Journalism in the Public Interest

Regulation and Disclosure of Fracking at the Center of Gas Drilling Debate

The use of a mix of water and chemicals, known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has generated controversy and a series of studies, orders and regulations in 2010 from the federal government and a number of states on the topic of gas drilling.


(Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

The risks and benefits of drilling for natural gas have been so widely discussed over the past year that even if you haven't been following gas drilling closely, you might now be familiar with the word "frack."

For those who aren't, the term is short for hydraulic fracturing, a practice where gas drillers shoot pressurized water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well to release natural gas from the earth. The practice has been around for decades, but it's gained new prominence in the past few years with the growth of horizontal drilling, where drillers mine the earth laterally deep underground. The technique has allowed the expansion of drilling into gas-bearing shales across the country, but it also requires large quantities of fracking fluids, sometimes millions of gallons per well. And it's this mix of water and chemicals that has generated the bulk of the controversy and a series of studies, orders and regulations in 2010 from the federal government and a number of states.

Of particular concern to regulators and public health advocates are the specific chemicals that go into that chemical mixture. The industry has fought disclosure for years and had largely been able to keep well-to-well specifics secret, but that began to change this year. Wyoming updated its oil and gas regulations and, in an effort to fend off potential federal oversight, started requiring drillers to list the name and concentration of each of the chemicals used in each well. In Pennsylvania, where drilling in the region's Marcellus Shale continues to expand, regulators have written similar rules that await final approval by the legislature. In both cases, however, drillers may be able to find exceptions.

Disclosure has been a center of debate on the federal level as well. Both the EPA and the House Energy and Commerce Committee initiated investigations, seeking details from oil-services companies. In November, Halliburton broke from its peers and refused to give the EPA a full list of the chemicals in its fracking fluids. The agency has since subpoenaed the information and continued to design its study, which is set to begin early next year and last into 2012.

But it could be up to Congress whether and to what degree the EPA and other federal agencies ultimately regulate the practice. After Interior Secretary Ken Salazar raised the prospect of requiring chemical disclosure from drillers on federal lands in November, Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Fred Upton, R-Mich., -- who is the incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- sent Salazar a pointed letter in which they said they feared that a "rush to regulate" fracking would "chill domestic oil and gas development." Although the letter suggests Upton may not continue the more aggressive oversight of his predecessor, a spokeswoman for current committee chair Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the fracking study will continue after the House switches hands.

The elections brought change in the states as well. As we reported last summer, politicians and the gas industry in New Mexico and Colorado have been pushing to roll back some of the stricter regulations those states enacted in the past few years. Both states' governors-elect had said as candidates that they supported relaxing the rules. In New Mexico, soon-to-be Gov. Susana Martinez indicated she may seek to loosen a rule that requires drillers to use synthetic liners in their waste pits, saying that "unnecessary and burdensome regulations" have costs jobs and impeded growth.

Aside from disclosure, New York is still working out how and when it will allow drilling to begin in its share of the Marcellus Shale, the deep rock formation that has been a bonanza for gas drillers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After vetoing a legislative moratorium on fracking, Gov. David Paterson enacted his own limited moratorium this month. The measure bans new permits for drilling in the Marcellus until July 2011, when the state's Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to have drafted a final set of rules outlining how to handle Marcellus drilling.

In the new year, legislators and regulators across the country can look to a recent study that found that more than three out of four Americans support greater disclosure of fracking chemicals and more studies of the practice's environmental impact. The poll, released this month by the Civil Society Institute, found that three in five people had "at least some awareness of fracking as an issue." We'll let you decide how mainstream that really is, but we'll continue watching these developments around the country.

A push poll from “Civil Society Institute” .... very nice,

Jim Breitinger

Dec. 29, 2010, 11:49 a.m.

An important topic and another example of why we need to be very afraid of Republican oversight in places like the U.S. House of Representatives.

Randy Stebbins

Dec. 29, 2010, 1:34 p.m.

Lemme see if I unnerstan this;

I get ta mix up whatever chemicals I want, long as they legal, then I kin pump ‘em unnerground, long with a bunch a good ole water, so my mix break up rocks so ah kin git the gas outta the ground.  An if that good ole water ain’t good namore after I pump them chemicals unnerground, iz ok, ‘cause nobody kin never prove nothin ‘cause my mix is propryahtary and if nobody can’t prove what was innit, they can’t prove it wuz me.  Where do I sign up?

“In November, Halliburton broke from its peers and refused to give the EPA [6] a full list of the chemicals in its fracking fluids,”  Fracked by Haliburton again.  Processes and matrials are patentable, so what are we to assume except that the stuff they’re guarding so zealously is nothing Dick Cheney would use to fill his swimming pool.

