Journalism in the Public Interest

EPA Finds Compound Used in Fracking in Wyoming Aquifer

After years of complaints from residents about foul water and health concerns, government investigators have found chemical compounds consistent with those used in natural gas fracking.

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Nov. 11, 2011, 2:51 a.m.

Dave wrote:
Welcome to the “free” market. You and your parents and grandparents sat watching T.V. or drinking at the pub while this monster grew too large to be stopped. You reap what you sow, enjoy suffering under crushing fascism.
Sitting back and saying and doing nothing is the problem, YOU are the problem.

You have a point, and I get really angry with family/friends who do nothing. But maybe I could have done more myself? Except we thought we were doing a lot: ending the Vietnam war, stopping segregation, working for peace, etc.
Regarding drinking in the pub, remember that guys like George W. were the ones drinking in the pub all the time, while many of us were going to school and working, etc.
I do remember being in Texas, and meeting some very arrogant, dare I say evil people, and wondering to myself, How do you stop people like this? I moved away. That’s not really solving the problem, and I think a lot of us keep thinking that someone will solve the problem. Instead, it’s we the people who must solve the problem. There is no relaxing, the price of freedom is eternal vigilence.

not not not mike H

Nov. 11, 2011, 4:16 a.m.

@ mike h:

you should learn how to use the internet. you can imbed links in these comments. you can also type it out, so anyone can copy and paste the link into their browser.

credible journalists back up their claims with support. where is your support mike h? where is this penn state study that says HF does not contaminate groundwater? im not a journalist either, i just like breaking stupid peoples balls.

im certain that the thousands of wells across the midwest that are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and known carcinogens are just an elaborate hoax set up by the people that live near them. you should watch this movie, its called gas land. you should do some homework, maybe talk to a hydrogeologist.

you know, since you are into breaking peoples balls. might be smart to check both sides.


Nov. 11, 2011, 9:42 a.m.

Just as a point of clarification.  The Penn State Water study was funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.


Nov. 11, 2011, 10:28 a.m.

Any sane person who know the facts about the potential damage to the aquifer and still wants to drill, needs a well in their backyard.  This whole conversation is pointless unless the facts are given (and taken) to the people who sign their lives away for capital gains.  Right now every third commercial on the TV is a gas promotion so one has to wonder who is going to win this battle…


Nov. 11, 2011, 10:33 a.m.

Ask PSU where they are getting the 80 million for a new hockey center…..

Mike H

Nov. 11, 2011, 10:34 a.m.

@ not not not mike H

Sorry, but I stop listening when you mentioned Gasland.


Nov. 11, 2011, 11:17 a.m.

@ Mike H

Perhaps the industry should take better care in what statements they themselves put out. I direct you to the Department of Energy’s Shale Gas Subcommittee which included industry representatives and concluded that there were multiple issues with hydraulic fracturing.

Most amusingly, perhaps, they stated that the claim that industry makes regarding the fact that this has been performed safely for decades is an outright lie. Recent changes to the process have been in place for no more than ten years, and any claims to the contrary are false.

Here is where I would reiterate that this panel included industry representatives. Read it yourself if you would like to see their names written in the report. Well worth a read in it’s entirety.

Highwater Filters

Nov. 11, 2011, 11:35 a.m.

Is anyone surprised to find that the water is contaminated by the fracking process?

If I lived Pavillion, I’d move. That place is going to be a ghost town some day. I feel bad for the people who can’t get out. I hope they will be able to move after settling with the company that contaminated their water.

Everyone in that town should get a water purifier for their tap water. Don’t just filter your water; purify it.


Nov. 11, 2011, 11:59 a.m.

As for this unbiased Penn State study that found no impact as a result of hydraulic fracturing, let us examine the facts.

Penn State has a nice history of accepting large industry-funded research projects on this subject. Just because this specific paper is from a scientist that claims he used none of that money still suggests a cause for concern. Anyone can tell you that if an institution accepts large amounts of money from one source, there will be pressure on scientists to produce results that do not endanger that funding.

Regardless, this study did NOT in fact, find no negative impact of hydraulic fracturing. I refer you to two articles covering this, in case you didn’t actually read what was written.

Anne Z

Nov. 11, 2011, 11:59 a.m.

PSU hockey funded by oil and gas industry? 

Terry Pegula operated East Resources Inc., an independent exploration and development company. A native of Carbondale, PA, Pegula founded East Resources Inc., in 1983. Over the next 27 years, he built it into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. In July of 2010, Royal Dutch Shell purchased the assets of East Resources Inc. for $4.7 billion (US).

In September 2010, Pegula and his wife Kim donated $88 million to Penn State University—the largest private gift in the history of the school—to fund a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arena, a world-class practice facility and help to establish an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 11, 2011, 12:47 p.m.

Mike H,

Judges quotes below prove flagrant and deadly fraud committed by independent corporate consultants who write fictitious reports.

Dr. Gary Greenhood (who was paid by MetLife) wrote reports where he ignored :

(a) A foot Ms. Joanne Vick broke in five places.

(b) MRI’s showing Multiple Sclerosis, brain lesions and much more in the case of Ms. Jacquelyn Addis.

Exact case quotes one paragraph below :

(1) U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland wrote Ms. Joanne Vick broke her foot in 5 Places after she developed diabetic kytoacedosis following childbirth.

