Journalism in the Public Interest


Drilling Accountability Bill Would Regulate Fracturing Too

A Senate bill aimed at cracking down on oil drillers after the Gulf spill includes a measure to require companies to make public what chemicals they’ve injected underground in natural gas drilling.


(Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Tucked inside the Senate bill aimed at cracking down on oil drillers after the Gulf spill is a long-sought measure to protect groundwater from natural gas drilling.

The bill, called The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act, would require that drilling companies make public a complete list of chemicals injected underground in proprietary formulas to break up rock deep underground and extract natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing.

It would not, however, reverse the exemption that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the fracturing process like other forms of underground injection, another important regulatory change that was initially proposed in House and Senate bills last June along with the chemical disclosure.

That bill, called the Frac Act, was sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who pushed for its inclusion in the accountability bill now being considered.

"Proper regulation is another essential element in protecting drinking water and public health. That is a battle that we still need to fight," Casey told ProPublica in an e-mail. But he emphasized that disclosing the chemical names "is an important step toward informing the public and building accountability for oil and gas companies."

A push for disclosure and stricter regulation of the fracturing process began in earnest last year after a series of articles by ProPublica reported more than a thousand cases of ground and surface water contamination in drilling areas where the process was being used. The articles examined drilling records in more than seven states, and found both a consistent pattern of water contamination in drilling areas, and a gap in scientific knowledge about the way hydraulic fracturing affects underground layers of rock and aquifers.

Problems were severe in Casey's home state, where fast-paced development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit quickly led to dozens of reports of drinking water well contamination in places where hydraulic fracturing had been employed. Residents reported flammable tap water, and state investigations found that methane had seeped into water supplies underground as a result of the drilling activity.

Investigating the cause of such incidents has been difficult in part because the EPA does not have the jurisdiction to regulate fracturing the way it does other injection processes, and because the chemical makeup of the fracturing fluids has been guarded as a trade secret.

Several states, including New York, Colorado and Wyoming, have recently passed disclosure laws of their own, and industry representatives have begun to support the notion. But the language of the Senate bill is the most specific, and would apply to all of the states where oil and gas is produced.

The disclosure proposed today would still allow companies to withhold the exact recipes they use, meaning they wouldn't have to disclose the concentrations to the public. But they would -- in case of emergencies -- be required to share that information on a confidential basis with doctors and hospitals responding to an accident.

It's not clear how far the bill will get in the face of Republican opposition. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who added the disclosure component to the accountability bill, has said he hoped to bring the bill to a vote next week. Even if it passes, it will need to be reconciled with a House version that does not include the fracturing disclosure language.

Update: Politico notes that Reid may have added the disclosure language as a note to environmentalists, who have been upset that the Senate has moved away from a bill on global warming.

S. Worthington

July 29, 2010, 11:40 a.m.

Clean air to breath and unpollluted groundwater should be “human rights issues” and any infringement, transgression upon them should not be allowed to happen.

Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.

July 29, 2010, 2:44 p.m.

It’s outrageous that EPA would be barred from regulating “fracking”, a process that has contaminated a large number of groundwater supplies in Pennsylvania and other states. What will energy companies be able to exempt from regulation next? Big coal is now hard at work making sure that EPA doesn’t regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste (which it is). In fact, why even have an Environmental Protection Agency if its not allowed to do its job?

For further discussion of natural gas impacts:

It’s a start if the gop will finally do the right thing and vote for this, but we need to go further allowing the EPA to regulate the other forms that are injected into the ground.

If we’re going to clean up our world let’s do it right. We deserve to know what’s in those chemicals the oil and gas companies are using to poison our world.

Lustgarten continues to convolute gas migration with hydraulic fracturing.  The two issues are unrelated.

Natural gas migration is a serious risk that is associated with drilling.  The aquifer is normally protected by steel casing cemented into the wellbore.  Normally, thousands of feet of steel casing and cement isolate and protect the aquifer from the producing zone. However, shallow natural gas bearing strata may exist along the wellbore. In rare cases - if the casing / cementing program does not adequately isolate the aquifer from these shallow gas bearing zones, it can be possible for the shallow natural gas to find a channel around the cement to the aquifer.  Gas migration is not a hydraulic fracturing issue.

Lustgarten implies a causal relationship between hydraulic fracturing (not drilling of cementing problems) and gas migration by using phraseology like this:
“Problems were severe in Casey’s home state, where fast-paced development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit quickly led to dozens of reports of drinking water well contamination in places where hydraulic fracturing had been employed.”

This confusion related to the causation of natural gas migration is the source of the communication gap between the natural gas industry and the environmental groups.

Environmental groups cite natural gas migration problems as proof that hydraulic fracturing is dangerous.

Natural gas industry professionals state in lockstep “there have been no proven cases of hydraulic fracturing fluids migrating to the aquifer anywhere in the country”

To which the environmentalists point to Dimock PA (stray gas / natural gas migration) as proof that the industry is lying.

Is it possible for ProPublica to stop convoluting the legitimate concerns related to natural gas migration (a cementing problem) with hydraulic fracturing?  Perhaps then we could all stop yelling past each other.

Josh Fox did a great job of confusing these issues in Gasland.  After seeing the movie, most lay people believe that the flaming tap water is caused by the “cocktail of water, sand and 507 toxic chemicals”.  We know this not to be true (its inadequate isolation of the aquifer from shallow gas bearing strata).

