By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Ask someone like Jon Entine, a science writer for Ethical Corporation, to describe the sort of person who claims hydraulic fracturing presents a pollution nightmare in waiting, and you quickly find yourself pummeled with talk-radio invective: "ideological blowhard," "leftist loony," and "upper-middle-class lefties."
But none applies to Fred Mayer.
When a reporter arrives at his 200-year-old farmhouse on a cloudy June day, one of the first things Mayer asks is, "Do you know who Glenn Beck is? You should really listen to him. Now, that man knows what he's talking about."
The 62-year-old Vietnam vet's yard in Newark Valley, New York, is full of patriotic flags. His rotund body is covered in tattoos, with images of barbed wire wrapped around his thick arms and an Iron Cross on his left fist.
The first time he heard of fracking was in 2008. It's a natural-gas drilling process in which millions of gallons of water — mixed with sand and more than 596 toxic chemicals — are pumped into shale formations 8,000 feet below ground, the pressure fracturing them to release the natural gas they hold inside.
Decades ago, Shell Oil attempted to drill on Mayer's property in hopes of retrieving the river of black crude that resides just under the rock formation. "They never were able to do it," he says. "They couldn't get through the rock, so they gave up."
Shell eventually sold its lease to Fortuna Energy. Mayer thought nothing of it until 2008, when his neighbors began receiving leasing offers from gas companies that had a new way of drilling that could get through the thick layers of shale just fine. Only this time they were in search of natural gas, often heralded as the greenest fossil fuel.
Mayer gave Fortuna a call, only to find that his father had leased their property for just $4 an acre. Because Dad had passed away, Mayer told Fortuna that the agreement was null and void. Fortuna countered with a new offer: $600 an acre. Mayer soon received a check for $58,200, with a promise of more to come.
But it wasn't long before Mayer received another surprise — this one less pleasant. One morning he turned on his kitchen sink. Instead of water, the tap hissed with gas. Mayer grabbed his lighter and held it to the faucet. It burst into flames.
Though Fortuna had yet to drill on his property, the company was already at work six miles to the west. Mayer called the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to file a complaint in January 2009. His case was assigned to an investigator, though no one came out to investigate.
"[Our] staff concluded that the gas in Mr. Mayer's well was naturally occurring and that no investigation was warranted for several reasons," says Emily DeSantis, an agency spokeswoman. Not only was Mayer's residence more than a mile away from the nearest drilling, DeSantis says, but also "naturally occurring methane is commonplace throughout the state."
Mayer knew better, of course. His water hadn't become flammable until Fortuna began drilling nearby. More than three years later, he can make every faucet in his house dance with flames. He can't drink from his own tap. Sometimes the gas pressure builds up so much that it blasts coffee cups from his hands while he does the dishes.
Still, he was less upset by the contamination than he was about not making money from it. About the time Mayer signed his lease, then-Gov. David Paterson watched as drilling devastated neighboring Pennsylvania, where thousands of contamination complaints have been filed. In one incident near Pittsburgh, toxic wastewater ended up in the Monogahela River, leaving 850,000 residents without drinkable water. So Paterson banned fracking in New York.
As Mayer sees it, his water is already contaminated, and he could use his 17 percent cut of Fortuna's drilling profits. According to Public Policy Polling, about half of southern New Yorkers agree, hoping current Gov. Andrew Cuomo will lift the ban so they can begin reaping the riches promised by companies such as Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, Cabot, and Schlumberger.
It doesn't seem to matter that, over the past decade, fracking has left behind a widening trail of health and environmental disasters — or that research indicates the influx of money and jobs promised by these companies falls far short of their claims. New York landowners still whisper stories of overnight millionaires just over the border.
That's because people are desperate to flee the pressure of another disaster, the one created by the housing crash. The difference is that fracking could imperil more than pocketbooks. There's no shortage of scientists and public health officials who warn that large-scale contamination might leave millions of people without usable water.
Yet the natural gas industry has spent $747 million lobbying state and federal officials over the past decade, allowing it to continue drilling in 34 states. Few Americans are any richer. But many have horror stories to tell.
Sharon Wilson is often dismissed as an anti-fracking loony. Range Resources, one of the largest fracking firms in the nation, has even accused her of manufacturing false evidence in a conspiracy to defame the company.
But get Wilson on the phone, and you'll hear the sweet, common-sense lilt of a Texas girl who just happens to have a blog full of links to disaster stories, some of which she's experienced firsthand.
In 1995, Wilson moved from Fort Worth to Wise County, where she purchased 42 acres of land. "I gave up a great deal to move to the country, where I thought my children would enjoy clean air and clean living," she says.
Soon after Wilson arrived, so did Mitchell Energy. The company's owner, George Mitchell, had long known that a gold mine of natural gas lay deep beneath the shale that surrounds Forth Worth. He was dead set on getting it out, though geologists told him it was a pipe dream.
