Journalism in the Public Interest

Why Gas Leaks Matter in the Hydraulic Fracturing Debate

Methane contamination is a bellwether issue in discussion of the safety of hydraulic fracturing, because where methane goes, other chemicals can go, too.

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Aug. 6, 2010, 1:39 p.m.

Patrick Walker, Very good. I didn’t think a comment was necessary, but your right, silence is golden.

Ellis B.  Gosh, you’re only 20 and have this opinion? I do have more faith in our youth. My Grandson is 20,  he talks like you write. I have always had confidence in him & his friends that they would think above the P.R. that this country is subjected to. Sorry for my long winded, but, being over 70, I sometime suffer from “short term memory loss” and drone on. Good write.

david stein

Aug. 11, 2010, 8:26 a.m.

Treating gas migration as a well construction issue (specifically casing & cementing) undermines ProPublica’s agenda on the issue.  It is essential for Lustgarten to make gas migration a hydraulic fracturing problem in order to keep his broader story alive.

Somewhere there is an interesting story about why a privately funded (and very highly compensated)  investigative journalism outfit finds it imperative to make methane migration a hydraulic fracturing issue rather than a well construction issue.


Aug. 11, 2010, 9:54 a.m.

david stein?  So now your using lower case?  Humm? interesting.  You sure appear to be like another, especially with the comments just posted. Think you should go back and think why you are doing this disinformation agenda!

David Stein

Aug. 11, 2010, 10:22 a.m.

Norman - lack of capitalization was not intended to obscure anything.  I’m clearly the same guy.

Remember - I’m the guy that shilling for big gas by stating that gas migration is indicative of well construction problems.

I’m not sure what misinformation you are talking about.  Why do you suppose that it is essential that ProPublica frame this as a hydraulic fracturing rather than well construction issue?

Why is the most handsomely paid, privately funded, investigative journalism outfit anywhere hell bent on treating gas migration as a hydraulic fracturing issue rather than a well construction issue?

It is an interesting question.


Aug. 11, 2010, 11 a.m.

David,  giving you the benefit of the doubt at the moment, if you’re part of the industry, then you are well aware that this sort of hunting for O & G that has been going on for over a century has some pretty nasty consequences that are left behind, quite a lot of which has poisoned the land, people, water.

As to why ProPublica has done this, it’s quite simple, the exchange of opinions, factoids, awareness. You should know that by the time you leave your hole in the ground heading to the next spot, the old saying: out of sight, out of mind. You won’t be around to see the results, pro or con. The one main point about of where I stand, along with most people, is that there is reside involved in the use of Chemicals in the fracturing process. Considering the aquifer, migration, etc., the industries “the is no record” is not good enough when it comes to human health. Another point, the industry doesn’t allow the chemicals used in process due to proprietary reasons, therefore, that Question can’t be answered as to whether or not migration takes place. Trust us, is nonsense. At this point, it would be safe to say that Fracturing could be compared to the rabbit, “bip-bam-thank-you-mame”, in that they both are long gone when the birth comes.

Mike H

Aug. 11, 2010, 11:23 a.m.

David, I believe the reason Propublic has sunk it teeth so deeply into gas drilling is because it contains all the hallmarks hot button issues in what passes for “investigative journalism”

1.  It involves the environment, a longtime staple of investigative journalism exposes
2.  The major players include the O&G industry, a long time whooping boy (at times rightfully so) of journalists
3.  It involves a complex technical process whose details are easily distorted to fit a readers preconceived notions
4.  It brings a certain degree of notoriety and accolades to the journalists involved. Lustgarten would never get an invite onto Teri Gross’ Fresh Air if his career consisted of two but bylines for the AP of CNN.
5.  There is no shortage of the “know-nothing-know-it-all expert” that people like Lustgarten can tap to proved an air of expert scientific corroboration to his story

Norman, there you go again, how many times do I have to debunk your nonsense? In the only case where baseline data was used, gas migration from faulty well casing construction into a local aquifer was found to NOT to have been accompanied by aquifer contamination from drilling fluids. Its really that simple.

Patrick Walker

Aug. 11, 2010, 3:02 p.m.

There’s a radical question here no one seems to be mentioning. We can debate till we’re blue in the face about well casings, gas migration, and so forth; ultimately, that’s a matter for the science and engineering experts—though ultimately I trust them much more if they’re scientists not paid huge chunks of cash by industry.But whatever the possibilities of making it safe, the empirical track record here in PA is appalling, and gives us every reason to want a moratorium on it, like New York’s Senate so sensibly voted for.