Now, Lustgarten and Fox have turned hydraulic fracturing into the boogieman.  It’s scary sounding- and since it’s a process invented by Halliburton - so it must be evil.  But hydraulic fracturing is not the villain in the case of the exploding tap water.
There are legitimate environmental risks associated with gas production.  ProPublica can contribute to an educated public discourse by accurately reporting these risks.  Or, ProPublica can continue to foment fear by confusing these issues.
David Stein
LJ Stein & Company, Inc

This is obnoxious. The government might figure out how to manage drilling for gas and oil without destroying he industries by the turn of the next century. There is no telling how this new regulation will manifest its self after the industry gets through it.

All we need is a law that says, “If you do anything to harm the rights, lives, or property of the American people, you will be incarcerated and your property will be seized to compensate the victims”.

Our property includes our drinking water. If Hayward was on his way to jail instead of a cushy retirement, there would be no more gulf oil spills.

The continued attempts by industry spokesmen to muddy up the waters of discussion shows that an informed public is always our best defense.  The interests of the corporations do not ever coincide with that of the public. 

In this particular case, we need to be safe before we’re sorry again. It’s about time that Congress protected us before we end up another energy debacle that will do irreparable damage to our water.

John H. Whittemore

July 29, 2010, 7:13 p.m.

Obviously there is not nearly enough backbone in our Congress to offset the many who are very simply already paid off.
BP’s US holdings should all be confiscated and right to do business terminated until every bit of their mess, including long term is paid for and or fixed.
John Whittemore

bruce ritchie

July 29, 2010, 8:05 p.m.

David Stein,
            Quit treating us like idiots! You only fool those who want to believe your distortions.  The issue of methane migrating to undesired locations, such as wells, makes clear that other gases such as benzene/xylene and perhaps other gases likely are there also.  The patterns of material movement in the earth have everything to do with the fracturing process, even though every event may not be unique to hydrofracking, but some of these events could happen in conventional gas drilling as well. I don’t recall Josh Fox or others saying how wonderful and safe conventional gas/oil drilling is to our air/water/earth.
            The fact that all of you guys state that “there is no proof . . . blah blah blah,” merely indicates that virtually all drilling has occurred without base-line tests, of these (secret) pollutants, being performed BEFORE the drilling occurred.  Without those baseline tests, proof becomes an impossibility.  This is the way the gas/oil companies and their lawyers have planned it.
        If we have any say-so here in Rockingham County ,Virginia, drilling will not occur without the baseline tests that could prove contamination. Especially since the gas co is careless enough to drill in the flood plain here. Your response above sounds very similar to that of Carrizo representative Mr. Shnitz, as he twisted and evaded the truth.  It became obvious to me that directness and sincerity were not to be had from the gas/oil industry and their lawyers.  The more contact our Board of Supervisors have with your industry, the more clear it becomes what type of people we would be inviting into our beautiful home, and how little you care what condition it is left in.  So, go ahead, keep running your mouth.  Keep saying “there is no PROOF . . . blah blah blah.”  We see right thru you, David Stein.

In the Western Finger Lakes region of New York, home owners frequently find that their well pump housing have natural gas in them and can be made to go poof. And there has been no gas drilling in the area. These are natural seeps.

Yes , Josh Fox with his Gaslands and his ilk have once again made environmental efforts lose credibility. Accusations of benzene, biocides and ... in toxic quantities is fear mongering without concrete evidence to back it up.

There are real issues with real solutions that are economically reasonable. A pain to the drillers, yes. But remember BP cut corners too and will have to put up with over regulation for years to come.

So everyone, gently, gently. The cover up of what may have been demeanor can be worse the the original sin. Just the fact, please.

Sharon Smart

July 29, 2010, 9 p.m.

Come on to my house D Stein, i’ll give you a glass
of stinking water.

Mr. Ritchie - this is precisely what my comment is intended to address - there are legitimate risks to natural gas drilling.  There are legitimate risks to hydraulic fracturing.  But gas migration is not indicative of a problem with hydraulic fracturing.  But it is hard to discern that from Lustgarten’s presentation.

I fully agree that baseline water testing is essential.  Pennsylvania regulations impose strict liability on a natural gas operator for any adjacent water quality issues unless that operator can demonstrate those issues predated drilling (via baseline testing).  Drilling without baseline testing (in PA) would constitute a huge gamble on the gas operator’s part with no potential upside.

Regarding secrecy of chemistry - that issue is being solved at the state level - NY requires disclosure, and PA is likely to follow suit (I can’t speak to VA).

For whatever reason, hydraulic fracturing has become the environmental fear of the day.  But that fear is based a misunderstanding of the gas well drilling and completion process.  We don’t hear environmentalists screaming “we want better centralization standards- and better enforcement of cement curing times”.  Instead- they scream “no fracking way” and demand a ban on a process that they haven’t taken the time to learn about. 

I’m guessing they what they really want is safe, environmentally friendly energy.  If we stop yelling, and start talking, we can probably get there.  Natural gas is going to be a big part of that solution.  It might not be perfect, but its the best option we have today.

