Journalism in the Public Interest

Critics Find Gaps in State Laws to Disclose Hydrofracking Chemicals

Five states have adopted rules requiring drilling companies to disclose what’s in hydraulic fracturing fluids, but critics say they don’t go far enough to protect public health and the environment.

In this April 23, 2010 photo, a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site is seen near Burlington, Pa. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

Over the past year, five states have begun requiring energy companies to disclose some of the chemicals they pump into the ground to extract oil and gas using the process of hydraulic fracturing.

While state regulators and the drilling industry say the rules should help resolve concerns about the safety of drilling, critics and some scientists say the requirements fall short of what’s needed to fully understand the risks to public health and the environment.

The regulations allow companies to keep proprietary chemicals secret from the public and, in some states, from regulators. Though most of the states require companies to report the volume and concentration of different drilling products, no state asks for the amounts of all the ingredients, a gap that some say is disturbing.

“It’s a shell game,” said Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst who has testified before Congress about the dangers of drilling chemicals. Colborn and her organization, TEDX, examine the long-term health risks of chemicals and have opposed the expansion of drilling in Colorado and elsewhere. “They’re not telling you everything that there is to know.”

Others say the regulations, despite some flaws, are moving in the right direction. “It’s just a step in the process,” said the Sierra Club’s Cyrus Reed, who worked on a bill signed into law in Texas on Friday.

Most drillers have supported the measures. Some say more complete disclosure isn’t necessary because the information that remains secret involves only nonhazardous chemicals or trade secrets that are a small fraction of products they inject. Energy companies recently have begun voluntarily disclosing some of the chemicals they use on FracFocus, a web site run by two groups representing state regulators.

“While we support disclosing our ingredients, it is critical to our business that we protect our recipe,” Tara Mullee Agard, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil and gas service companies, told ProPublica in an email.

Gas drilling has surged across the country over the past few years due to technological advances that include hydraulic fracturing, in which drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to free up trapped deposits of natural gas. Energy companies are increasingly using the technique, dubbed “fracking,” in oil recovery, particularly in Texas and North Dakota.

ProPublica first began reporting on health and environmental concerns surrounding fracking three years ago. Gas companies are exempt from federal laws protecting water supplies, leaving it up to states to decide what sort of regulations are needed to protect ground and surface water.

Wyoming takes the lead

Wyoming’s rules are the strongest in place, although it’s unclear how thoroughly they are being enforced. The rules require public disclosure of all the chemicals except for trade secrets, which drillers must submit for regulators’ eyes only. The only thing the rule lacks, critics say, is a requirement to report the concentration of the individual chemicals.

Three reports that were selected at random and reviewed by ProPublica appeared to leave out some of the chemicals used. Tom Doll, the state’s oil and gas supervisor, said his agency has two staff members reviewing each of the reports.

“They’ve obviously missed some of these,” he said.

In Arkansas, manufacturers are not required to disclose proprietary fracking chemicals to regulators. Rules in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania have similar exemptions. (See a summary of the state rules.)

Some environmentalists and toxicologists say the state rules give energy companies too much discretion.

Companies can get trade secret protection, for instance, simply by asserting that disclosure would hurt their business and showing that details about a chemical are not otherwise public. More than 100 such exemptions have been granted in Wyoming, though most of the exempt products haven’t been used, Doll said.

Advocates of disclosure say that, at a minimum, proprietary information should be on file with state regulators, as in Wyoming, so it can be accessed quickly in an emergency.

Federal law already requires chemical manufacturers to share trade secrets with health care providers in emergency situations, but getting the information into the public domain can be a slow process, said Daniel Teitelbaum, an adjunct professor of toxicology at the Colorado School of Mines.

“If you call someone on Saturday … it may be Tuesday before you can find someone who has the actual formula,” said Teitelbaum, who has worked for environmental groups on disclosure and chemical safety. “It is not a straightforward process by any means.”

On April 19, fracking fluids spilled during a blowout at a Chesapeake Energy well in Pennsylvania. While no one was directly injured, Brian Grove, a company spokesman, said a full ingredient list was provided to state regulators the following day and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a week after the spill. Chesapeake voluntarily posted the list to FracFocus on May 13.

The mixture of fluids used to fracture a well generally contains several different products, which themselves can contain multiple chemical ingredients. While the industry has used hundreds of chemicals to frack wells across the country, the mixture regularly includes ingredients such as hydrochloric acid, methanol, a disinfectant called glutaraldehyde and petroleum distillates.