But the radical question is this: were people made to serve technology, or does technology exist to serve people? If the latter, fracking is a technology almost inconceivably stupid in its design; the way it blights beautiful landscapes, destroys recreation and tourism, increases crime, drives down home values, disturbs wildlife habitats, and inconveniences commuters, makes me think that it’s either just a bad energy technology—or one of last resort. With all the viable alternatives on the table (just look what Germany, a cloudy country, is doing with solar) along with wise conservation, I hardly think we’re in a last-resort situation.

Technologies whose implementation involves vast undesirable disruption of human lives already have a powerful prima facie case against them. I see no reason to put the technological cart before the life-quality horse.


Aug. 11, 2010, 5:51 p.m.

Patrick, you make an excellent point here. There are some who dismiss science either through ignorance, or are trying to influence the discussion as a joke.

charlie t

Aug. 16, 2010, 6:34 p.m.

Folks want some facts. 

I think it safe to say that the oil and gas companies have: a) proven themselves unreliable in providing facts regarding the safety of their processes or their preparedness to deal with they accidents that they often (documented) result in, and are even allowed by the current “regulations” to hide facts from us, the public, and b) have an enormous (and abundantly obvious) profit motive that causes them to claim that their processes are “safe.”  This profit motive should at least make us average folks skeptical of their statements about such safety.  They (and those who work for them) therefore have, at least in my view, a clear bias which they should acknowledge and declare.  Also note that no oil/gas company execs live (as far as I know) in any gas/oil field.  They seem to live elsewhere.

So in the interest of providing facts, not polemics, I humbly refer my fellow citizens (me I am a citizen of Calicoon, NY, where drilling is currently proposed) to the following links, to a reputable and highly cited publication, Environmental Science and Technology, which is published by the American Chemical Society (who ought to know a little about chemicals) so that they might get some facts for themselves:;=

The facts presented there are by no means one-sided, and even though I many not agree with the statements about economic benefits etc. that the last article presents, I think there are still plenty of very useful facts to be had by reading through these articles. 

DISCLOSURE: My only interest here is as a citizen of my country and my state.  I believe that a guarantee of clean air and water are a couple of minimal but essential things that my government, which I chip in for, owes me.  I don’t want a whole lot else from my government, but if it cannot give me those two items, well, it is not much better than some tin-horn government that has nothing more to offer the world than the natural bounty of its landscape, which, once plundered, can never be restored or replaced.  Me I think (I hope not mistakenly) of the United States, and of my fellow Americans, as better than that. 

I also speak as a property owner who has invested his life savings (and many hours of his own sweat) in his home, and who is not interested in having thousands of diesel-burning trucks rumble through my [currently quiet, bucolic] neighborhood, 24/7, in order to pump millions of gallons of precious water and thousands of gallons of willfully unidentified chemicals into the ground, where my DRINKING WATER comes from, in order for a small minority of my fellow citizens and the oil and gas companies which have persuaded them with fat checks, to further their financial interests by extracting a carbon-based fuel which currently is in high supply (so no critical demand) and that is, clean as it may burn, by its very carbon nature hastening the demise of our planet.

Think we need to find a better way. 

But for the record I want folks reading to know that I do not stand to make a dime, either way, and no one has paid me a penny, to write this post.  I only wonder if a few of the seeming experts who have posted here what seem to be pro-drilling (or in defense of drilling) statements (or anyone who posts?) would be kind enough to disclose their interest/background as well before (or after) posting. 

I submit to the company that such disclosure might help us all understand better what is guiding or influencing some or all of the comments that are being made here.


Aug. 23, 2010, 1:19 p.m.

It is my understanding that Methane is many times worse as a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide.  As the pro fracking element on this discussion so glibly acknowledge that it is only a little methane escaping, they might do well to address the effects of this escaping gas on the climate.  Perhaps there is some state DNR report discounting global warming from fossil fuel use they can quote from.

Don Smith

Aug. 28, 2010, 9 a.m.

I am not any kind of expert in drilling, but I do have an association to the gas industry. I’m proud of it and it’s obviously an important issue to me.

It is for all of us. T-Boone Pickens has offered-up a wonderful plan that heavily utilizes natural gas to offset oil dependency, and it’s true; we have a supply that would get us through the next hundred years of energy needs (and we all know that’s going to be a freeking TOUGH thing to do). We’re all going to be far better-off if natural gas lives-up to its potential.

But the flip-side is that we can’t drink the stuff. America has always been one of the most fortunate countries in the entire world, to have so much clean water.

These days, though… NOT SO MUCH. We all know it- we’re constantly being faced with pollution from corporations and farms and we DO try to keep it clean- hence the Clean Water Acts.

I’ve got to say that we have to treat this entire issue from the point that “What’s good for this country” is truly more important than “What’s good for the gas driller, WHICH, by the way, is good for this country”.

Let’s use some caution on both sides and do the right thing- we don’t want to have to live with getting this wrong. Let’s drill with the same standards that keep our water safe; if new methods are required, let’s find them.

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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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