If I understand the process correctly, it’s a fairly recent process. I also understand that there are not many regulations governing same either. It would stand to reason that the Industry would take care, be sure that the process is indeed as safe as they say it is, instead of saying that there is no record of any thing wrong with it. That’s one of the tired worn out excuses that all the Oil Companies have used since they began drilling. Do something new, of course there isn’t a record. When something does come up, they fight it tooth & nail to either suppress it, or cover it up. This is not to say that a blanket indictment be issued, but face it Mr Stein, the safety record has a rather bad rap sheet, especially when it comes to cleaning up after itself. It is becoming quite clear that Safety takes a back seat when it comes to the industry’s pursuit of Oil & Gas. It’s Profits, Profits first, second, third. Safety comes after that. The drilling is in such a rush, cutting corners has become the normal operating procedure. Corruption also of officials is rampant today, standard operating procedure. Your specialized operations should aware of what the plus & minus of what your doing, instead of hiding behind the “Energy has its price”, in this mad crazy dash to bring in product, damn the consequences, we’ll be out of here before the damage shows up. The Oil industry has shown its disregard for the safety & welfare of both the environment almost since the beginning. It seems the Gas drilling industry is no different. Instead of hiding behind; “Gee, were being picked on”, it would serve your interests to clean up your act & make sure everyone else in your profession do the same. The industry outlook of by the time anything happens, we’ll be long gone, and is we aren’t, the lawyers will prolong it. Exploitation has reached a new high with all you people. Clean up your act.

Norman -

I don’t think we mind being picked on - its just that we are being picked on for the wrong stuff.  Lustgarten has a megaphone - and has been effective in sounding the alarm.

The problem that we have is that he is sounding the wrong alarm.  He routinely implies that gas migration is a hydraulic fracturing issue - when he knows that it is a casing / cementing issue.

Industry is now working overtime to demonstrate that hydraulic fracturing is safe (which we have overwhelming evidence to support that it is) when people are really concerned about threats to drinking water. 

I’m just trying to move the conversation to the real issues:

1.  pre-drilling baseline testing
2.  casing centralization
3.  careful conformance to cementing standards

these don’t make as cool of a bumper sticker as “no fracking way”, but they are the keys to safe drinking water.

Mr Stein,

  Here is one so-called environmentalist/(called obstructionist by some folks wishing to inappropriately rush horizontal hydrofracture drilling in NY) who IS SCREAMING about well bore sealing and a number of other micro issues with drilling.

  PA has begun to address well sealing rules and procedures to a degree waayy beyond that NY currently has. That’s a good start.

  However when you continue the phony-fact, misinformation story that, for example,  the Dimock problems are due to very shallow gas - in the face of clear reports of PA DEP that the gas was thermogenic, meaning rather deep and from Devonian-era formations (which include Marcellus) -  you totally ruin your credibility and promote the apparent fact the you and many of the industry apologists just do not have the truth in you.  This is sad and augers badly for many residents who have to live with the apparent lies and consequences of bad behavior of O&G companies.

Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

Stan -
There are shallow (geologic)sources of thermogenic gas.  I am not involved specifically in Dimock - but I would bet the source of the gas will be found up-hole of the Marcellus.

My point is that gas migration is distinct from hydraulic fracturing - and that Lustgarten seems intent on confusing the two issues.  He can do better.

David Stein is right on the money regarding Lustgarten and Propublica’s continual conflagration of groundwater contamination issues and hydraulic fracturing. There have been zero, I repeat ZERO, confirmed instances of groundwater contamination from the hydraulic fracturing process.

The one thousand cases Lustgarten refers to were not specific to hydraulic fracturing, and were from all cases of oil drilling, coal seam gas wells as well as hydraulic fracturing. None of the cases Lustgarten referred to indicated that the fracturing process was responsible for the contamination and that the water contamination resulted from sources such as leakage chemicals from a waste pits, reportable diesel fuel spills from excavation machinery and trucks and accidental chemical spills during transportation.

The insinuation Lustgarten and Propublica has repeatedly made is quite clear: fracturing fluids injected into the ground are finding their way into the water table during the fracturing process. This however is a complete misrepresentation of the original sources and David Kopel annihilated this argument nearly a year and a half ago.

Bruce ritchie

July 30, 2010, 9:44 a.m.

      Lack of proof againstdrilling does not prove there is not danger. Your precious fracking is NOT innocent till proven guilty.  Fracking is not a person.


That’s a horrible argument. If we are going to ask industry to remediate a problem, shouldn’t we be damn sure that the problem exists before saddling it with additional regulations that drive prices up and drive employment down?

Lustgarten was quite deceptive in his articles claiming that there were definitive links between the hydraulic fracturing process and groundwater contamination. There were no such definitive links and Lustgarten’s own sources made that clear. Not liking what the picture that painted, he chose to ignore them or take them completely out of context. Like Mark Thiesse, a Wyoming regulator who was used in Lustgarten’s fracking articles:

“I was one of the folks (I’m with the WY Dept of Env Quality) interviewed for this article by Mr. Lustgarten. I spent several hours on the phone and around a dozen follow up emails to try and help him write a factual article. Unfortunately he seemed to have his own agenda. The one error that was most blatant from my was the “20 mile long plume” that he mentions. I must have told him 5 times that it was individual impacts to separate water wells due to water well drilling practices not related to oil and gas drilling at all but that did not make it into his article that way.”