Here are exact quotes written by Judge Cleland :

“Noticeably missing from Dr. Greenhood’s report is any mention of Dr. Al-Kassab’s November, 2001 office notes, Dr. Churchill’s November 13, 2001 office notes, and Dr. Churchill’s March 14, 2002 office notes. This is particularly significant in that Dr. Greenhood’s August 2, 2004 report specifically noted that “[t]here is no indication of seizures or falls.” Dr. Churchill’s March 14, 2002 report, however, indicates that as a result of her right sided weakness, Plaintiff broke her left foot in January 2002—in five places, no less.”

“Moreover, both Dr. Greenhood’s and Dr. Gosline’s reports contained numerous errors and inherent inconsistencies, which should have been noted by the plan administrator and resulted in less weight being given to them. (E.D. Michigan, Southern Division. No. 03-CV-73124-DT)”

(2) The following quotes were written by U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage in the case of JACQUELINE ADDIS v. THE LIMITED LONG-TERM DISABILITY PROGRAM :

“MetLife relied almost exclusively upon the report of Dr. Gary Greenhood, an internist hired by MetLife, who did not examine Addis and did only a records review. Dr. Greenhood selectively viewed Addis’s medical records. MetLife then selectively adopted parts of Dr. Greenhood’s report to support denial of the claim.”

“Although the denial letter listed reports of several physicians, it relied exclusively on Dr. Greenhood, and gave little consideration to Addis’s treating neurologist, Dr. Tatarian. There is no discussion of the reports or findings of any of the other physicians who are listed.”

“Dr. Greenhood selectively extracted portions of Dr. Tatarian’s treatment notes to support his conclusions, which are contrary to those of Dr. Tatarian. At the same time, he ignores parts that bolster Addis’s complaints and support her doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis.”

“He also ignores the MRI reports evidencing MS, November 2, 2000, and December 9, 2003. To the contrary, Dr. Tatarian documents a variety of spinal problems; and, MRIs consistently showed the presence of lesions and plaque on the brain. Dr. Greenhood ignores Dr. Tatarian’s report of a positive Babinski sign, which is indicative of nerve damage consistent with Addis’s complaints of stumbling and falling.”

“Both MetLife and Dr. Greenhood ignored the Multiple Sclerosis Medical Source Statement of Functional Abilities and Limitations completed by Dr. Ana Lavdas. Dr. Lavdas reported her patient’s prognosis was poor and she had significant functional limitations. Among the symptoms were pain in the lower extremities, fatigue, weakness and shaking in lower and upper extremities, poor coordination, bladder and bowel problems, blurred vision, and other physical problems. She noted that Addis had “significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movement or gait and station.” Dr. Lavdas concluded that her patient was “unable to work,” and could not sustain a job.”

“Significantly, there is no discussion of the records of Doctors Lavdas, McDonald, Gray, Files and McCarel, which he lists as having been submitted to him. Dr. Greenhood simply ignores them.”

“MetLife assigned reconsideration of Addis’s claim to Tammi Phillips, who was not a physician and whose qualifications are unknown.” “Her assessment ignores Dr. Tatarian’s unequivocal diagnosis that Addis was suffering from “relapsing, remitting MS with possible repeat exacerbation.”

Civil Action No. 05-357 U.S. District Court Eastern District Of Pennsylvania March 30, 2006

Dr. Greenhood also ignored my eye cancer symptoms, but there is so much evidence I will not post it here.

You can see quotes from numerous Judges that show the same patterns of fraud by pasting : and see the big picture at

(Obama’s Directors’ wrote me letters saying it’s their top priority to stop these violations by MetLife and other insurers, but they have done nothing. Bush protected corporate crimes too but multiple personal surgeries and my father’s death prevented me from communicating and documenting as much with his Directors.

Mike H, please let us know if you have connections to the energy industry and what they are.


Nov. 11, 2011, 1:34 p.m.

I am sorry but the elephant in the room here is not whether fracking polluted this lake. It’s that fracking pollutes the earth. I don’t understand how anybody can argue that it’s a good thing to inject tons of chemicals in the ground. Whether 1 mile deep or 100 feet deep.

Gas fracking is extremely bad for the environment, and is dangerous to human life. Any argument that does not address this is a point won for the fracking industry.

Mike H

Nov. 11, 2011, 1:42 p.m.

@ Barry Schmittou


Kit P

Nov. 11, 2011, 2:03 p.m.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

A favorite quote of the parasites of the world.  The people who do nothing but complain about others do things.  Without all those ‘evil’ folks who work hard to produce food and energy, then others who risk their neck transporting what we need; the parasites would not have time to worry about ‘die off’.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 11, 2011, 2:08 p.m.

Mike, you have still not answered “if you have connections to the energy industry and what they are”

It’s also interesting that you used the word holy. I believe the U.S. and world governments protection of corporate corruption is so extreme God is our only hope ( and God does expect us to try to stop injustices )

Examples of corruption include Obama and Bush have allowed insurance company doctors to ignore brain lesions, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer and cardiac conditions of many patients as seen in my comment and links referenced above. There is so much organized evil I have come to believe it must be Biblical like the wickedness in high places mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.

I don’t think these intricate patterns of crimes can be occurring randomly.

This is all tied into the Penn State report you referenced that seems to be funded by corporations; as seen in my comment above even physicians who are paid to be corporate consultants write fraudulent reports that endanger lives.