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 3:50 p.m.

We have been fracturing wells for over 70 years now. This is not new technology and its not an environmental threat. In Texas we have a state agency called the Texas Railroad Commission that regulates the cementing of casing and where and how its run to protect ground water. The reason companies do not want to release info on there chemicals is because they spent millions on research and development and don’t want brand x getting a look at there patented chemicals. The chemicals we pump here are a polymer gel based fluid that is designed to “break” at a specific temperature and therefor return the fluid to what amounts to a mild salt water that is flowed back and then disposed of. Maybe some of the “tools” that post on here should look into the science and not the rhetoric spewed by these leftist’s that would destroy every industry in this country if left unchecked!

I’m so tempted to correct spelling but that would be snark, and we’re supposed to be civil, aren’t we.  But for future reference, there’s no apostrophe in leftists and one really wants the possessive “their” there than “there”.  If I’m a tool of anything, I’m a tool of accuracy.  I just can’t help myself.

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 4:03 p.m.

Well my apologies on the spelling. It wouldn’t be snark, it would just make you a douche bag for being more concerned about the spelling than the point. I couldn’t help myself either.

Thisy heah commYnis Librul am woikin’ in a pahyp mill, buying pahyps fer tha Marcellus Shale gas to be shipped to where it can be sold to folks who can afford it. The LNG gas company has cut our compliment of inspectors from 13 the last time we were in here to two of us. Since the midterms this is perfectly normal.  There was a coup d’état up here and these fine folks are going to be pretty much doing whatever they want within the year. When we had a blowout in PA last year one of the reporters was threatened by the company thugs AND local Oath Keeper brown shirts. Drilling in Catholic cemeteries and simply lying about folks’ basements exploding and escalating rates of asthma, then cancers… Maybe Jesus tells these ‘baggers to keep telling the same stupid lies over and over and over?  Or maybe it was Paul J. Goebbels?

Sorry I didn’t respond specifically to the comment, but I will now—to two part of it at least.
“The reason companies do not want to release info on there chemicals is because they spent millions on research and development and don’t want brand x getting a look at there patented chemicals.” 
Releasing the formula for a fracking fluid to the EPA doesn’t mean that a competing company gets a look at the formula.  The EPA is responsible for protecting patent rights.  Even IF the “secret” formula became public, competitors could not use it without being liable for patent violation and millions of dollars in penalties.  Given advances in chemistry, the product would be outmoded long before the patent expired.  In the meantime the public health would be protected.
Second :the chemicals we pump here are a polymer gel based fluid that is designed to “break” at a specific temperature and therefor return the fluid to what amounts to a mild salt water”,  There’s nothing particularly mild about salt water induced into a groundwater table.  One cannot introduce salts without modifying the environment and creating habitats in which organisms already living there are no longer able to do so.  Whole ecosystems become altered in ways which are irreversible.

But my principal point remains this.  Agencies which are designed to protect our lives and our safety must have information to do their jobs well.  Had there been an appropriate agency there would have been no thalidomide babies, for example.  I have no trust that private corporations will concern themselves with public safety first and foremost.  I’m willing to be convinced otherwise by specific examples in specific cases.

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 4:37 p.m.

Saltwater is not introduced into groundwater tables! I’m not sure what state you live in, but the frac fluids that are pumped are pumped into a formation that is anywhere from 8000ft. to 14000ft. In the ground. Most water tables are 1500ft. Or less. Again, not sure about your state, but we have regulations on cementing multiple casing strings in the ground that protects surface water here.
  What state do you live in Mr. Swanson?

What has become clear in this debate is that one side plies facts and the other peddles emotions. The emotional side writes long winded stories with talk of “toxins”, oil & gas drilling, mysterious tumors, ground water and flaming faucets; cementing it all together with the thinnest of gruel for evidence.

The other fact based side of this debate wonders where the evidence is for the emotional’s arguement. Where are the studies that show a rise in any of the suspected fracturing agents before and after drilling has taken place? Where is the evidence that a process that has been used for 60 years is responsible for contamination? Are there any geologist who believe that a fracking job can cause permeable fissures that can propagate though thousands of feet of bedrock? Why do you feel the need to misquote your sources (as Lustgarten did with Wyoming groundwater regulator Mark Thiesse)?

When presented with the factual side of the argument (Bainbridge Township water quality study, the science and geology of fracturing) the emotional side runs to its fallback position: DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT OUR MOTHER EARTH! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN! PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROFIT! YOU CANT DRINK POLLUTED WATER! … and so on.