These chemicals usually comprise a tiny fraction of the overall mix, but since wells are injected with millions of gallons of fluid, the mix can include thousands of gallons of a chemical that can be toxic at low doses.

Deciding what’s hazardous

Colborn and other toxicologists say one area of concern involves how “nonhazardous” chemicals are treated. Pennsylvania, Michigan and the FracFocus web site only disclose hazardous substances as determined by a product’s Material Safety Data Sheet.

Chemical manufacturers are required to list health hazards and ingredients that contribute to those hazards on these sheets, which are filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

The sheets don’t have to list ingredients that are not considered hazardous, however, or chemicals that may damage the environment but haven’t been shown to harm humans. In determining what to report, manufacturers are not required to do their own testing and may rely on existing research that many toxicologists consider inadequate.

“We have just extraordinarily poor information on the whole portfolio of health effects that are possible from industrial chemicals,” said Michael Wilson, director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley. “In the great majority of cases, that information is not going to appear on a [Material Safety Data Sheet], in most cases because it’s not known.”

OSHA acknowledged as much in a 2004 report on chemical hazard communication. “Even the best available evidence may not provide sufficient information about the hazardous effects or the way to protect someone from experiencing them,” the report said. The report noted in particular a lack of research on chronic health effects.

Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, a drilling industry group, said chemical suppliers evaluate every product, so if an ingredient doesn’t make it onto an safety data sheet, it doesn’t pose a threat to human health. ”That’s why it’s nonhazardous,” he said.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for commercial use with the EPA, and Wilson said there is enough research to identify potential hazards for less than 2 percent of them.

Researchers with TEDX, Colborn’s organization, have reviewed Material Safety Data Sheets for 980 products used in natural gas production and found that for more than 400 of them, manufacturers listed less than 1 percent of the product’s total composition.

“What’s there is what the product manufacturer wants you to know,” Colborn said. Without knowing all the ingredients, she said, it’s impossible to anticipate the chemical reactions that can occur as the products mix and react not only with each other but with whatever is present underground.

Volume, concentration are keys

Colborn and other scientists say that knowing the concentration or volume of the individual components is also important to measure toxicity, and because various concentrations may behave differently as chemicals break down and react with others underground.

Texas, Arkansas and Wyoming, while requiring disclosure of all chemicals used, do not require companies to provide the concentrations.

The federal government regulates oil and gas drilling only on federal lands, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in November that he was considering requiring disclosure of fracking fluids for wells under federal jurisdiction. No action has been taken so far.

Some environmental groups and members of Congress have pushed for a nationwide database. Currently, drillers are not required to report fracking chemicals to the federal government unless they contain diesel, but the proposed FRAC Act would require disclosure across the country.

So far, more than 40 oil and gas companies are voluntarily disclosing some of their chemicals on the FracFocus website. Using the site, anyone can identify individual wells and find out the hazardous chemicals that were injected into them, including the maximum concentration at which they were used.

Mike Paque, executive director of the Ground Water Protection Council, an association of state regulators that is overseeing the site, said the organization is discussing whether to expand the disclosures to include nonhazardous chemicals. The site does not list proprietary chemicals, although it notes when they are used. (See our annotated fracking disclosure form for a closer look.)


Chart: States With Drilling Disclosure Rules

Five states have passed laws or administrative rules requiring drilling companies to reveal some of the chemicals they use when injecting fluids to free natural gas and oil from underground rock formations.

State What's reported Volume or
concentration used
Posted online
Wyoming* All chemicals used in fracking. Volume and concentration of the products are disclosed, but not of individual ingredients in chemical mixtures. Disclosed to regulators; secret to the public. Yes, via state website.
Arkansas All chemicals used in fracking. No. Exempt. Yes, via state website.
Pennsylvania All hazardous chemicals used at an individual well after fracking is complete. For hazardous chemicals only. Unclear.** No; available by request.
Michigan Must submit Material Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals. For hazardous chemicals only. Exempt. Yes, via state website.
Texas*** All chemicals used in fracking. For hazardous chemicals only. To be determined. Yes, via state website and FracFocus, an industry website.

* Wyoming was the first state to require disclosure of fracking fluids.
** Pennsylvania officials did not return calls or emails seeking clarification.
*** The Texas legislature passed the law in May 2011, but state regulators have until 2013 to complete the actual rules.