Undaunted, he spent 18 years and millions of dollars — with financing from the U.S. Department of Energy — to prove them wrong. By 1998, his company had developed a cocktail of water, sand, and chemicals that could break through shale.
The first wells sprouted in 2000. But the onslaught wouldn't begin until 2004, when the Bush administration ruled that fracking "posed no threat to drinking water."
Bush's scientists would later be discredited, of course. You didn't need a doctorate from MIT to know that pumping toxins into the ground presented some sort of danger.
The Bush administration seemed to know this as well. A year later, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed a new energy bill through Congress. It not only exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, but also allowed drillers such as Halliburton to keep the ingredients of their toxic cocktails secret.
The industry was presented with a golden opportunity: It could now harvest the riches buried deep beneath the soil, while bearing no responsibility — or public scrutiny — for any damage it left behind.
By 2008, Wilson says, "You couldn't move without running into a well."
She remembers when the well that sits just a half-mile from her home was first drilled. "I can remember waking up one night," she says. "I saw the lights of the rig shining into my house, the sound of the engines, and the generators going. The next morning, I woke up and the sky was just brown. It just stunk. It was awful."
Like her neighbors, Wilson received a knock on her door from a land man asking if she'd like to get rich by leasing her property. But unlike most of the folks in Wise, Wilson didn't jump. Not because she couldn't use the money, but because, she says, "My mother taught me that nothing in life is free."
Instead, she drove to the well pads to see them for herself. That's when she noticed huge pits of putrid liquid nearby. They were dumping ponds filled with toxic water that was supposed to evaporate into the atmosphere. But they were lined with plastic tarps that often tore, allowing cancer-causing chemicals — like benzene, methanol, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, arsenic barium, and lead — to leak into the groundwater. In large doses, they can be lethal. But even lesser exposure can cause birth defects.
Wilson began regularly writing about fracking on her blog, Bluedaze. In one post, she writes about a friend who witnessed a driver of a wastewater truck dumping his load into a pasture where cows were grazing. In another, she links to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about Wise County's 3,998 active wells — and its title for the most polluted air in Texas.
She writes of people who report that their children are passing out in the shower due to gas leaks in their water supply. Others discover their farm animals are losing hair or dying after drinking from contaminated streams.
Wilson chronicles spills into creeks, ponds, and rivers, as well as the bright-orange flares that would light up the night sky thanks to companies burning off "economically irrelevant" reserves. Then there are the fatalities here and there, usually workers killed by explosions.
People from around Texas and as far away as Colorado, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania began contacting her with horror stories of their own, begging Wilson to post home videos of their own flaming faucets and dying animals.
Steven Lipsky was among them. He was just another Texas homeowner with a flaming faucet. But he also had something else: confirmation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that fracking had left his water laced with benzene, capable of causing cancer and birth defects. The danger had forced his family to evacuate their home.
After Wilson posted video of his combustible faucet, Lipsky sued Range Resources for poisoning his water. He also asked the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees environmental issues in the state, to back the feds' finding.
But Range Resources knew that if Lipsky won, thousands of homeowners would set upon the industry, seeking restitution for poisoned land. So it hired the best scientists money could buy — in this case, Harvard and MIT grads as well as Halliburton's experts. Then it took its case to a Railroad Commission already stacked in its favor.
As the Dallas Observer detailed, nearly every member hearing the case had a financial interest in Range or one of its subsidiaries. Even Ethical Corporation's Entine, who is critical of anti-fracking arguments, admits that "the Railroad Commission is totally corrupt."
Expectedly, it ruled that the EPA was wrong, asserting that the gas was naturally occurring. The ruling caused the feds to backpedal.
In the end, Lipsky not only lost his case, but also was countersued by Range, claiming he was part of a conspiracy to defame the company by providing a "misleading" video and falsehoods to the media. Wilson was named as a co-conspirator.
"It's such bullshit," she says. "All [Lipsky] did is send me a video, and it was over a month after the EPA made their ruling. Like most of the blog, I'm just linking to stuff that's already out there. This is how insane and aggressive this company is... Industry can go on and say never once has there been a case where it has been proven, blah, blah, blah. But on the ground, we know better. We know that when they frack, our water gets contaminated."
Where the science of fracking is concerned, engineer Tony Ingraffea and geologist Terry Engelder agree on almost everything except this: "Tony thinks fracking should stop, and I don't," says Engelder, a Penn State geologist credited with discovering the state's potential for fracking. "I believe that economic health has to come before environmental health is worked out. Tony is arguing for environmental health at any cost."
In 2006, Dominion Exploration and Production contacted Engelder, asking whether extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, which runs from Ohio to Maryland, would be worth its time. Engelder's calculations revealed that nearly 50 trillion cubic feet of fuel lay beneath the ground, making it the largest deposit in the country. "I kept looking at that number, thinking to myself, Merry Christmas, America," Engelder says.