Its has become evident to me after reading ProPublica’s series on this that they have a story too good to pass up on …. facts be darned! Its good publicity for them, gets them a wider audience among the MSM, and undoubtedly will be used for fundraising.

Where’s Chris Mooney when you really need him?

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 5:16 p.m.

Ummm, Thalidomide babies? That was caused by a drug from the 50’s? I notice that it’s all about an agency and the EPA protecting us in your statement. Even various drugs approved by the FDA have adverse affects on thousands of people a year.
  I understand where this is coming from now. You think there should be some kind of government agency for every business or industry to protect “the people”. I would rather have less government and more common sense than bureaucracy piled upon bureaucracy. 
  Well said Mike H. on your post.

Frank Kline

Dec. 29, 2010, 6 p.m.

If you get water from your well and that source is contaminated by toxins or carcinogens traveling thru the soil it is unlikely it are not a result of fracking in your area. Without knowing the content of the fluid how could the drilling company be held accountable for contamination? Listing the content of the fluid is a small price to pay for all the future gas income. What is the back up plan for contamination? This should be spelled out and the drilling company should have a sizable escrow account so that it does not come down to a homeowner having to sue a big money gas company.  My house is built directly on Marcellus shale with my well depth at 500’. How would drillers prove that the horizontal leg is at least 8000’ deep? New York’s D.E.C. Has been scaled back to the point where they have far too few inspectors to cover the proposed gas wells. Has the gas industry earned enough trust to self police? NOW WAY!!
  Let us not be so greedy and short sighted that we overlook the dangers of fracking

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 7:43 p.m.

Again, let’s not confuse drilling with fracking. What does your house being built over the Marcellus Shale have anything to do with your water well? Nearly everyone here in Texas lives on top of some sort of oil or gas reserve, be it a shale, limestone, or sandstone formation. The Marcellus formation is around 8000ft., far from your 500ft. water well. When they start drilling the well they drill and set surface casing usually around 1800ft. And cement that in to protect your water table. Then they drill down to the top of the formation to be produced from and set an intermediate string of casing, also cemented in. The production casing is run last and also cemented in. That is what they perforate the holes in and “frac” through. Maybe you should google well completion or go on YouTube and watch some videos to get an understanding of what takes place before you panic about your well and worry about future lawsuits! Better yet, how bout y’all just ban all drilling and fracking there, and we will be glad to continue selling our natural gas to the northeast! It’s no wonder New York and Pennsylvania are broke and running a severe deficit!

If the fraciing formula(s) was patented, then it would be public information; patents are.  What the companies are probably seeking to protect are “trade secrets”.  The classic (non-patented) trade secret is the Coca-Cola formula. 

One solution to the problem of identifying suspected fracking fluid that ends up where it shouldn’t be is requiring that a tracer compound be added to it.

Brandon Moore

Dec. 29, 2010, 9:13 p.m.

As a matter if fact, it is a patent, not just a trade secret. I was working for BJ when they sued, and when they won the suit. It ended up being 120 million.  Halliburton had to pay interest too!
They run a resin coated sand that is slightly radioactive and they can see after running a downhole log to see where the sand went.  The frac fluid is non toxic. It’s made up of KCL, polymer gel, a cross link gel that suspends the sand to help carry it into the fractures in the reservoir and many other non toxic additives. Again, the fluid is designed for the well conditions and is designed to break down after a certain period of time and at the specific bottom hole temperature.

Civil Society Institute is a liberal think tank with an agenda promoting renewable energy.

I thought Pro Publica had more integrity then to put this garbage on their site but then again given their track record of misinformation and fear mongering, I would expect nothing less from them.

After all, sensationalism sells!!

1) When the gas industry wants to attract investors, it says the technology to extract shale gas is new; when it wants to calm fears about the dangers of shale gas extraction, it says the technology is old. The argument that fracking has taken place for 70 years does not apply to horizontal shale gas wells, which require much larger volumes of fracking fluid at much higher pressures than have traditionally been used over the decades-long history of fracking. On top of that, the chemical-laden, “slick-water” fracking formulas that are likely to be used to frack Marcellus wells in the Northeast have been in use for only a little over a decade; the full range of health problems (e.g. higher cancer rates) that may be caused by some of the chemical components of these slick-water fracking formulas may take decades to become apparent. There are numerous red flags from around the country that indicate that shorter-range fracking-related health problems may already be occurring. Proceeding without further study is not only unwise, it is immoral. Human lives and health are at stake.