Mike, you have still not answered “if you have connections to the energy industry and what they are”


Nov. 11, 2011, 2:24 p.m.

ProPublica needs to take their comment system up a notch - specifically, to include the ability to “collapse” comments from individuals whom you have reason to believe either will not be on topic or will not provide data/opinions that merit devoting time towards their consideration.

lolll….regardless of the distinct possibility that I myself may be routinely “collapsed”.

Via cookies or some other means of providing cross-session “memory”.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 11, 2011, 2:33 p.m.

Mike H, you have still not answered “if you have connections to the energy industry and what they are”

Etta Fuchsman

Nov. 11, 2011, 2:39 p.m.

Re: Mike H Yesterday, 3:52 p.m. “ from Penn State that found no evidence that HF was responsible for groundwater contamination.”

And now we all know how reliable Penn State’s word is!

Mike H

Nov. 11, 2011, 2:40 p.m.

Everyone in the US has connections to the gas industry ... every time you eat food fertilized with synthetic nitrogen, dry a load of clothes, cook a meal, use plastics or any of the thousands of other applications.

So yes, I have connections with the gas industry.


Nov. 11, 2011, 3:10 p.m.

What a lame retort, as well as a cute skirting of the issue.

What so many users are demanding is a statement regarding whether or not you are employed by or otherwise being rewarded by the natural gas industry for the comments you are making.

Regardless, at this point is has become blatantly clear that you are, so I suggest we just accept that he is and move on.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 11, 2011, 3:23 p.m.

Mike H,

As I wrote earlier, if I remember correctly you are either with the energy industry or a government regulating agency.

I asked for that information from commenters in an earlier article about fracking, and one person responded they were in the energy business and one responded they were with a government regulating agency. I think you were one of the respondents. I’m sorry if my memory is wrong about that.

I have huge visual problems and had a fall plus a head jarring accident in the last eleven days, but sometimes I scan your answers when I have time.

I consider what you say, but I would like to know if you said you work for the energy industry or a government regulating agency. If you do then that would be a factor regarding my consideration of your comments.

I believe that is understandable considering the fact that Judges quotes seen in my comment above prove flagrant and deadly fraud committed by independent corporate physician consultants who write fictitious reports,

Many commenters on this article are concerned about bias, and I believe its fair to ask if you work for the energy indusy or a government regulating agency, and if so how long have you been there and what are your duties.

T Burns

Nov. 11, 2011, 4:18 p.m.

To Mike H

After all the diatribe from the environmental left on global warming and so many other lies on many other subjects I am glad for your post.  Thanks

V Appalachia

Nov. 11, 2011, 7:14 p.m.

In case anyone here still thinks Penn State academics (or Mike H) have any credibility, here’s one more source, this one from radio:

And Mike, “Everyone in the US” does not have connections to the gas industry in the ways you and Energy In Depth, or whomever employs you, want us to believe.  There are many Americans who would choose—whenever possible—NOT to eat food fertilized with synthetic nitrogen, but who do air-dry clothes, do avoid plastics, and want no part of your industry and its unsafe practices.


Nov. 11, 2011, 10:01 p.m.

Fracking contaminates wells in Canada—woman is able to light her water on fire:

Michael Hiner

Nov. 12, 2011, 12:30 a.m.

This report is one of the better pieces of journalism.

Well one thing about Mike H, he doesn’t fade from a good debate.  I am offended by the “industry sponsored comments” remark.  I respond because most people don’t understand the physics, chemistry, geology, or the engineering mechanics involved in drilling wells.  As such many are on diatribes without good facts.  I am late to the game because, for 3 reasons— well I can only remember 2.  Sometimes people have jobs to do.  :)

There is good cause to be concerned about the EPA report.  Decades, of drilling without good regulation and oversight are probably the root cause of the problem.  Decades—let that soak in for a moment.  That means there are hundreds of wells that were not fracked as well.

For all of the blunders EPA makes, I am glad they are carefully releasing the information.  It will allow very careful examination of the information and hopefully help to avoid sensational lynchings.

Timeline issues—

1.  Problems reported in 2004.

2.  Encana buys wells, meaning they did not drill them, after the 2004 disclosures are made. 

What was the cause of the EPA well blowout?  Very interesting.  We should demand a moratorium and economic review of at least one year to ensure that EPA bandits will drill safe wells and not endanger the public.  We should also demand a 20 billion dollar escrow fund to ensure that everyone gets money back for their losses.  (sounds like a tax to me)

I keep saying the drilling practices of many decades ago, were very different from how drilling conducted today.

People are under some kind of hypnotic group think by repeating sound bytes blaming fracking (only fracking).  This problem is a lot more complex.  I keep saying that.  The problem is most likely multi-variate.

Let’s get real about something.  There are crooks and economic bandits in all walks of life, and in every country.  There is no utopia.  I am sure every reader would say that not all people in China are bad. Russia? Venezeula?  Nor are all of the people in their industries evil.


Nov. 12, 2011, 10:27 a.m.

@Michael HIner

Let’s focus on this particular field. When did drilling start in earnest? 
Or, more particularly, when did careless drilling begin? A useful timeline would include dates of sunk wells and when fracking started in each one.