Source: Reporting by Nicholas Kusnetz/ProPublica

Correction (June 24, 2011): The original version of this story misidentified Theo Colborn as a toxicologist. Colborn refers to herself as an environmental health analyst. Her doctoral work was in zoology, with a distributed curriculum in water chemistry, epidemiology and toxicology.

John R Zimmermann

June 20, 2011, 4 p.m.

Anaerobic Digester’s the answer to fracking If you do not know what they are Google it

ProPublica first began reporting [3] on health and environmental concerns surrounding fracking three years ago.

And yet you have been unable to document even so much as one instance of fracturing fluids contaminating groundwater aquifers, I’d say “mission accomplished”.

Gas companies are exempt from federal laws protecting water supplies, leaving it up to states to decide what sort of regulations are needed to protect ground and surface water.

That’s not even remotely true although I am not surprised to see you repeat it.  Although hydraulic fracturing has been around for nearly six decades, it has never been covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, which only covers deep well injection for disposal of hazardous wastes. The revision to the SDWA passed in 2005 was the statutory reaffirmation of that exclusion.

I also like your use of toxicologist Theo Colbourn .. .isn’t she the same crackpot who has blamed trace amounts of pesticides on everything from diabetes to autism and that plants are responding to our use of herbicides by activating a defense mechanism that aims to sterilize human females? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these disclosure rules. In fact, they should help assuage some of the public’s unease about gas development. But continuing to regurgitate the same discredited nonsense aitn gonna win you a Polk or a Pulitzer.

bruce ritchie

June 20, 2011, 4:29 p.m.

Issues of frack chemicals are only the tip of the iceberg, since most/all of those chemicals came from the earth, and there are many more down there, in great volume.  Consider all the salts (brine), many of which are not sodium salts, but uranium or arsenic, or far worse metals.

All of this denial about our energy stems from our sense that conforming our habits/lifestyle to the world in which we live (physical limits/reality) is less desirable than a world of pretend.  How is it possible to imagine a world without autos, or Mcmansions, or hot water without waiting.

The Ground Water Protection Council is an industry front group that was founded to enable the injection of hazardous chemicals into the ground (originally for the purpose of hazardous waste disposal, and now for fracking).  They basically admit as much in the “about us” section of their website, and they as a group have aggressively advocated for fracking in New York and the Delaware River Basin. 

A quick glance at FracFocus (a project of the GWPC) reveals the allegiances of the group; the website cheerfully glosses over concerns about water contamination and paints fracking as completely benign.  It also repeats the lie that this process has been used for fifty years.  The kind of fracking they were doing in the 1950s is absolutely nothing like what they are doing today, and it’s completely dishonest to claim otherwise.

It’s disappointing to see ProPublica fail to look critically at the impartiality of their sources, and to oversimplify the issue and represent the lack of chemical disclosure as the critical problem.  The gas industry supports limited forms of chemical disclosure because it’s a very effective way to silence their critics and allay public concerns without meaningfully changing any of their practices.  The bottom line is that no amount of disclosure or regulation will make this practice safe.  Ban it now.

Mike H’s description of Theo Colborn as a “crackpot”, seems reflective of the low level of Mike H’s mind, his seeming lack of character, and his obvious goals, which are: frac here, frac there, frac anywhere, and do it now.

His description of Dr. Colborn is even more of a grotesque distortion than his repetition of the blatently false comparison between the “hydraulic fracturing” introduced commercially by Halliburton around 1949, then put into use in (virtually all), single stage, vertical well fractures in loose, shallow, formations, and the high volume, slick-water, multistage, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling outwards of up to, and greater than, 10,000 feet through mostly solid rock. 

Of course, the latter is what the new technology allows, and what we are talking about, not the former process.  Next, he will be comparing the new technology to the drilling and occasional “frac’ing”, or breaking up, that is done for some individual, domestic water wells, such as I had in my case, in Pennsylvania.

In his comparison, he joins everyone in the industry, including former Governor Tom Ridge when he appeared on Stephen Colbert, in repeating this false propaganda. 

If the drilling and frac’ing he refers to, used up to 75,000 gallons of liquid, and occurred in the shallow, loose formations I described, in a vertical hole, how dare he, and the others, make that comparison to something that, on a 10,000 foot lateral, will use at least TEN MILLION gallons of water, plus proppant, plus up to a two percent amount of chemicals (up to two percent is quoted by the GWPC in testimony to Congress in June of 2009).  That amount translates into as much as 200,000 gallons of chemical additives to the ten million gallons of water.