2) If there is solid evidence to dispute the notion that the fracking fluid might eventually migrate into aquifers through existing or manmade fractures, the NYSDEC did not supply that evidence in its draft environmental statement on shale gas extraction. Instead, it offered a minimal analysis of the situation which relied mostly on data from standard, generalized textbook tables as opposed to actual field data from NY state, and which further neglected to examine the real-world conditions (e.g. multiple fracking stages, among other things) that apply during real-world fracking. Where are the careful, measured, non-gas-industry-funded, peer-reviewed scientific studies that should have preceded any decision as to whether shale gas extraction is safe for our communities and the human beings that live in them?

3) According to the NYSDEC, there are many old, unplugged, abandoned oil and gas wells at unknown locations in NY. These old wells could serve as conduits for contaminants (like fracking fluid) to move into the water supply.

4) Even if the fracking fluid would never, ever, even over centuries, end up in the water supply (and that is a big if) spills can and do occur at the surface. Illegal dumping is another huge, potential problem. Right now there is no viable plan for the disposal of the fracking fluid that comes back up out of the gas wells; couple that fact with understaffed regulatory agencies, and it’s pretty clear what is going to happen.

5)  Without a specific list of the chemicals used at each well, local residents whose water becomes contaminated may have a very difficult time indeed proving that nearby drilling and/or fracking was the cause. Concern over revealing company secrets should not be allowed to trump concern over human health and safety.

6) The fracking chemicals are only a part of the problem. The fluid that is returned from the wells not only contains fracking chemicals, but also other contaminants, like radioactive materials and heavy metals. These additional materials create additional disposal problems which have not been seriously and sanely addressed by the gas industry or the regulatory agencies in PA and NY.

I used to believe large bank were trustworthy responsible organizations. And now I am supposed to believe that oil and gas companies are responsible, trustworthy organizations? Especially after BP? If gas companies, through their fracking, ruin water in lands surrounding their drill site, they will not voluntarily pay. They will defend the case in court for years with expensive lawyers. Who can afford to go after them - farmers who are barely making it? The gas companies should be required to disclose their chemicals and there should be strict liability for all the damage they cause, plus legal fees and costs to anyone who has been damaged. Plus, there should be some kind of insurance fund so they can’t go out of business and evade their legal obligations to pay, and there should be no government guarantees of any kind given to gas companies. Ultimately, we are better off without fracking. We should use renewable fuels and electric cars.

Randy Stebbins

Dec. 30, 2010, 7:59 a.m.

Now for the science:

According to the Pennslyvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) Geological Survey, the Marcellus Shale underlies much of Pennslyvania at a depth of between 0 feet to over 9000 feet.

Also, according to well completion studies compiled by the PA DCNR, over half of the wells in PA were horizontal, that is there were completed using directional drilling, and these horizontal wells are “fracked” using “slick-water” fluids, where the energy extraction company uses up to 20 times the amount of fluid normally used in vertical wells.

According to the PA Department of State, the “slick-water” fracturing fluids consist of vast amounts of water, to which various chemicals are added according to what is needed to get the most gas from the well, these chemicals include:  friction reduction agents such as acrylamide and other polymers; biocides such as bromine based
solutions or glutaraldehyde, acids such as hydrohloric and muriatic to “clear cement and other debris”; scale inhibitors such as ethylene glycol; corrosion inhibitors, such as N,n-dimethyl formamide, and oxygen scavengers,
such as ammonium bisulfite; occasionally, a cross-linking agent which “may” contain boric acid or ethylene glycol is added.

Note to Mr. Moore:  this “cross-linking agent” is the stuff you claimed made the “break” in the fracturing fluid, miraculosly changing it into a “mild salt water solution” when in fact all it does is make the “slick-water” more slick after introduction into the shale, so the fluids are removed more easily and therefore do not slow down the extraction of the gas.

Now, the National Institute of Health has determined, among other things, that acrlyamide when “tested in a two-generation reproductive study at concentrations up to 5 mg/kg day(- 1) in drinking water, was associated with prenatal lethality at the highest dose, with evidence of parental toxicity…”

As for the rest of the chemicals that “may” be in “slick-water” fracturing fluids, well your guess is as good as mine.

It is true that much of the Marcellus Shale lies well below the water tables in PA, but that means that residents must rely on the promises of the extraction companies that they are properly cementing the wells to prevent migration of their “proprietary” mixtures into Joe Bob’s and Marge’s drinking water.  While there are certainly companies out there that are concerned about protecting people and doing a proper job, the lure of the pay-off is often much stronger than the tug of conscience, the BP oil spill is a case in point.

So, there ya go.  Science.