Propublica isn’t doing journalism here, they are writing poorly sourced hit pieces.

Mr Stein,  I appreciate your candidness here, but I believe that you & your fellow members should be doing more to educate the public than just defending the practice here in the newsletters. Granted, you can answer in a rational manner, but you must realize that your only reaching a small segment of the population in doing so. This has, as I’ve already stated, been lacking from the O&G industry from the beginning. Perhaps because in the beginning, drilling was quite a bit easier. Also, there’s the so called proprietary issue that is front & center in any debate, inquiry, hearing, etc.

As the search for O&G has become more complex, due to the easy availability of discovery being a thing of the past, the quest to discover & produce, costs have risen dramatically.  As I stated in an earlier post, this has pushed the safety issue to be not in the forefront,  but somewhere in the background, i.e. cutting corners, such as was done by B.P. in the Gulf. That the Industry stands by the “It’s the price of doing business”,  is not good enough today. What good does it do to have the resources be made available at the expense of destroying other resources, the environment, indeed, the ability to live on the land?

You know as well as I do, that there are the so called “wild caters” who operate on the margins, so they do cut corners in the quest of hitting the big one, or at least bringing in a producer, to pay the costs of drilling. You also know that the record of being good stewards of the land, has in a great many instances been a forgotten element in the search & production of Product. The slash & burn method of the past, is what drives the mentality today, let someone else worry about what I do, I’m just filling a need. At the rate things are going today, this attitude is destroying the Earth. I’m not forecasting a dooms day scenario here, but whit all these accidents, (because of shoddy procedures) they are not little incidents, but are becoming monumental.

You talk of the regulations put on the industry as a burden, yet over & over, the industry have shown that they are incapable of policing their operations. If they can get away with it, then they will. This may be unfair to you in your own mind set, but, it goes with the territory. Instead of pointing the finger to those who bring these actions to the front, whether they are biased or not, the blame resides in your industry for the perception held today by the public.

It’s a shame that we have corruption to the extent that we do today in just about every form, which to my eye is verging on the old wild west before the Sheriff came to town. I can’t understand the mentality of business today in the dash for instant short term profits , at the expense of the future. I guess that the individuals don’t care or don’t have children, grand children, who are going to be burdened with the costs of today’s folly. Short sightedness has always brought an end to any endeavor,  regardless of how good the intent.

Bruce Ritchie

July 30, 2010, 5:09 p.m.

David stein,
          It is easy to see the different views on basic human needs within the readers.  You feel that people cannot live without ample commerce and energy, and the rest (air/water/land) can be taken for granted.  Many of us do not feel this way, and could survive with less consumerism/energy use, as long as we protect air/water/land.  Unfettered capitalism protects nothing except the overconsumption and wasting of undervalued resources like air/water.


Mr. Stein,

  I guess I wasn’t clear. Let me try harder. The term shallow gas, as you well know, is defined differently by different people for different purposes.

  When you say:
“Stan -
There are shallow (geologic)sources of thermogenic gas.  I am not involved specifically in Dimock - but I would bet the source of the gas will be found up-hole of the Marcellus.”

  You are inadvertently confirming what I suggested, that it might appear to some, that you perhaps, not certain, had to live in the moron dorms in college.

  OK. You weren’t in Dimock, you didnt read the PADEP reports, you dont know that their investigation was concluded some time ago: IT WAS DEVONIAN GAS. You lost your bet. You should not, and I think you know better, weigh in on matters of empirical fact that you are uninformed about.

  And my substantive point is that your implied, but not generally agreed on, definition of fracturing, that it is only what happens down there for the moment of pressure application is, simply put, wrong and is often used, as you did, to mislead and misinform people of good will.

  You simply can not, with any scientific credibility, assert that gas migration, or for that matter migration of fracking fluids is not never ever related to fracking. Get real, if there were not a fracking operation going on the frack fluids wouldnt be there, would they.

  It is time for the industry to give up the tired assertion that fracking never poisons drinking water. It does.There are multiple vectors, Downhole pressure is one. Sealing is another, spills are another. They are all part of fracking. In causal terms it is a necessary condition of both fracking and of ground water poisoning that frack fluid be present on the site. Part of the causal picture. Get it?

  The industry must accept, kicking and screaming, that the “complete life cycle” analysis of fracking is the only one that has any scientific credibility. Stop putting the many related parts into silos. It is scientifically absurd and it pisses off a lot of good people. A lot.

Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

Norman, & Stan
Thank you for not speaking with forked
Zero confirmed incidences of contaminated
ground water, how much did that cost?

Alan Septoff

July 30, 2010, 9 p.m.

Folks -

If you happen to be from New York, and agree that the state should take a cautious approach to drilling, meaning not drilling unless and until:

- it has been determined that drilling can be done without risking drinking water,

- if so, rules have been enacted that require safe drilling practices, and

- real rules are accompanied by adequate resources for oversight (staff/money)

then SPEAK UP at

Tell the NY Senate leader to bring a drilling “time-out” to a vote so we can protect New York’s most precious environmental resource: clean drinking water.