(Continued from above)

The difference in volume, and technology, is very important.  If it were not new, or important, then we would not be getting the gas out of the rock now, would we?  These people want us to believe that on the one hand, this is a GAME CHANGER, and on the other hand, oh, it’s been around for 60 years…

Slick water frac’ing, according to the NYS sGEIS, was first introduced in 1996, and the first multi-stage frac job (the real game changer), was first performed in 2002, according to the same source.  How is that 60 years old?

As to HF never being subject to EPA regulation, that is BS.  The EPA had the AUTHORITY to regulate it, until the passage of the 2005 Halliburton energy bill.  The fact that it did not regulate, or enforce regulation, is not the same as the authority to regulate it.  The 2005 Energy Bill mattered a great deal, and this type of frac’ing only took off after the exemptions were given to the industry.

If the volume ratio were translated into dollars, I would be very happy to trade Mike H, industry’s anonymous mouthpiece, $75,000 for a return, from him, of 10 million dollars.  Is it a deal, Mike H?

Shireen Parsons

June 20, 2011, 5:45 p.m.

“The sheets don’t have to list ingredients that are not considered hazardous, however, or chemicals that may damage the environment but haven’t been shown to harm humans.”

As if Homo sapiens isn’t part of, and dependent on the health of, “the environment.”  You just couldn’t make this stuff up….

Why is the focus only on water as if “if it’s not harmful to humans it’s OK”
Like acid rain, can we take the risk of a consequence that will show itself many years after the drillers have left the scene?
Not only water but “gases” are percolating up through to the surface where they will be affecting the largest living organism, our SOIL, potentially a landscape of dead and dying trees, fields left empty of livestock due to some dangerous residue, like mercury in fish.

Dr. Theo Colborn’s education, career, and numerous awards are listed at the Physicans for Social Responsibility website. According to this site, Dr. Colborn “...has a BS in pharmacy from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MA in fresh water ecology from Western State College of Colorado, and a PhD in zoology with distributed minors in epidemiology, toxicology, and water chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville.” Also, she has won numerous awards, including the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Science and the Environment and TIME magazine’s 2007 Environmental Heroes Award.

Mike H. considers Dr. Colborn to be a “crackpot.” Draw your own conclusions.

Edmund Singleton

June 21, 2011, 3:58 a.m.

Its an age old question, environment vs profit…

@ James Barth

The EPA has never regulated HF and when it was asked to look into the practice in 1997 by the Eleventh Circuit they studied it and didn’t find any issues with it. Now. You may not like that, but facts are facts.

On “Dr” Theo Colborn: John Giesy, a professor of toxicology at Michigan State University and past president of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, says, “Frankly, Colborn doesn’t know very much. She reads the entire literature and picks and chooses things that support her preconceived views.”

So yes, she is a crackpot, but since she tells you what you want to hear you respond with a deafening “bahhhhh” every time she says something.

  You state-
“The Ground Water Protection Council is an industry front group that was founded to enable the injection of hazardous chemicals into the ground (originally for the purpose of hazardous waste disposal, and now for fracking).  They basically admit as much in the “about us” section of their website”
  How about we examine EXACTLY what they say about themselves:

“The Ground Water Protection Council is a national association of state ground water and underground injection control agencies whose mission is to promote the protection and conservation of ground water resources for all beneficial uses, recognizing ground water as a critical component of the ecosystem.”

  Seems to me, based upon this, that the organization is composed of members of STATE regulatory agencies. Are you saying that all these STATE regulatory agencies are all FRONT GROUPS for the industry?

  So they were formed to enable the injection of hazardous wastes?
Again, in their words:

“Members of the Board of Directors are elected from a pool of voting members identified as state officials charged with the responsibility of the administration of a state’s underground injection control program established pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and to those persons who are charged with administration of a state’s ground water program.”
  Seems that in REALITY, their members are employees of STATE agencies that were established and tasked with the state level administration of an EPA program created by the passage of the SDWA.

  Hardly an “industry front group”, rather a country wide gathering of the very persons entrusted with groundwater protection in each of their own states.

Graydon DeCamp

June 21, 2011, 12:36 p.m.