P.S.  While it is true that fracking has been going on for decades, much of that fracking was done in places where there are few people.  Which begs the question:  If I frack a well, and the stuff gets into the water table, but nobody is there to drink the water, has anything been contaminated?

Kilgour Farms

Dec. 30, 2010, 9:21 a.m.

Then you would know that acrylamide is found naturally in fried foods and that the NIH found it to cause cancer at extremely high levels in rats.

Its like Warfarin, used as a anticoagulant It was initially marketed as a pesticide against rats and mice and is still popular for this purpose.. A few years after its introduction, warfarin was found to be effective and relatively safe for preventing thrombosis and embolism (abnormal formation and migration of blood clots) in many disorders. It was approved for use as a medication in the early 1950s and has remained popular ever since; warfarin is the most widely prescribed anticoagulant drug in North America.

My understanding is that Warfarin was discovered when cows in Wisconsin farm fields started hemorrhaging. Researchers then discovered that there was something in the plants in the fields - which was eaten by the cows - that caused the blood to thin. Anyway, the point is, the chemicals are dangerous. Warfarin is very carefully monitored when prescribed to patients and it is prescribed only when absolutely necessary.

Warfarin is prescribed a lot more then “only when absolutely necessary” considering its the most widely prescribed anticoagulant drug in North America, millions of people with heart problems
are prescribed this med.

Acrlyamide when “tested in a two-generation reproductive study at concentrations up to 5 mg/kg day(- 1) in drinking water, was associated with prenatal lethality at the highest dose, with evidence of parental toxicity…”

EPA limit in 8oz glass of water is 0.12mcg, french fries are 300 times higher then the EPA allowance 36mcg. If i understand the poster right, he uses a rare and seldom used acronym, 5 mg/kg day(- 1), I find no reference to the (-1) he uses, to mean extremely unrealistic doses where used.

Anything consumed in quantites can kill you including water.

Actually, I’d say, if you listen to the people instead of the big green non-profits and Democrat party politicians, the center of the debate isn’t about regulations or disclosure of chemicals, it’s about STOPPING THE USE OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING ALTOGETHER.

Kilgour Farms

Dec. 30, 2010, 1:31 p.m.

The people are being led astray by-journalists and organizations, “green groups”, misrepresenting the facts and causing unwarranted fears.and sensationalising information to support their agenda to “Ban the Drill”.

All one needs to do is look up “hydraulic fractuing” then compare it to “fracking” to see the difference..

Brandon Moore

Dec. 30, 2010, 2:49 p.m.

Actually Mr. Stebbins, Cross Linked gel is about the consistency of jello. It holds the sand in suspension to help carry it further out into the fractures created to help hold them open after the cross link gel “breaks” down and leaves the sand behind. I know because they take samples while pumping the job and physically hold the cross linked sand to check the consistency. I don’t need to go and read from the Department of PA State, or the Pa DCNR, The Department of Health, or any other State agency that you get this from. I have been in the oilfield for about 15 years now. I have worked in PA, WV,TX,LA,NM,CO,WY,ND,AK, ect. 
  I’ll leave you with this link on a new frac fluid that Halliburton and Baker Hughes have developed that is basically edible ingredients. Now this this issue seems to have a new solution, the enviro-nazis can move on to something else. Thanks!

Matthew Slaughter

Dec. 30, 2010, 6:14 p.m.

” I have been in the oilfield for about 15 years now. “

well my family has been in the oilfield for 100 years, and if you trust the industry to put safety before profits, I don’t know what to tell you. spend a couple more decades in it and see what your grandkids say.

the ‘enviro nazis’ are not asking for much, just transparency and accountability. it wouldn’t cost that much to put people at ease about this thing. just a few less mansions in houston and a few less basis points for a hedge fund.

Brandon Moore

Dec. 30, 2010, 8:09 p.m.

Well Matthew, i didn’t know we were including our family’s time in the industry too! How long have you personally worked in the oilfield?
  I probably will be out here for a couple more decades. My 15 yr old is planning to go to college to be a Petroleum Engineer, so i’m sure my grandkids will be fine with it.
  Obviously if the big service companies move to this new food grade enviro friendly chemicals for their fracs it should put everyone at ease and this should be a dead issue.
  Don’t sound so bitter over the Houston mansions and the hedge funds. Surely with a 100 years in the oilfield your family has made alot of money investing in the industry, or maybe not.

The comment about “we’ve been drilling in Texas for over 70 years…” implies that there are no problems in Texas.  Hmmm two federal lawsuits filed December 15 seem to imply the contrary.  You don’t have to look too far to find lots of damage in Texas and other states from hydraulic fracturing.  The gas and oil industry believes if you say “it’s safe” enough eventually people will believe you.  If not, just pay off the politicians.  Seems to be working with the republicans…

Marjorie Lofland

Dec. 31, 2010, 11:47 a.m.