Fracking with horizontal drilling is fairly new, wasn’t perfected until after the turn of the century, I believe, and horizontal extension of a mile is more recent. The point being, the technology is evolving pretty rapidly—probably beyond the EPA’s ability to keep abreast.

You’re very hard on the EPA (“bandits,” “blunders”). In my small experience the EPA and the state departments modeled on it are closer to the industries they regulate than to the public. It’s understandable: experts band together and the public is an ignorant, emotional mob. And under the recent eight years of Bush and especially Cheney, the EPA was muzzled, hog-tied and otherwise told to back off. So, as a general rule, I offer that whatever happened in the gas fields since about 2000 is the industry’s (and the previous administration’s) responsibility. The EPA wasn’t allowed to do its job.

I’m curious about the blowout, too. I wouldn’t rule out incompetence, burt the other two wells seem to have been drilled and finished off to a very high standard (stainless-steel liner, 20 feet of stainless-steel packed screen above a 200-foot cement-grout bottom plug).

The new Energy Secretary’s Advisory Committee report suggests fracking practices have to sharply improve and lays out some recommendations. But initial results from these two Pavillion test wells suggest the problem could be serious—that lots of fracking in field frees gas to percolate up outside its intended channels. And then there are the occasional reports, most recently from England, that fracking causes unintended seismic activity.

It’s natural that the public is worried and that the term they key on is “fracking,” which is, after all, a new technology. It’s long-term effects can’t be assessed because there is no “long term” yet. For example, how long will a wellhead survive intact when subject to production gas under recovery pressures? Has that been carefully studied? Within a decade there could be many thousands of them in the Northeast, close to population centers.

diane r.

Nov. 12, 2011, 2:05 p.m.

I live in the Finger Lakes area of NYS.  I understand that HF is being proposed for our beautiful area in the Marcellas Shale.  If reports of contamination are true, this drilling would ruin our beautiful natural water resource, plus probably pollute the beautiful lakes.  This, in turn, would ruin one of our biggest industries, Tourism and wine producing.  This is all about $$ as is most everything.  I understand that the people in Pennsylvania who sold land for HF are now very rich, as are the companies doing the drilling.  I’m interested in finding out more, both pro and con so I can make an informed decision about HF.

Terry W

Nov. 12, 2011, 3:01 p.m.

Not all landowners receive substantial financial benefits from oil and gas development on their lands. 
In British Columbia it is rare for a landowner to own the subsurface rights so other than an annual rental for surface facilities, there is no compensation.  Normal payment is around $600 per acre, but if your agricultural operations are disturbed and your quality of life is degraded, the compensation is not commensurate with the disturbance.  Further, you cannot say “no” to the development and the company gets to decide where to site the infrastructure as long as it is not closer than 100 meters from your home. 
If the landowner and the company cannot come to an agreement regarding compensation, the decision will be made by the Surface Rights Boards.  The glitch here is that the SRB decides on payment based on precedence, but usually companies require non-disclosure on agreements that favor the landowner; hence only the poorer cases can be used for decision making.  Often the price is ridiculously low because the company has made a side agreement with a landowner to use his tractor, etc.

Michael Hiner

Nov. 12, 2011, 3:32 p.m.

Preston, Good commentary. 
There are many technology companies now who perform micro-seismic monitoring surveys during the drilling and fracking process to map the extent of the fractures.  When that work is done they know how far the fractures extend and what injection pressures etc, that create the correct frac-pattern.

The good companies also map out the shallow hazards such as adjacent faults that cross though a region slated for drilling.

If you go back to drilling practices before the 70’s, even 80’s, the whole country was pretty naive about environmental impact.  There wasn’t enough time (long term studies) and technology to understand what could happnen.
So one might say the sins of the fathers are now knocking on the doors of their sons.

Old wells, old technology, all before reformed regulation.  Casing leaks, broken pipe, eroded liners, bad cement jobs—yes they all happened.

When I hear or read on somenone beating their chests about fracking being bad I know they are not very well informed.  One can site all of the studies on chemical contamination until they are blue in the face.  But it doesn’t mean much until the engineering mechanics of the wells is fully understood.  It is a bit of a gotcha game because most people don’t know what questions to ask.  That too is why the EPS is moving slow about identifying the source.  They know it is dicey to make an interpretation this soon.  Consider what it will take to trace the chemical plume to the source.

On the EPA blow-out I am just taking a pot shot, that if they make mistakes on an easy well, they should be me more circumspect about the industry.  Can anyone imagine the the outrage if 1 out of 3 oil and gas wells were blowouts?  But then of course, most wells at the turn of the 20th century were blowouts when they hit oil or gas.  Spindle top? Gushers?  That is how crude the technology was back then.  100 years later a lot of things are different.

I don’t like contaminated water tables.  But like comparing an old diesel truck to a new one 40 years later, the technology is different and better.  Same for drilling practices.  No one in the industry ever wants to go back to the old ways.  They were costly, dirty (impact), and unsafe to people working them. 

Needless to say the old ways were sometimes harmful, just like mining wastes.  Of course our mining industry is greatly diminished now as well.  It seems it is better to import and leave the pollution in another county’s backyard.

Dan Jenkins

Nov. 12, 2011, 4:08 p.m.

If you give an engineering group the task of creating or refining a process that group will often develop a certain blindness, not always but frequently. I know that we are trained to avoid several of the obvious traps, we are human and we sometimes fail..