Mike H nails it. Like most contemporary journalists, the practitioners at Pro Publica clearly have agendas they just can’t keep out of sight. One giveaway is the link to “Fracking: The Music Video,” a show-biz propaganda piece that is so outrageously inflammatory (pun unavoidable) that it should embarrass every honest reporter and bring wrath down from every honest editor. Pro Publica can’t pretend to be serious, fair or balanced when it promotes that kind of scurrilous agit-prop.
    ProPublica’s anti-commerce headline today is that “Critics Find Gaps in State Laws to Disclose Hydrofracking Chemicals.” So, can we assume we will soon be reading ProPublica’s equally long, detailed (and unbalanced) account of what gas drilling’s proponents have to say? I am not holding my breath.

The J.P. Giesy quote that Mike H. cites above originally appeared, as far as I have been able to determine, in a 1996 op/ed for the Washington Post written by Ronald Bailey—a former global-warming skeptic who ended up having to change his stance on that one. The Giesy quote resurfaced in a recent article by Bailey in Reason Magazine, reporting on a new study which suggests that one particular health problem—low sperm counts in men—may not be due to the effects of chemical endocrine disruptors. However, even on the specific question of sperm count, the issue does not appear to have been definitively settled. Certainly, there are many scientists—including Dr. Giesy—who are researching the multiple health effects of endocrine disruptors—it isn’t a “crackpot” field that was somehow concocted by Dr. Colborn, as even a quick search of the literature will reveal (if one actually looks at the literature and doesn’t just pull selective quotes from Ron Bailey’s articles).

It may also interest readers to know that the board and medical staff of Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown have issued resolutions warning about the health dangers of fracking.

Clearly, a “frack first, worry later” approach is not the responsible way to go.

Anyone who says hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years is either seriously misinfomed or just outright lying.  This is a myth perpetrated by the gas drillling lobby. It’s root lies in the fact that injecting water into the ground to stimulate wells was indeed first used in the 1940’s, however, that is ALL it was- no toxic chemicals- just water. It was nothing like what Halliburton concocted in the mid 90’s and what hydraulic fracturing is today.  Why do you think they are trying to protect their “secret proprietary recipes”?  It’s ALL NEW!  The full consequences of this disasterous polluting process on our lives and the planet have yet to be known.
THIS Fracking is new!

@ Mary Sweeney

I don’t understand … what are you trying to say … I’m having a hard time interpreting it through all the red herrings you’ve thrown in the reader’s faces. Did Giesy not state that “Colborn doesn’t know very much” and that she cherry picks facts to fit her “preconceived views” rather than letting the facts lead here to a conclusion? Does is matter that he told it to Ronald Bailey who at one point in time doubted man made global warming? Its interesting that you should cite Giesy’s research in endocrine disruptors and leave out his conclusions, conclusions that I might add are in direct conflict with Colborn’s, with one big difference naturally, he has the lab data to back it up.

So yes, “Dr” Colborn is a crackpot and no one in the wider field of toxicology takes her very seriously, but evidently this doesn’t stop the people at Propublica from using her a source.

bruce ritchie

June 21, 2011, 2:33 p.m.

Mike H,
      What you seem to be saying is that Toxicologists who have been brought up on “the dose is the poison” do not buy the observations of endocrinologists who see that often chemicals which interfere with our endocrine system have large effects from small doses.  Often there is not a measurable quantity of the chemical that will not have a significant effect.
      You cannot hope for a toxicologist to understant the endocrine system or the dose response that seems so unlike what they have been trained to observe.  People of that type would never allow the precautionary principle to rule their thinking, because they are industrialists at heart, and the chemical is always “innocent’ until “proven guilty.”  They have long ago surpassed the FEC which allowed that a corporation has ‘rights’ just like an individual.  They assert that chemicals are ‘safe’ until ‘proven toxic.’  Hypocrites is rolling over in his grave to think that we have ‘ascended’ beyond his doctrine of ‘first, . . . DO NO HARM!”  I’m with him on that one.

@ bruce ritchie

What I am saying is that all the available evidence, and there is a great deal of it, does not support Colborn’s crackpot ideas. So, given the choice between believing in theories backed by volumes of epidemiological data and studies and believing theories backed solely on anecdotal data, you would choose the later because it dovetails neatly with what you already suspected. And of course they have “supressed” information … after all, if there wasn’t a grand conspiracy between industrialists, corporations, scientists and the government you’d look pretty foolish now wouldn’t you? 