Thank you Sharon, for the compliment. We all know what’s at stake, regardless of where we live, in this vast country. It’s up to us, those who care, to do what we can, in making sure that there is minimal damage to the environment in the never ending quest for resource’s. In this day & age, the pace is growing so rapidly,  that it’s too easy to let those who exploit the land, get away with anything they want, especially since we have been made aware of the corruption within the regulatory agencies of our Government. If ever there was a time when we need to be heard, it’s now. Considering what was allowed to hatch & was nurtured during the past ten years, we have a hell of a job ahead of us to try and right the wrongs. I’m an old man, but have been in & out of many different business adventures,  so I’m not too ignorant to the industry practices. I consider myself beyond self interest, that we are all in this together, “For the long haul”, not just for the short term gains.

Odd the one’s so concerned about leaving
our grandchildren a large deficit, care so
little about the planet they’ll get.

Pretty smart, Sharon.
Perhaps they think our grandchildren can eat, drink and breath money. Whatever the problems, greed and myopia will surely solve them!  Isn’t that the mantra?

Sharon, Bruce, I believe the word “Subterfuge” might be appropriate to use, when describing those in power, when they decry the deficit, especially those on the perpetual “NO” side of the aisle. This by no means absolves the other side, nor the very top, being the Democrats & P.O.T.U.S. All things considered, we, the taxpayers & retired, homeless, unemployed, youth, to use an old saying, “have been reamed steamed & dry cleaned” as the politicians of today consider everyone not in their corrupt bag, to be too stupid to understand what’s going on. I don’t believe that I’m alone in my thinking, but do respect the many different levels today. I just don’t understand the mad dash to destroy the once greatest Country for short term gain. I think I’m off subject here, so, I’m going to go to bed, like a good old man should. Nice having the back & forth today.

Stan -
Regarding my college living arrangements-
I tried to get into the dorms, but had to rent an apartment. Apparently the moron dorm was all booked up.  I’m not sure how that relates to this issue, but I’m all for full disclosure.

David -

Let’s say you’re a relatively poor property owner, reliant upon groundwater from a well on your property, and you’re also overlying shale gas. 

You’re working hard just to get by.  You don’t have the time to know the issue, you don’t have the resources to engage a lawyer.

A driller comes calling promising royalties.

Given the history of drillers where water is too often contaminated by some part of the drilling process (for the sake of argument, let’s not quibble about exactly how often or whether it’s drilling or fracking), what kind of regulations do you want in place?

The ones that are written to be “fair” to the driller?  Or the ones that definitely protect your groundwater?  And hold the driller immediately financially liable for ALL damage done to your property—loss of property value, loss of clean water in perpetuity, etc.

I know which ones I’d pick.

And before you say something like “the type of regs you suggest will making drilling price prohibitive”, know that my org has a long history on this issue.  Drillers and miners ALWAYS say that.  (As do every other industry.  Remember the argument against seat belts?  And then air bags?)  And they haven’t been right yet.

Or perhaps you’ll say something like: “but it’s exactly the distinction between drilling and fracking that I’m talking about”.  Well in that case, please explain why industry is so dead set against rigorous examination of drilling/fracking and water pollution?


David,  I’m impressed that you seem to have a sense of humor in all this.  I realize that everybody in their own way, sometimes let their emotions creep into a good discussion too, so, in that respect, hats off to you.

This I believe has been a good back & forth, hopefully everyone who participated learned something positive from it. I also believe that this is what doesn’t occur in most of the situations that come up for debate or exchange. I hope we all have learned something here that we can take to the next level.

As a current resident of New York State, and a past resident and frequent visitor to the wilds of Pa, I find it curious that these issues come up after many thousands of wells are drilled, and many isolated and wild areas are contaminated by the drilling. It matters not to me that the contamination happens because of the fracking, the drill bore and it’s compromise of shallower methane and whatever else, or the tens of thousands of truck trips open pools of toxic drilling sludge. Industry, when given lax or no oversight(as this industry has been) will sidestep, or buy off, any obstruction to the bottom line. It is our responsibility as the “people” to demand accountability of any industry, regardless of it’s friends in high places.  Review the secret “energy policy” of Mr. Cheney and his National Energy Policy Development Group. Why is this still secret? Ira?
The states do not have the money or the sway to control this behavior by the gas industry. The pass given to them by the federal goverment gives them the ability to throw a lot of money to a lot of people without the knowledge or resources to say no, drill wells, and let the states decide, one at a time, how to regulate an obscenely wealthy industry after the fact.

Guys, I’m in Texas where it’s already too late.
Old woman, laid - off after 28 years, trying to
pay for second water well, (it stinks). Have been
interested and vocal about NY. Hoping they can
protect themselves from ruination. Josh Fox
is trying to help. No one here brave enough to
go against big G&O. Believe the “little” guys
about the dangers,there are many.

While gas migration and produced water/fracking fluid contamination are indeed two distinct risks, they are both risks that are associated with hydraulic fracturing/sideways drilling.  The two outcomes spring from technically unrelated events, but either (or both) can theoretically happen as a result of the process. 

Proponents will quickly note that there is little evidence to support claims of risk, while ignoring the fact that EPA and other governmental safeguards are effectively operating while blindfolded and shackled.  It’s difficult to reject the null hypothesis when one doesn’t have access to the tools to perform proper analysis. 