The group may circle the wagons at the first sign of a real or perceived threat.  They may deny the obvious, they may cast blame on other steps in the process. I have spent 12 years in failure analysis, I have seen some pretty bizarre denials. This is sometimes mistakenly viewed as a result of a payoff or just outright evil. This is usually just a common human failing.

I only consider engineers that work on a project as sources of data, I intentionally ignore their opinions.  Engineers are likely to be no more of an objective source than the public when it is their process being examined.

Concerned inPa

Nov. 12, 2011, 4:10 p.m.

I live in southwestern Pa. Let me tell you this industry pretty much owns the state ,lock ,stock and barrel. As far as Penn State,I wouldn’t put to much in any of their studies Actually I think they have had to discredit some of their own studies on the subject. I don’t know if you have seen the military style of psy-ops they are encouraged to use on what they refer to as the “insurgency”. You can check it out on CNBC .

Michael Hiner

Nov. 12, 2011, 6:09 p.m.

Dan J. —interesting comment about engineers.

I have been surrounded by them for 30 years.  They have also implemented some pretty incredible technology, that when viewed from a technical perspective achieves things like drilling in 10,000 feet of water and staying on station in rough weather within a few feet.  Onshore, if you don’t listen to the driller on the deck your survival rate is pretty ragged.  They have a lot of opinions because they have seen first-hand how things can go wrong.  Doesn’t mean they are always right,  but when I plan a project they are oftem my first input for opinion.

Tell us more about your use of failure analysis.  How would you use it to work through the fracking issue?  Especially on pre-drill and post-drill risk management.


Nov. 12, 2011, 6:33 p.m.

Pretty good video explaining fracking at

Note that the “close-ups” show solid layers of rock bounding the shale…which is what everybody is supposed to assume.

But Ma Nature don’t play that.  If you want to get an idea of what deep rock strata are really like, you have to look at it.  Difficult to do…except Ma Nature has already opened a window for us:  The Grand Canyon.

Take a gander at the photographs of the Grand Canyon here:

Note that the temptation is to assume what your eyes initially see:  Lots of seemingly impermeable horizontal layers laid down by volcanic activity, sedimentation, whatever.

Now start looking closer - observe the vertical faulting and cracks.  Remember that methane and ethane, as two examples, don’t need a frigging escalator or elevator; they just need a crack…microscopic cracks, even.

And remember that the rock that composes the planet’s mantle moves - it is just floating 0 creating new cracks all the time and closing old ones.  lolll…even the industry fracking movie I linked to first informs you of the need for “proppant” lest the rock move and close the fracked areas up.

You might ask yourself:  How elastic is rock?  If I create a void down deep that allows gravity to act upon the higher layers, will the movement of the higher layers widen existing or create new cracks?

And just to make the game interesting:  Sometimes the rock moves an extraordinary amount of times at extraordinarily consistent depths:

That might make one scratch their head as they ponder that extraordinary consistency in depth when compared to other earthquake-prone regions:

Dan Jenkins

Nov. 12, 2011, 8:01 p.m.

@Michael Hiner

Military\Automotive and consumer electronics. There are truths that cross all disciplines. I have worked on missile parts, satellite parts and a great many automotive arts.

The cost of failure in this endeavor is just too high. Lives are at stake. If a company produces a batch of faulty chips for a talking chipmunk we throw the out, if a company sells the military a batch of faulty guidance chips the problems get much deeper.

No offense but you are proving my point, you are showing signs of emotional investment in this technology.

Left Coast Red

Nov. 12, 2011, 8:19 p.m.

I confess to no idea what the source of the contaminants is, and believe everyone should patiently await conclusive evidence.

I hope that part of that patient wait will include a cessation of questioning other commenters’ motivations and biases—which we all have. Some may have sympathies with traditional energy extractors, a risky business which deserves to profit when its bets pay off. Others may promote alternative energy production and use, the viability which is directly threatened by dropping prices of traditional sources like natural gas.

Actually the motivation of the newer energy source promoters to frag the other side is arguably greater, as they must somehow slow production of traditional sources in order to remain price competitive. And it seems that’s witnessed on this thread.

Dan Jenkins

Nov. 12, 2011, 8:20 p.m.

BTW I am also aware that anyone looking for the failure mechanism is also subject to bias; I have formed opinions too early in an analysis and defended those opinions for excessive amounts of time. I am also aware that there are political considerations on both sides of this issue. I hope that whoever is looking at this data is working with a degree of anonymity. Is this problem being analyzed from root to tip? Here is what I view as the starting point.
Water test #XXX has reportedly failed chemical testing with a reading of (chemical) at (PPB).
The analysis should start with verification of the reported failure and a path of non-destructive or least-destructive analysis should be followed initially. There are FA rules that cross multiple disciplines.

Michael Hiner

Nov. 13, 2011, 12:29 a.m.

The politics around the testing concerns me.  Love them or hate them, the EPA scientists can be pretty good.  But appointees can muck things up, such as they did with the Alaska permits for Shell.  In this case I guess the good news is the well operators will have a lot of data to refute or support a conclusion.  If it (conclusion) is wrong they’ll play defense until they have an impartial audience like an administrative law judge to present information too.  If the conclusions focus on a particular element of formation or well integrity the operators will again play defense because there is no justice in Dodge when the law leaves the cell unguarded.