I didn’t know that’s how things worked in the “reality based community”.

bruce ritchie

June 21, 2011, 9:47 p.m.

Mike H,
        Aren’t you one of those dudes that told me twenty years ago that 2,4-D was NOT harmful, and that agent orange wasn’t either? That same crowd has been saying for years that Dioxin is really not very dangerous either.  Then they said that roundup was so safe that they were willing to drink it.
        Your very arguments prove my point.  You think that chemicals are safe until proven dangerous.  I tell you that chemicals are not people, and have no presumtion of safety.  It is up to you to prove to us that the complete procedures required to extract natural gas are safe to us and our environment.  You have not at all proven this, and the experiences of persons all across our country suggest that this extraction process is dangerous, just as we know that oil, coal and uranium are also dangerous/harmful.  It seems that you have a hard time speaking truthfully about an industry to which you owe your living, or at least a large portion of your wealth.
        I have an idea, mike.  Why don’t you travel to dish texas, or to dimock, pa and go on tv while proving to us that all of the victims of this industry are real con artists telling a lie.  If you can do that, then we might begin to believe what you say.  Otherwise, it is you and the company officials against scores of working class individuals who have been ruined in fortunes and health by the gas drilling.  Who should I believe?

We must be ProActive on this issue and not just ReActive. The cost of life and health are not to be experimented with. You can play with your money and gain or loose it.But our limited time here on earth is valuable. Everyone has rights to life ,liberty, and happyness. If drilling near my home disrupts my health safety, or financial standing, then my rights have been violated. You will pay to make me whole again. If my health is lost, then what is that worth? I believe in second ammendments rights.

@ James Barth

It has been amply demonstrated that Colborn is very out of the mainstream and meets many of the qualify traits to be considered a crackpot. But since I like watching you dig yourself a hole, which chemicals used in HF, specifically, don’t biodegrade?

@ Bruce Ritchie

Sorry Bruce you must have me mistaken with someone else. I don’t work for the O&G industry and don’t collect a paycheck from them. I don’t believe I have ever said anything to anyone, let alone to you, about either agent orange or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. The EPA, however, has said something about 2,4-D … come gather round and have a listen.

The EPA’s report, dated December 8, 2004, found that none of the more recent epidemiological and animal studies support a conclusion that 2,4-D, 2,4-DB and 2,4-DP are likely human carcinogens.

I know ... I know ... those pesky experts with their science ruining a perfectly good story again.

To you point about safety in general, over a million wells have been drilled and 10,000’s of shale gas wells have been hydraulically fractured. The fact that we have seen so few incidents and all of them anecdotal at that, speaks volumes to the safety of the process.

@ Bob S,
  I agree everyone has rights to life, liberty and happiness. Yet forbidding a landowner from exercising his lawful rights to lease and extract the gas that he OWNS is an infringement upon HIS liberty, is it not?
  I have friends in Dimock, PA who did have issues with their water as a result of drilling. As a result of PADEP investigations and orders, they were MADE WHOLE.
  I take it you would prefer to ban drilling outright because of the POSSIBILITY of damage?  Using this same logic, one could argue for the banning of just about anything we take for granted as a lawful exercise of our liberty-driving for example. As you cannot PROVE that no one will come to harm in the future as a result of our operating a motor vehicle, shall we ban your right to operate your car in a safe and responsible manner?  After all, tens of thousands die each year in auto accidents. Drilling has yet to kill one tenth these numbers, yet we examine the risks from driving and deem them acceptable, why not drilling.

James B Storer

June 22, 2011, 11:47 a.m.

