be leaking. Is fracking really ‘safe’ for us?” Then, a bunch of comments about how terrible coal, and oil companies are. Nevermind that they don’t know what caused this “cancer” because without all the facts it could be benign masses. Maybe the deer got skin cancer from too much sun? Anywho… this post has been brewing for a while, and the deer picture got me riled up enough to browse some articles online.
Before I keep going, there’s some things you need to know about me. My husband used to work for Halliburton and a small “energy” company. He now works for a company that sells chemicals used by oil/ natural gas companies. He pays ALL the bills, I’m still unemployed. But, that’s a-whole-nother post. I have every intention of being unbiased… but it’s not always easy.
What is Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling for natural gas and oil underneath the ground. Water mixed with other components is pumped into the ground to create cracks (also called fissures or fractures) to release the gas into wells that have been built for collection. (1)
Water, sand, and fracturing fluids (chemicals) are pumped into the producing shale (I’ll be using the Marcellus formation) to make fissure that allow the trapped natural gas to be removed. Steel pipes are cemented into place to protect groundwater, and to isolate the formation that is being drilled. (2)
Who (or what) regulates Fracking? I’ll be focusing on PA, and the Marcellus Shale.
The Federal government doesn’t require well-by-well “fracking chemical” disclosure, due to the “Halliburton Loophole”. 5 states have passed their own disclosure regulations (PA, AR, MI, TX, WY).
In PA a well operator submits a report to the PA DEP with-in 30 days of well completion that includes all chemicals added, and the percent by volume of all chemicals. Then, if any chemicals deemed hazardous by OSHA are used, those chemicals are reported the DEP, along with the compound’s chemical abstract service number (unique identifier, like a fingerprint). Any OSHA deemed Hazardous Materials are to be listed on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which is kept at the well site. Finally the report is viewed and filed by a regional inspector. The information is available through a “Right To Know” process, with the exception of “trade secrets” designated by the chemical operator. (3)
EPA-“The Agency’s focus and obligations under the law are to provide oversight, guidance and, where appropriate, rule making that achieves the best possible protections for the air, water and land where Americans live, work and play. The Agency is investing in improving our scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing, providing regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws, and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance health and environmental safeguards.”(4) The EPA regulates Class II Wells, which is the underground disposal of waste fluids, under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The EPA regulates disposal of flowback into surface waters the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, under the Clean Water Act.(5) Click here for Class II Wells definitions from the EPA. I could spit back more of this stuff from the EPA- but I’d rather you read it all like I did! UIC regulations here.
Ground Water Protection Council- “The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) is a nonprofit (501(c)6) organization whose members consist of state ground water regulatory agencies which come together within the GWPC organization to mutually work toward the protection of the nation’s ground water supplies. The purpose of the GWPC is to promote and ensure the use of best management practices and fair but effective laws regarding comprehensive ground water protection.” (6)
What is the “Halliburton Loophole”?
The “Halliburton Loophole” is political jargon for the following section of the Safe Water Drinking Act:
(See it in the ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005. Go to Page 102, Section 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.)
SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows: ‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’— ‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and ‘‘(B) EXCLUDES— ‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and ‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’ (7)
That Sounds like “Big Oil” can just dump anything in the hole… right?! Hmmm…
House Representatives and Senators have introduced legislation to protect drinking water from oil and gas development (H.R. 1084 and S. 587, the Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act))that would close the Halliburton loophole. (8)
Industry associations claim that fracking fluids are 99.5% water and sand. (9,10)
in January 2011 the cost of living was 90.3 (100 is nat. ave.)
the median household income (in 2009) was $39968, which is an increase of approx $5,000 since ’99.
the estimated median house/condo value (in 2009) was $126500, which is an increase of $41800 since 2000.
average yearly wages have been increasing since 2000.
unemployment has increased from 4.3% in 2000 to 8.1% in 2010.(11)
A study published in November 2008 showed that the oil and gas industry generates more than $7.1 billion a year for PA. This includes more than 26500 full and part-time jobs, with higher than average annual wages. “Big Oil” pays more than $200 million annually in royalties to landowners. More than 75% of oil and gas companies in PA are small businesses having fewer than 10 employees. (11)
Anti-fracking Claims… from Frackaction.com.
Enormous quantities of water & groundwater contamination
Above ground contamination
An industry that plays “fast and loose” with the rules, poor oversight
Toxic emissions, high carbon footprint
burdened local gov, decreased home values, limited jobs for locals