Dan J you are right about bias.  Having been involved with wells that were in trouble I have learned that the problems no matter where they originate usually have more than one contributing variable to the failure.  There is a huge technical gap in what the agencies (and many in opposition) are focusing on.  They are missing it.

Left Coast Red—thank you for those comments about fragging.  True.

No doubt I am emotionally invested.  There is just so much experience on this by the oil and gas industry, and so many groups calling for extreme reactions that the industry does not have a safe and friendly ear to speak freely on technical details.  Just like the TV shows, everyone has to lawyer up instead of take care of the problem.  Wastes precious time, and money…

Ibsteve2u— The industry is heavily invested in formation evaluation tools that allow us to image, calculate and know what the rock formations are.  They also have built for purpose drilling tools that allow them to steer a horizontal well between the pre-determined upper and lower limits of a rock layer.  The geo’s like myself spend tremendous technical effort mapping and delineating the rock layers, and set the parameters for what the a formation is like.  Thousands of cores and core samples are taken to test, model, and evaluate the formations.

all the best,


Nov. 13, 2011, 8:56 a.m.

@Michael Hiner:

I have noticed something about the imaging you refer to:  Nobody seems to want to put any of it online for either independent evaluation or to…“soothe the public beast”.

On the other hand, I can readily find things like

which indicate that gases in particular are migrating in the vicinity of hydrofracking sites.  The fellow cited above seems quite sure of his work:

He actually does the fracking industry a favor in the above movie as he explains how much more difficult it would be for fracking fluids to migrate….a favor, that is, unless those fluids are being found in the water supply in which case they would be an indicator of extraordinary carelessness or malfeasance.

You geology types should start making the imaging you do that you say guarantees impermeability between the shale formation and aquifers online…very effective tool, permitting the world to see the data.


Nov. 13, 2011, 9:11 a.m.

And making that imaging data available to the public could contribute to our economy, you know; an astute individual might be able to develop a means of determining where future demand for bottled water is most likely to occur. 

Or where home insurance premiums should be ticked up a notch to cover future potential losses to seismic activity caused or exaggerated by transforming the shale layers into boundary lubrication.

Georgann E. Putintsev

Nov. 13, 2011, 9:28 a.m.

Fracking just like clean Coal can be $old to the general public as a Jobs program, a clean energy alternative. Like the drug company ads that spend 20 seconds explaining the ills of their product, worse than the health problem. Wouldn’t it be nice to require the Oil/Gas Industry to do the same thing.  To bad we can’t enforce the Golden Rule on these Corp folks to swap homes & property with them; so they GET the picture.  When will we take the blindfold off Lady Justice.
Something not mentioned here is the increased pressure that has been used at existing Fracking locations and the recorded increase of earthquake activity. When upper mgmt bottom liners want increased production-money and those in lower positions oblige them with increasing Pressure/inch and the resulting earthquakes occur with further damage to their so-called protecting our water—who speaks up?
We have a major problem in this Country and AMerICANs needs to start facing facts that our political system, corporate systems, and government, justice sectors are not protectng us, the earth, our family our community.  We’ve lost touch with the ONE earth, the ONE living family, with our OWN creativity and the bottom liners are winning.  WE must understand that we are ALL connected and that from a high to low position; we are ALL responsible for telling the Truth & ensuring the world is a better place for our children. 
WATER is the giver or life and must be protected. It’s almost like evil powers are pitting the elements = the search for FIRE into contaminating Water.  When did we make our Earth, Fire, Water, Air a commodity, and when did we allows ourselves to become one too?  Can our honor, our integrity be bought for a job?


Nov. 13, 2011, 9:46 a.m.

And finally:  If you - the public - should happen to see a “thumper” truck…a special-purpose vehicle which (most inconveniently) often blocks the road and whales away at the surface to generate the seismic waves Michael Hiner et al do the seismic imaging with…

Oh, what do the trucks look like?  See the pics down towards the bottom at

(They won’t always be white, of course; in fact, I’ve noticed a tendency of late for the industry to favor “natural” colors like greens and browns…go figure.  Maybe they blend in with the local flora better?)

Anyway, if you see those trucks in your neck of the woods do let the public know if you subsequently see thousands of wells being drilled in order to obtain “thousands of cores and core samples” before the hydrofracking commences, would you please?

lolll…I rather doubt you’ll be reporting back to confirm such diligence on the part of the industry…just like I doubt we’ll ever see before and after seismic imaging made public by the industry.

The assertion is “This core taken at x location - representing a microscopic percentage of the total volume that will be affected by future fracking - is absolutely representative of all of the affected areas.  That is, there will be no variation anywhere from what this/these core sample(s) show.”

Which is bogus…even the core represented by the well itself doesn’t reveal the characteristics of the total volume affected by the fracking; at best, one or even a dozen cores are an approximation - one whose pertinence is interpreted by the industry itself.  Under those conditions, any potential hazards revealed by core sampling or seismic imaging could potentially be affected by the perceived value of the gas concentration revealed by the sampling and imaging.  (How was that for dancing around the potential for corruption?)

If you don’t believe that, you need to look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon again and rethink the likelihood of finding precisely identical physical rock characteristics (i.e., voids, vertical/horizontal faulting, etc.) 100 or even 10 feet apart!  Given the planet’s quirky tendency to shoot quartz veins hither and yon, I wouldn’t even want to bet my life on finding identical rock at identical depths in cores 100 feet apart.