Mike H:
  Your sentence pitting “epidemiological” data and “anecdotal” data is a comment that seems to be worded to advance your argument with another post (bruce ritchie).  I am not interested in that, as I am not knowledgeable in the fields of epidemiological research (I can barely spell the word).  I wish to comment on the sometimes fractious relationship forming contentious conclusions between “scientific research” and “anecdotal” data.
  I am rewriting your sentence for this purpose as follows:  “Given the choice between believing theories backed solely by volumes of epidemiological data and studies or believing theories backed solely by volumes of anecdotal data, which do you choose?”
  This re-write places both theories on a balanced field (equal ‘pounds of data’).  Assume that a sizable meteor streaks across and is visible primarily in the low population density of our Great Plains.  Dozens, or perhaps a hundred, spectators will call in reports to the trained stargazers, furnishing their witnessed data:  color of trail, duration of visibility, direction going when it goes out of sight, etc.  These are all anecdotal data, and all their reports are considerably in error.  However, when analyzed as a group they furnish immense initial data that helps lead to a final analysis of the trajectory, landing point, etc. (which scientific conclusion is also probably not with pinpoint accuracy).
  These ProPublica reports are serious matters (environment, pollution, oil, coal, financial fraud, government corruption).  We should not water down our thinking by separating “scientific” and “anecdotal” data, and then arguing over them.  The context must be inclusively broadened, not restricted, so as to shine daylight on all aspects of investigating and resolving situations.    Skartishu, Granby, MO

” tens of thousands die each year in auto accidents. Drilling has yet to kill one tenth these numbers, yet we examine the risks from driving and deem them acceptable, why not drilling.” 

R H,  there are manifold uses of automobiles each day for each of us.  Our lifestyle has embedded cars/trucks into it so thoroughly that it will be hard to remove.  There are many extreme costs to this driving as well, and the ten thousand traumatic deaths are just the beginning.  Almost all of the costs are externalized.(privatize the benifits, socialize the costs) Health problems from oil/air pollution, bailed out car companies, lack of exercise, consumption of precious and limited resources.  These costs are born by gov. programs, and suffering individuals who pay themselves for our choices as a society. The main reason we do not decide to eliminate car/truck driving is engrained habit which dies hard.  Kicking and screaming hard.
The ‘right’ to extract one’s resources from one’s property should end at the point where you infringe on others.  When the use of one’s resource damages the air we have in common, then the ‘owner’ of that resource should pay.  Since damages rarely make one ‘whole’ or return the situation to it’s previous state, then preventing the damaging activity is always preferred.
.  There is no amount of money to compensate me for the clean water I enjoy.  It cannot be made whole.  The damage done diminishes us all for generations to come. If your vented gas well takes ten years off of the lives of 100 people, then have you not effectively killed ten persons?  If they took your life for compensation would that make those 100 people ‘whole?’  The best way for people to remain ‘whole’ is for each individual to give up selfish decisions, and always consider the welfare of the community.  There is no substitute for thinking beyond one’s own immediate desires. Fossil fuel is our PAST, but not our FUTURE.  We must move away from it as soon as possible.

Mike…it’s the water…clean, clear drinking water…5 million gallons per well…

But please don’t come to us for “some” when you run out, Haliburton is hard at work ‘up” here too!

You should be made to tour the Tar Sands and the Fracking in Northern BC.

Exxon says it uses the same water 4 times…ya wanna see this stuff!

@ Canucnik

I’ve been up to Fort McMurray several times ... lovely place.

Anybody who questions the safety of fracking is a crackpot.

Hey Mike H, come on down to Texas. I would like to share a nice cold drink of water with you.


The kids from the east, Yanks and Canucks, who have to go out there to find “grunt” work call Fort McMurray the “Ass-hole of Alberta!”

I totally agree with Graydon DeCamp and Mike H. above. ProPublica’s and NPR’s evident bias on this topic and others make listening/reading an exercise in ascertaining ‘what is salacious and mostly unsupported propositions’ and then seeking factual and pragmatic information elsewhere. Some balance in reporting and investigating would be a very welcome change. Many people now listen to John Stossel as he picks apart the surface bias and phonyness of sources like ProPublica and NPR. I know this post will draw the personal attacks of the left-leaning activists and committed ProPublica and NPR supporters who say they are the real ‘moderates’ and all else falls to the far right. Another falacious argument.

John Zimmermann

June 28, 2011, 10:50 a.m.

John Stossel now there is a really non biased source of information.

What is known from past fuel tank leaks, pipeline leaks,etc,etc is that the source just does not sit were the leak occurs. It plumes it travels.

If Fracking is so safe full disclosed by the companies is really not to much to ask

Anaerobic Digester’s solve two problems at once

Off to go sailing

So….if you want to know the chemicals. Or the major chemicals, why not look at the shipping manifests of the trucks showing up on site and the quantities of what is being shipped to the drilling site. Are these companies not required to provide a list of what they are carrying? That would at least give regulators a clue what to look for and test for. Because some chemicals you don’t specifically test for, unless you know what to look for.

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.

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