The real question to me is, why not embrace Federal regulation of hydrofracking procedures?  If there is truly no risk, then there is little to lose.  And by “little” I actually mean “a few percentage points on the bottom line”.  For want of an acoustic kill switch, the Gulf was lost.  So too goes the New York watershed for lack of proper oversight?

Alan you said “the sake of argument, let’s not quibble about exactly how often [contamination occurs]” but isn’t that the entire point? The has been close to a million gas and oil wells drilled in the US over the past 80 years and how many cases of contamination are we dealing with?

And I might remind everyone, there has yet to be one confirmed case of facking fluids contaminating ANY wells.

So what are the numbers of well contaminations? So far, all we have is a handful of wells with methane in them, and despite what people like Fox and Lustgarten have claimed, many of these were found to be unrelated to gas drilling. Ten confirmed cases, 100 …. 1000? Lets say it is 1000, a ludicrously large number considering the data available, that’s still only 1/10,000. Is that a sufficiently high enough risk to destroy an industry that will employ 100,000’s of people and generate $10’s billions in local tax revenues?

Mike H,  You make a point. But, as has been pointed out, the regulations are lacking, as are the information that the industry retains as “proprietary” information, therefore is with held from even the regulators, who seem to be few & far between. Also, because there is a lack of information, this should be cause to step carefully. To use the excuse of; but our industry will create jobs, tax receipts, especially the #‘s you write, is to quote: “There you go again”. You sound like a person who has a personal/financial stake in the drilling business? Considering that Millions of people in the New York area alone depend on the water they drink to live, one can understand why they want a moratorium on drilling until the safety question is answered. Another point, the O & G industry has a lousy record of cleaning up after its self. There are way to many cases where they have been faced with having to do so, but chose to fight, kicking & screaming in the process. We don’t need to add any corruption into the discussion, as that seems to already been answered as far as the various Governmental agencies are concerned. Face it, the gas has been around for who knows how many years, millions I believe, so, considering the destruction that the Industry, in its quest for haste for the bottom line at the expense of doing it safely, which takes a back seat to that bottom line by the way, then I have a “question”; why the rush?

“And I might remind everyone, there has yet to be one confirmed case of facking fluids contaminating ANY wells.” - Mike H.

That’s unfortunately a partial truth, or as I prefer to call it, a lie.

You see, the part of it that is kind of true is that no one has confirmed that the exact chemicals found in fracking fluid have popped up in anyone’s well water.  That sounds really positive, until you remember that no one actually knows what’s in the special sauce of fracking fluid.  You can’t prove it’s present when you have no idea what’s in it.  This is the paradoxical situation environmental regulators are in, in their own words, and if you doubt this at all go see Gasland.

Also worth mentioning is another case documented in that video. Actually, there’s several cases, but I’ll point out Mike Markham’s water (so contaminated, it’s visible to the naked eye) and Jeff and Rhonda Locker’s reverse osmosis filtration system.  What was in the water that dissolved the unit’s membranes and cause Rhonda’s neuropathy?  We don’t know, the gas companies aren’t required to say.  We do know glycol etehers are present in their drinking water, but “by the book” it can’t be proved that it’s from the fracing fluid.  It’s a catch-22 situation, all based on a technicality.  But it’s absolutely not safe, no matter what sort of lies hydrofrac cheerleaders toss around.  The payoffs to these families and nondisclosure agreements speak for themselves.

Shame on you, Mike.  We’re not that stupid.

fracturing is a nasty process to get natural gas. please watch GASLAND. this process came from the cheney behind close door energy policy

Arlene Mercurio

Aug. 1, 2010, 12:32 p.m.

Just as important as the chemicals added to the fracking water on the way down, are the additional elements brought to the surface in the ‘production water’ that returns to the surface, once it has broken the shale open. These additional contaminents include highly concentrated salt from the ancient sea bed - minerals, toxic heavy metals and deadly radioactive elements. Safely sealed by the earth for eons, these elements are now free to combine with the initial chemicals to make a ‘witch’s brew’ of unknown compositon. This is the ‘producion water’ that spewed into a Pennsylvania forest for 16 hours in Clearfield County and possibly quenched the thirst of cows in Tioga County. This ‘water’  is often stored in large, open, plastic lined pits called frack ponds, prone to spillage, leakage and available to wildlife.

Yes, we could have glow in the dark
food soon. Just think it would save on
energy, and the grandkids will love it.
Sorry for the joke in bad taste, must be
something in the water.

Lynne Williams

Aug. 1, 2010, 8:45 p.m.

Do we think that all of this energy is going to be kept in the United States? Check this out!

JB Monroe, actually, you are that stupid.

Mike Markham’s well contamination was investigated and the cause of the gas in his well was found to be biogenic (not from drilling).

Rhonda Locker’s neuropathy could be caused by anything from degenerative disks in her back to sciatica. The presence of drilling activity to her home means absolutely NOTHING unless a conclusive link can be established. Glycol ethers are found in TENS OF THOUSANDS of household products and could have entered the water table from hundreds of sources. Correlation does not equal causation.

The problems is idiots like Fox, and Lustgarten to a lesser extent, go into the story with a very narrowly defined preconception and look for any information or link, no matter how tenuous to make their case. For example, had Fox decided to look into Markham’s well issues, he would have found the report linking his flaming faucet to biological sources of methane.