“To frac or not to frac, that is the question.” When you can prove that the total process, from start to finish is relatively safe for the environment and people living in close proximity to the wells and the number of lives lost due to the process’s hazards is within the acceptable range, then go for it! Until then, isn’t it common sense to be cautious?

You have not introduced the backflow components. Pennsylvania has coal, oil and uranium underground, which each contribute to the dissolved solids found in the backflow. These are the threats to the surface, when spilled, hauled or deliberately dumped untreated into our water systems. It is happening now.

Look at the whole picture as though it was happening to your water and your property and not someone else’s. Or did you marry the first thing that walked by in a dress.

Kilgour Farms

Dec. 31, 2010, 2:31 p.m.

” number of lives lost due to the process’s hazards”

This is a new twist to an already twisted tale, proof??

“deliberately dumped untreated into our water systems”

Again, your proof is??

Excellent example of misrepresentation and fear mongering used to sway uninformed people.

Learn or not, your choice.

Marjorie Lofland

Dec. 31, 2010, 3:16 p.m.

“number of lives lost due to the process’s hazards” is an industry standard for feasibility. I think you already know that!

Misrepresentation and fear mongering - no, perhaps gullible, however the reports I have been reading beg to differ with what you have been reading. I tend to believe the reports coming out of various water authorities, DEP and EPA. Please read all of the following links and if you can refute the information as being untrue in any way, tell me. This is a great concern to me.

1. Monongahela River water leaving bad taste but is safe to drink
On Monday, TDS levels in the Monongahela River at Point Marion near ... - Cached

Pasted from <;=&startPage=1&rlz=1I7ADFA_en>

Marcellus Shale and Mine Discharges Provide a Double Whammy! ... it would exacerbate pollution discharges to Dunkard Creek and the Monongahela River. ... - Cached

Pasted from <;=&startPage=1&rlz=1I7ADFA_en>

Marjorie Lofland

Dec. 31, 2010, 3:54 p.m.

The response with proof or at least referenced material from EPA and DEP on the water conditions of the Monongahela river, following permission to discharge fracking flowback, was not published, so here is a watered down recap.

“number of lives lost due to the process’s hazards” is an industrial standard for feasibility, used since man first organized group endeavors.

Do your own research through different water authorities and the problems they are having with TDS and other contaminants. The information is not manipulated, misrepresented or fear mongering, but addressing the need to produce safe drinking water to the public.

Kilgour Farms

Dec. 31, 2010, 5:34 p.m.

Just what I thought, typical response. No actual data, if you had valid data it would be plastered all over.

Flow back is not the only source of TDS (chorlides) in the river, so your conclusions are incomplete and based on assumptions.

Marjorie Lofland

Dec. 31, 2010, 6:07 p.m.

The data is plastered all over. It is your fear that keeps you from seeing it.

“In just the Monongahela River’s watershed, between 612,000 and 2 million gallons per day of waste fracking fluid is discharged by 13 public and commercial water treatment facilities after limited treatment. At the lower treatment amount, Dr. Volz said, the water daily discharges contain 824,825 pounds of total dissolved solids, 15,000 pounds of barium, 16,737 pounds of strontium and 486,812 pounds of chloride.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August 28, 2010

Pennsylvania finally caught up with the dumping end of this equation, by the DEP limiting how much wastewater facilities could accept, and which ones could accept it. This created some temporary improvements in early 2009, but dry weather conditions in late Spring and early summer began triggering ‘over the limit’ announcements by various water treatment authorities once again. Some facilities hired consultants to work on their problem, and ended up switching their water purification away from chlorine, to eliminate the trihalomethane situation.

Kilgour Farms

Dec. 31, 2010, 8:26 p.m.

I’ll use the upper limit given by Dr Vols. The mean flow discharge of the Monongahela River is 8000cfs, 2 million gals of additional flow equates to 1.28cfs or .016% of total flow, within that you have the TDS as a percentage of total flow back fluid, an even smaller percentage. This is a very small amount of discharge compared to the whole system. Combine this with TDS from other sources and the additional TDS from flow back water puts it over the allowable limits at low flow. Historically low flow happens in June, July and August.

What the article doesn’t tell you are what the total TDS is in the system, only how much flow back fluid is discharged into the system which means little given the data supplied by the article. You need the total amount of TDS discharged from all sources to see the real percentage of TDS from flow back fluid.