‘Course, Big Energy never has been famous for betting their lives.


Nov. 13, 2011, 10:17 a.m.

@Left Coast Conservative:  Although you made an admirable attempt to give the appearance of fairness, I believe that you gave yourself away with:

“Some may have sympathies with traditional energy extractors, a risky business which deserves to profit when its bets pay off. Others may promote alternative energy production and use, the viability which is directly threatened by dropping prices of traditional sources like natural gas.”

Which, essentially, is opining that traditional energy is gambling and the public is responsible for assuming their risk while assuring their profits.  Alternative energy, on the other hand, is something that you would prefer to see the ongoing rush-to-gas price out of the market.

I think that is a combination of fallacy and bad policy; the other issues that come with the hydrocarbon industry - specifically the way they use their money to corrupt U.S. and global politics as well as air pollution and global warming issues (and the fact that if you give it half a chance, it goes “Boom!” on you and ruins your day - if not your city’s day) - make alternative energy the wiser choice.

Water is cheaper than plasma, but if I want to keep accident victims alive I’m going to prefer the latter.  lolll…even if I were in a position to profit from selling water - which is probably a shocking position to the advocates, employees, and profiteers of “traditional energy”.  And like all things mass-produced, the more alternative energy sources we bring online, the cheaper they will become.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not connected to either the traditional or alternative energy industries from a “profit” perspective.  I do, of course, pay to use the former.

Further, I also donate significant electricity and computer time to the search for clean energy alternatives by participating in the Clean Energy Project that Harvard is running with the World Community Grid.  (And any reader with a decent computer can help: )

That, however, returns me no money now nor will it in the future except by way of lower energy costs and freedom from the existing energy monopolies - and it does help to reassure me that I am doing what I can to ensure that I leave a habitable planet for my - and the world’s - descendents.

Tim Barlow

Nov. 13, 2011, 12:03 p.m.

“These “cancer-causing compounds” are found in thousands of consumer products ranging from whiteboard cleaners, liquid soaps, cosmetics, dry cleaning solutions, lacquers, varnishes, herbicides, to latex paints.”

I we could just keep these wyoming ranchers from covering their land with whiteboard cleaners and their wives from applying so many cosmetics I am sure the pollution would just disappear.  And why are these ranchers out applying liquid soap to their land?  Cant they just pick up the cow pies without the soap?

Left Coast Red

Nov. 13, 2011, 1:07 p.m.


“Which, essentially, is opining that traditional energy is gambling and the public is responsible for assuming their risk while assuring their profits.  Alternative energy, on the other hand, is something that you would prefer to see the ongoing rush-to-gas price out of the market.”

Thanks for your efforts to spin my comment. Please refrain in the future from transforming my comments into reflections of your bias.

It is not an ‘opinion’ that the business of searching for energy sources involves great investment risk. If you are lucky enough to find what you are looking for, then you can sell it and defray your investment costs, hopefully making a profit to compensate for the risk you have assumed. Profit is never ‘assured’. If you are not so lucky, your investment has been wasted. Tax subsidies to alleviate that risk are in place to encourage risky exploration, which produces a social benefit. Your contention that risk responsibility is instead ‘assumed’ by the “public”, freeing the investor of responsibilty. is inaccurate. Subsidies for renewables are 50x greater per BTU.

Despite your arrogant attempt to define my preferences (after having read one comment by me), what I prefer are cheap, dependable energy sources that in a reasonable dollar/social-cost/benefit represent the optimal investment, allowing people to focus on the myriad other challenges in their lives beyond effect of unnecessarily expensive energy. Whatever those sources might be.

Mary Sweeney

Nov. 13, 2011, 1:57 p.m.

I think it would be hard for anyone to honestly argue that locating shale gas wells close to drinking water sources, homes, schools, businesses, and heavily traveled roads is a safe practice. Even if best practices were followed at each well site (and they aren’t) accidents are going to happen. And shale gas extraction requires a LOT of wells, because individual wells deplete rapidly. So when shale gas extraction takes place in a heavily populated region, like the Northeast, gas wells are constructed in areas where they present a danger to the public. (And yes, I know that multiple wells can be placed on a single well pad—even with this practice, a lot of the wells are going to be in completely inappropriate places.)

If the gas industry keeps drilling in PA and starts drilling in NY, they’d better plan to devote a huge portion of their profits to legal costs, because they are going to be spending a lot of time in court. And believe me, with all of the warnings that have gone out to date (like this EPA study in Pavillion), there will be a lot of evidence—including expert evidence—indicating that drilling near homes and drinking water sources is a bad idea and that everyone knew that in advance.

Here in NY we have compulsory integration, so there will be people who never signed a gas lease who still end up in a drilling unit and who suffer damages through absolutely no fault of their own. If your home has no water, if your home has been severely devalued, if your family’s health has been damaged, you will probably have to sue in order to have any hope of staying afloat financially, so even people who would not ordinarily try to settle problems in court are going to have to do so. Frankly, I think that lawyers are the only people who can count on a steady income from gas drilling.


Nov. 13, 2011, 3:27 p.m.

@Left Coast Red:  “Profit is never ‘assured’.”

Unless, of course, you create monopolies - whether real or through collusion - such as have long existed in the crude oil harvesting/refining/distribution side of the hydrocarbons sector and are now being hastily formed on the natural gas side through the consolidation of the midstream (storage and distribution) gas sector.