Or to quote one of Lustgarten’s sources who said the following: “I must have told him 5 times that it was individual impacts to separate water wells due to water well drilling practices not related to oil and gas drilling at all but that did not make it into his article that way”.

Lustgarten and Fox are guilty of fraud.

If you want to convince me that hydraulic fracturing poses a significant risk to local water tables, the process is simple: take a baseline water quality sample before drilling activities and after drilling activities.

JB Monroe, actually, you are that stupid.

Mike Markham’s well contamination was investigated and the cause of the gas in his well was found to be biogenic (not from drilling).

Rhonda Locker’s neuropathy could be caused by anything from degenerative disks in her back to sciatica. The presence of drilling activity to her home means absolutely NOTHING unless a conclusive link can be established. Glycol ethers are found in TENS OF THOUSANDS of household products and could have entered the water table from hundreds of sources. Correlation does not equal causation.

The problems is idiots like Fox, and Lustgarten to a lesser extent, go into the story with a very narrowly defined preconception and look for any information or link, no matter how tenuous to make their case. For example, had Fox decided to look into Markham’s well issues, he would have found the report linking his flaming faucet to biological sources of methane.

Or to quote one of Lustgarten’s sources who said the following: “I must have told him 5 times that it was individual impacts to separate water wells due to water well drilling practices not related to oil and gas drilling at all but that did not make it into his article that way”.

Lustgarten and Fox are guilty of fraud.

If you want to convince me that hydraulic fracturing poses a significant risk to local water tables, the process is simple: take a baseline water quality sample before drilling activities and after drilling activities.

Mike H. You have a valid point as far as Fox is concerned, yet a large segment watch & listen to it & the people who are shilling.

Your last sentence is also a valid one, but, there doesn’t seem to be a baseline test being taken very much if at all. David Stein wrote earlier that he would be in favor of doing such, as he is a driller. I have a bit of wondering what your credentials are in this matter? Are you a driller, affiliated with the O & G industry, a scientist, work for the EPA, etc?

This back & forth is good among the participants, as it gives their views, but unless you are out of touch with what is taking place in the quest for O & G, also the history of leaving behind the waste products to be cleaned up by someone else, then fighting tooth & nail when asked to do so at their own expense. We won’t go into the political end of this, except to point out all the Superfund sites that are out of money to clean up.

The point I’m making here, is that the mindset is to drill for O & G the cheapest possible way, exploit the find, damn be the environment, let someone else worry about it. That ain’t my job mindset is what is destroying the Planet. As the search has become harder & harder, more expensive, the safety aspect has become a back seat ticket.

Norman, I would agree that it makes sense to mandate that any enterprise involved in resource extraction has to set aside in trust the required funds to remediate all activities when the operation ceases. You might laugh at this, but regulations to this effect have made surface mining activities nearly invisible once extraction has ended. To be sure, this was a day late and dollar short for places like Anaconda Copper, but I think the results have been very good for better managed sites.

My background is in the energy industry, but not in O&G extraction.

I would also concede that in cases like Dimock Pa, where infiltration of water wells by thermogenic methane has been documented, it makes sense to review and modify drill casing sealing techniques and administrative controls in whatever manner necessary to prevent another incident.

My point is that while gas infiltration has been documents in a very small number of drilling sites (small in both relative and absolute terms), there has never been a documented case of drilling fluids contaminating water tables from hydraulic fracturing and drilling opponents need to admit this and deal with it instead of scaring the bejessus out of locals. Gas can work its way into spots where liquids cannot.

People like Fox have used outright lies to make their case and people like Lustgarten present a very narrow set of “facts“ mixed in with lots of speculation (some well founded, most of it completely irrelevant) to present a picture of events that little if anything to do with the actual situation. 

The discovery of shale gas is game changer for not just the US energy industry, but for the energy industry worldwide. If fully developed in Europe, it could have the potential to displace Russian gas exports and all the arm twisting that goes along with them. If fully developed in China and India, it could provide a much cleaner source of fuel for their expanding economies. To see such a potentially beneficial opportunity squandered over scaremongering like this is not defendable.

Sharon Wilson

Aug. 2, 2010, 10:55 a.m.

Read industry’s own documents and words about hydraulic fracturing.

In Supreme Court, Garza vs. Coastal, industry was faced with paying $14 million for a subsurface trespass so they stressed how imprecise fracking is:

  ” …fracture stimulation isn’t a precise science

  You may plan a fracture that will go 1,000 feet, and it might go 2,000.”

From Schlumberger

  “Clearly the industry has much to learn about hydraulic fractures.

  All hydraulic fracture models fail to predict fracture behavior precisely and in many cases, models fail completely”

Manual for the Independent Operator:

“An improperly designed or poorly performed stimulation treatment can allow a hydraulic fracture to enter a water zone.”

Don’t forget what Aubrey McClendon said:

“How could any one well be so profitable that it would be worth damaging the New York City water system?” he said to the Times.