The only conclusion that the EPA and DEP came to are that the added TDS from the flow back into the system takes it over the allowable limitsat low flows nothing more

Your conclusions are based on an article written by a journalist misrepresenting the facts with incomplete data causing unwarranted fears, typical.

Quit taking what these bias media outlets and “Green groups” say as gospel and do some of your own research!!

Learn or not, your choice.

“Your conclusions are based on an article written by a journalist misrepresenting the facts with incomplete data causing unwarranted fears, typical.”

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 1, 2011, 9:36 a.m.

Good morning - Happy New Year! What I gave you is data concerning both EPA and DEP. Whether it is over the acceptable limit or not does not concern me. Limits vary as quickly as the purse strings holders. This is observation.

What concerns me is the accumulated effects of the radioactive material being introduced into the environment. Considering what is already naturally occurring with barium and strontium, whose radioactive half life is anywhere from 2.8 days to 4.8 billion years depending on the structure at the time of exposure, being introduced into the system, can the carbon based life forms adapt quickly enough to side step extinction. When the salamanders go belly up, that is a warning sign the answer is no.

Arm chair commentators will not see the changes. You need to go to the areas where fracking is being done and observe the changes. Because it takes years for some changes to occur, they need to be studied and analyzed for true impact, it becomes foolish to ramrod ahead with the God like attitude “It won’t hurt me”, “To hell with moratoriums.”  (actual statements made by an onsite manager).

I love to fish! My favorite fishing spots which always yielded hours of fun and food appalled me with the changes from viable habitats to totally lifeless stench holes with gas bubbles escaping into the air. Even the plants died.That to me is not an improvement. No, I did not take pictures.

Kilgour Farms

Jan. 1, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

“I love to fish! My favorite fishing spots which always yielded hours of fun and food appalled me with the changes from viable habitats to totally lifeless stench holes with gas bubbles escaping into the air. Even the plants died.That to me is not an improvement. No, I did not take pictures”

I love fishing as well and live on one of the top ten trout streams in the country.

I’m not really sure what your trying to say from the above comment but it sounds like its fear driven reasoning not fact based. You need to learn all the process, not just those aspects you think will further an agenda. Bubbling is a sign of methane and is quite common in many areas where drilling has not happened, rivers,streams and wetlands to name a few and harmless in open spaces.

Your comments again show your lack of understanding of the whole process and the jump to conclusions based on emotional responses not fact.

As far a radioactive materials, a landfill in Owego, NY is accepting drilling fluids and have yet to detect materials at levels danergous to humans. Another area overblown by a lack of understanding by indiviguals. More unfounded fear and misrepresentaion.

Here is an article from the NYT dated 1884 in which “bubbling” occurs in a major river where no drilling has happened.

Learn or not, your choice.

Kilgoour Farms

Jan. 1, 2011, 1:27 p.m.

Landfill in Owego, NY accepts drilling mud and no radioactive materials are present in levels that could harm people. They have even setup Geiger counters in the landfill to make sure, more hysteria

Moratorium do nothing other then delay what would be economic stimulus without government money., Cumulative impact studies do nothing without accurate data, computer modeling is faulty at best. All one has to do is look at Climate Gate. You don’t get accurate data from someone who thinks they know what it is, you obtain accurate data from actual development sites. Both are stall tactics and produce no real results other then to fill an agenda.

Your bubbling water scenario is as old as man. A very common occurrence where gas is present,in most cases not from gas drilling.

Your assumptions are based on limited information which you misrepresent in your comments.

New York Times article about gas bubbling up on the Upper Delaware River 1884.

Learn or not, your choice.

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 1, 2011, 7:02 p.m.

You are right about my not understanding the whole process. I am not from Pennsylvania and never saw natural gas escaping through water before. Very interesting article!

What I was saying is because one frequent fishing hole no longer can sustain fish, I don’t go fishing there anymore. I was told by a hiker who lived in the area, the bubbling happened after local drilling took place and the lake died within months, once the bubbling started - no conclusion, no evaluations, just hearsay and disappointment and shock at the difference one year made.

All the other trout streams and lakes in my vicinity are sufficiently polluted the fish of all species are rendered unsafe to eat.

To “Kilgoour Farms” and “Mr. Moore”

As a member of a generation that is pegged as caring more about instant gratification than long-term benefit, I make an effort to read all angles, research the science and decide for myself. I try to limit my emotions and initial bias and make decisions based on objectivity and critical analysis. That said, it is not often that the three “sides” are in congruence… an unfortunate reality far too few people seem to realize.