Oil and gas mergers in the third quarter of 2011 jumped 135 percent.  Not only are monopolies forming (meaning that any hopes for an “energy dividend” associated with assuming the risk to the public health of bringing the shale gas online are now null and void - but profits, on the other hand, will indeed be “assured”) but there is also an increasing number of foreign players.

What does that mean? 

Well, it is no secret that “American” (and I use the term loosely) corporations would sell this nation’s energy reserves to anybody who could outbid the American people regardless of the negative impact upon the well-being of the American people and the strategic interests of the United States of America. 

And it is no secret that the determined efforts of the Republicans and neoliberal Democrats have yielded the devastation of America’s industrial infrastructure - that is, we produce ever less in the way of manufactured goods that would bring in the currency needed to bid on our own energy resources.  (Our trade deficits…they’ve gone beyond ridiculous and entered the realm of pathos.)

So we rapidly approach the point where we will not be able to afford to buy our own energy from American suppliers, and when that energy is under the control of foreign firms - particularly those firms controlled by nations which recognized and seized the opportunity to weaponize the greed of the American right (which, by and large, is Corporate America with the hydrocarbons industry as its vanguard) - there is a good possibility that we won’t even be given the opportunity to bid on our own energy.  Anybody who thinks the hydrocarbons industry won’t sell the American people out isn’t just naive; they have no memory, for they’ve already forgotten the Middle Eastern wars we’ve fought and the Americans we’ve sacrificed to keep Big Energy’s profits rolling in.

Better to go alternative energy, and as close to point-of-use (that is, immune to attempts to monopolize as is ongoing in the natural gas distribution network right now) as we can possibly get. 
I.e., if the American people don’t want to condemn their children to short and miserable lives (for energy they can’t get will mean food they can’t grow, homes they can’t heat, medicines and plastics they can’t produce, etc. etc. etc.), they better jump on the alternative energy bandwagon.


Nov. 13, 2011, 3:43 p.m.

By the way, “Left Coast Red” - if I am not supposed to make"arrogant attempt[s] to define [your] preferences” after reading just “one comment by [you]”, then it would greatly ease my ability to discern your preferences if you were to point out which of you comments are to be included in my opinion base and which should be discarded.

Having just one comment of yours with which to work with, I was limited to what you said - but apparently didn’t mean - in your one comment.

Michael Hiner

Nov. 13, 2011, 3:43 p.m.

Ibsteve2u— Marcellus shale depositional envirnoment, age of Marcellus, regional extent of the Marcellus, chemical composition, major clay mineralogy… there is very little comparison between the Devonian limestones of the Grand Canyon to the Marcellus shale and its relative deepwater depositional environment.  Your comparison is overly broad.

Imaging costs a lot of money and it would be like demanding other industries to layout their competitive strategies and proprietary data for their competitors.  What is different is that any entity or agency can acquire the very identical information if they want to.

There is no doubt about contamination in some areas and we need to mitigate them and not repeat bad engineering and bad design.  But the accusations are not 100 per cent.
Some previous accusations were later determined to be sourced from coal seams in and near the water tables as one example.  The pavillion area has a pretty checkered history that does not compare to today.  We are going to learn a whole lot about the age of the wells where ever the source of contamination lies, and the engineering that went into them.  Then, there will be some real issues to tear into.  Wyoming is not the Grand Canyon, or Pennsylvania or New York.

A thumper or other seismic vehicle is pretty benign.  Pretty much every region of this country, and the world, that have any oil and gas potential have been the focus of such acquisition.

Left Coast Red

Nov. 13, 2011, 4:18 p.m.

Michael, allow me to arrogantly take a flying leap of speculation by surmising that ibsteve2u has no interest about industry attempts to mitigate bad design and bad engineering. If fossil fuel and production were ‘caged’, prices would spike, rendering renewables suddenly viable.

Apparently, he prefers to “condemn (our) children to short and miserable lives (for energy they can’t get will mean food they can’t grow, homes they can’t heat, medicines and plastics they can’t produce, etc. etc. etc.)” because we jumped on the alternative energy bandwagon.


Nov. 13, 2011, 4:30 p.m.

@Michael Hiner - in reverse order…

Never said a thumper was anything other than “benign”.  What I said was it is highly unlikely that the appearance of a thumper will be accompanied by lots of test holes to back up the seismic imaging data acquired from the thumping with core samples as your earlier comment alluded to.

Your comment re “Some previous accusations [...] sourced from coal seams…” is unaccompanied by such rudimentary data as “Which accusations?  What percentage of total contaminated wells does that represent?” etc.

Sure, imaging costs a lot of money - but you wouldn’t be giving away the technology and you would already have the well leases, so your cost would be the cost of putting them online.  And I bet we can generate somebody to do that for you for free.

Agreed, the Grand Canyon is not precisely “identical” to the Marcellus, Utica, Eagle Ford, or whatever shale formation (although the Grand Canyon, among other similarities, does feature the Bright Angel shale formation).  But are you willing to state (“on the record”, as it were) that the shale formations currently being exploited feature overburdens that are entirely monolithic - that is, absolutely without vertical and horizontal seams and faults and so impermeable without exception?

For those wishing to compare the stratigraphy of the two:

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
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.

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