Mike H. Thanks for bringing us all up to speed with your thoughts. It’s good to know that costs to restore the mining removal today vs yesterday, is showing good stewardship. But, there is a difference between the surface removal to mine the product vs the Fractionating process we are discussing. As I’ve stated, and fact check will confirm, the O & G industry has a less than stellar record of doing things right. I might add that here in California back in the last Century, P G & E was found to be liable for contamination of ground water through negligence. Erin Brockovich, consumer advocate made the case. Your point that it hasn’t been shown that liquids from fracting isn’t proof that there isn’t any danger. It just points up the lax rules that are in use as this is a fairly recent endeavor. Also, because Europe, India, China and I might add now Pakistan, have large coal deposits that can & will be exploited, is more than ever in need of cautious steps to be taken. If you put the areas mentioned in perspective, that all are exploited in the quest of clean burning gas to power energy producing plants, then you have an enormous by-product of waste on the surface of the planet. You should know first hand of that, Re: the coal ash left after burning in the coal fired power plants. Considering all the profits made in the production of energy drivers, just what % is set aside for clean-up? The Industry record has been to let someone else take care of that. [read the taxpayers]. How much research & $$$ has gone into the disposal of the waste & undesirable by-products that are produced? The Planet is being poisoned due to short sightedness on the part of Industry.

This is an aside, yet I think makes a perfect example for the argument to proceed with safety in mind, not just quoting “that there’s no record available” to counter the industries stand. I speak of a trilogy, the Red, Green, Blue Mars trilogy, by Kim Stanly Robinson, which shows what can happen to this planet, in fact, is already taking place today in many parts of the world. It show how the disregard all the industrial companies take their responsibilities, hiding behind the mantra that is the price to pay for progress.

Bruce Ritchie

Aug. 2, 2010, 11:45 a.m.

Mike H,
        I have a last name, as does Josh fox.  Do you?  You can call ” people like him” liars, and repeat the same ole saw abt “no documented blah blah blah,” which we earlier establishedto be meaningless based on secret ingredients and minimal or no baseline tests.  If you’re not afraid of water contamination, then you already drank some screwed up koolaid! Water is life buddy, and why should we trust our’s to you.  Your value come shining thru!  If you can’t make earth protection your FIRST principle, then you can’t be trusted. No industry is innocent until the blinded, handcuffed and bribed prove that industry to be untrustworthy.  That is bass ackwards.  You must prove your industry to be worthy, and your whole history stands against you, all around the world.


To your point about unknown risks: you can’t know what you don’t know, ala Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”. There will always be an element of risk and that has to be weighed against the potential gains. If you want to stop an activity based solely on the “unknown unknowns”, then the burden falls on you, not on the individual performing the activity. This point is made all the more relevant in this case by the complete lack of evidence that hydraulic fracturing, a process in use for the past 55 years, is contaminating groundwater supplies at all, let alone at any level harmful to the general public health. Take a baseline, compare it with a post drilling sample and QUANTIFY the impact. Its as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Not all companies, and certainly not in light of today’s regulatory and ligatory environment, take their responsibilities lightly. Take Du Pont as an example. It was standard practice in their 18th century gunpowder mills to have mill superintendants, and their families, live within inside of their mills. Since the super had an immediate DuPont, and dozens of other companies voluntarily complied with what would become OSHA’s Process Safety Management scheme nearly a decade before it was on the books.

There is a balance between doing what’s right and what can be achieved both in a technical sense as well as financial. If the net positives outweigh the net negatives, it would make sense that negative impacts from industry have to be accepted as the cost of doing business. And yes it is a business decision. But these business decisions provide society with nearly every essential product (medicines, CAT scans, clean food, sewage, electricity) as well as all of our creature comforts *(IPods, shampoo, general civilian aviation, etcetera). There will always be an environmental cost to EVERYTHING we do on an industrial scale. The key is to minimize and mitigate.

I think the real issue here is that there is a not so small and very vocal contingent that is, on a fundamental level, opposed to our modern industrial society and use distortions, half truths and lies to bog its development down as much as possible. Lots of examples of this, but the nuclear industry was one of its greatest casualties. Had the anti-nuclear not been successful, we would most likely have an additional 100-150 reactors online, generating enough electricity to displace nearly half of our current fossil fuel generating fleet. Not to mention the 100,000’s of high paying jobs that would have gone along with that.


Holy manifesto Batman!

Abrahm Lustgarten

Aug. 2, 2010, 4:48 p.m.

You can find my response to many of the issues raised in this thread here:

Sylvia Shriner

Aug. 3, 2010, 1:57 a.m.

Mike H,

Thank God that the nuclear industry was a casualty, and I hope that it continues to be that way. My family and I live not too far away from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in WA state. They are still cleaning that up from the 1940’s and who knows if it will ever be cleaned up all of the way.

I do not have a science background to be able to comment in a knowledgeable way about the fracking process and the contamination it leaves in its wake. However, let us remember that your “net positives (profits)” in the long run belong to the O&G industry, and the “net negatives” are people’s lives, land, and livelihoods. The people who have spoken out in this forum against big O&G are not Luddites and obviously are not averse to technology. We want to move beyond fossil fuels and not leave a trail of death and destruction in a never ceasing quest for energy as is practiced by big O&G today.

You also reiterated that correlation is not causality; however, as it has been mentioned before, these wells were not contaminated before the gas drilling took place. If it walks like a duck . . . Legal and technological semantics do not change this fact. The gas drilling industry needs to be highly regulated and held responsible for any damage done to any land, leased or otherwise. If the process were safe, sunlight would not do it any harm. Let the sun shine!

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

More »

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