In reading the whole of this comment section, I cannot help but ask you both—if you truly believe that the practices, policies, and materials are not only safe, but are also adhered to by each and every company (at each and every site)... why, do you propose, is it that these companies refuse transparency? If they have the proof of the safety, the industry-wide regulation etc., why refuse to share with the class? I am asking genuinely and sincerely. And please, I would rather not revisit the patent vs. non-patent, trade secrets and new tech to sell, old tech to defend conversation. Typically, it seems, corporate secrets are kept to prevent profit loss. Each excuse or rationalization I can imagine ultimately falls under this umbrella. So then I must infer that the companies in question have a significant level of fear in disclosing the science behind the safety of the chemicals and processes they use in fracking—enough so that they would lose significant profit. 

As a taxpayer and a citizen, I expect to be kept informed of my investment; as an honest individual, I expect the common courtesy of reciprocated honesty (needless to say, in business this preference is rarely afforded to me). If the EPA has the power to issue permits and thus allow the industry to operate, why is it outlandish that the EPA have the governance to demand the answers to questions? I certainly would expect nothing less.

In business, particularly in terms of acquiring investment, the potential investor expects a proper business model, every stage, every move, every idea is not only disclosed, but is then analyzed and critiqued. Why is it that permits (or contracts, or whatever was necessary to legally operate) were even approved (or continue to be valid) without a full disclosure of materials necessary to execute the job? Should not the science have been done (and paid for) by the industry long before the practices became commonplace? I simply don’t understand, where is forethought? Where is professional integrity?

While I understand that each of you intends to defend the industry, your livelihood, and/or the practices of said industry, regardless of the naysayers, I don’t understand why the issue is so politicized—“Green groups”, “leftists”, “Democrats” spouted as if skepticism is negative. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you; and yet the governing agency says ‘we want more information’, the industry leaders either stutter to flat out refuse, and those within the industry don’t seem to bat an eye. If you want less government control (or interference), you need better business, that is the trade off. This issue, in my humble observation, reeks of bad business.

to S Baker

Just wanted to say thanks.  The tone and character of your comment is what I like to see on Pro Publica.  No yelling, no calling anyone a tool of this or that.  Happy New Year!

I agree with Mr Swanson regarding S Baker’s comment.

I have a question regarding the contamination of ground water. From my understanding, the water/chemical fluid is pumped back out of the wells and put into above-ground reservoirs. Won’t these pools seep into the groundwater?

Also, it seems that these companies have taken a lot of effort to avoid reporting their chemicals, more than would be expected, I believe, than to save proprietary information. It seems that there are already a number of companies using fracking, and there are huge barriers to entry into this industry, so it seems that this is not the companies’ only motive from revealing the chemicals involved.

Before you refer to me as a leftist, I would prefer the term conservative. As a conservative, I believe that we have scarce resources that need to be used wisely.

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 1, 2011, 10:13 p.m.

I just watched a YouTube video of workers releasing CO2 gas buildup by submerging the end of the pipe into the frack fluid reservoir as a means to muffle the sound. The release pressure spewed the fracking fluids out of the holding tank onto the surrounding ground.

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 1, 2011, 10:16 p.m.

Following the links on this site,I found two YouTube videos of workers releasing CO2 gas buildup by submerging the end of the pipe into the frack fluid reservoir as a means to muffle the sound. The release pressure spewed the fracking fluids out of the holding tank onto the surrounding ground.

Brandon Moore

Jan. 1, 2011, 11:03 p.m.

Where is the link to this video? Also, frac fluid is not stored in a tank or pit, it’s mixed on the fly as the frac job is being pumped. Fluid in a tank is usually fresh water or a KCL. If it’s flowback after a frac job it’s not “frac” fluid anymore.

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 2, 2011, 8:46 a.m.

To retrace my steps, can’t do, however, I typed my query on Google as, “Natural Gas Frac Release” and both Part 1 and Part 2 popped up with several similar matches. The good ole boys were jist having fun!

Marjorie Lofland

Jan. 2, 2011, 10:29 p.m.

Correction on my post yesterday, 10:16: the gas being bubbled into the flowback fluids was nitrogen, not carbon dioxide. Is there a name for the flowback fluids other than flowback fluid? This is all new to me.

Brandon Moore

Jan. 2, 2011, 11:51 p.m.

We just call it flowback when were drilling out after a well has been fracked. Typically the fluid is KCL or what we call field salt water. Sometimes there will be light oil or a condensate in the flowback, that is separated at the disposal to be sent to a refinery. If they were flowing back nitrogen in the video you watched then they must have done a nitrogen frac. These fracs are done on wells with a low reservoir pressure to help unload the fuid from the wellbore after the job.

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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