But almost as soon as the fracking boom began in Pennsylvania, so did the disasters. The worst occurred in Dimock, a small town of 1,400 residents. In 2008, Cabot Oil & Gas began leasing land from residents. Even those who refused were told that gas would be extracted from under their land anyway, because Pennsylvania law allowed for drillers to capture gas from nearby properties.
Soon, residents complained that their water had turned brown. Nearby creeks ran bright red with contaminants. Families reported that their children were passing out in the shower. Livestock was dying.
Nearly 8,000 gallons of Halliburton-made "fracking fluid" leaked from faulty supply pipes, making its way into streams and killing fish.
Though Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection fined Cabot $360,000 for contaminating Dimock's water and failing to fix leaks, the federal EPA ruled in May that Dimock's drinking water was safe. The state, meanwhile, continues to insist that fracking isn't hazardous. "There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else," the DEP's Scott Perry once announced.
But while environmental regulators continue to see no evil, Cornell University engineer Tony Ingraffea is just as vigorous in warning of the dangers. "Four years later, the industry is still trying to figure out what to do with their crap," he says. "Bad things happened. And bad things continue to happen."
His biggest beef is with the industry's misinformation campaign. Despite all evidence to the contrary, gas companies claim it's impossible for fracking fluid to come in contact with drinking water.
"They are simply telling downright lies because they think people are stupid, but this is really street-smart stuff," he says.
One of Ingraffea's studies debunked the natural gas industry's claims of being green. Because fracking wells and holding tanks leak up to a trillion cubic feet of methane gas into the atmosphere each year, their greenhouse effects can prove to be even more polluting than burning coal.
The industry responded as it usually does — by paying handsomely to have his findings refuted.
One major study by MIT — "The Future of Natural Gas" — was funded by the American Clean Skies Foundation. The president of that group is none other than Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest producer of natural gas.
Ingraffea sees it as part of a pattern where the industry buys off the country's most prestigious universities "like MIT to do pseudo-science."
Meanwhile, the Natural Gas Alliance, an industry lobbying group, shelled out $80 million to Hill and Knowlton Strategies, the same PR firm used by Big Tobacco to argue there was no link between smoking and cancer.
"The whole goal is to put a little seed of doubt in people's minds," Ingraffea says. "And for those who believe that they can get rich from leasing their land, there is a willing suspension of disbelief. But the real question is: How many bad things can go wrong right in front of your eyes before you finally accept the truth that this stuff is nasty and extremely dangerous?"
While the gas industry is busy paying scientists and politicians to minimize the risks of fracking, it's also greatly exaggerating its economic potential.
Like most opponents, Deborah Rogers didn't pay much attention to the boom until Chesapeake was about to drill a well only 100 feet from her property. After working in finance for years, she quit her job in 2003 to open an artisanal cheese-making operation on land she'd inherited in Fort Worth.
Instead of signing away her property to one of the many land men knocking on her door, she decided to attend a chamber of commerce luncheon where Chesapeake CEO McClendon boasted of the economic benefits of fracking. "So I went home and looked into it and discovered that some of these companies had enormous amounts of debt," Rogers says. "It was more likely that they were drilling to meet debt service rather than for profitability."
Rogers describes fracking as a "drilling treadmill" based solely on hype. As soon as a geologist like Engelder reports a massive reserve, the industry immediately hypes what it calls "a play," with each advertised as bigger and better than the last, from the Barnett Shale in Texas to the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.
Gas companies quickly lease land and begin drilling at incredible rates of production. In the first year, everything looks great. But production soon drops as thousands of wells dry up, sometimes within 12 months.
"Only 20 percent of wells drilled will actually make money," Rogers says. "Eighty percent can easily be uneconomic. That is a whole lot of land used up in a search for 20 percent of the wells that will make money. Eighty-five percent of wells are abandoned in the first five years. And seven years is the average life of a well, rather than the 30 promised by industry."
But while the money quickly stops, Bush, Cheney, and Congress made sure the industry has no responsibility for cleaning up the pollution it leaves behind, which will plague residents for years to come. The insurance industry understands the threat. Some of the biggest carriers, such as Nationwide, won't even offer fracking coverage to homeowners.
Still, the industry uses its initial figures to sell drilling as a long-term gold rush. Not only do the companies overestimate earnings to landowners, but they are also able to borrow huge sums of money against these exaggerated estimates.
"After a decade of fracking, we're beginning to be able to show that, without a doubt, this was simply a very well-orchestrated public relations campaign," Rogers says. "There is gas there, but is there as much as they said? No. Are we gonna see the economic stability they promised? The answer is no."
Furthermore, the frenzy has flooded the natural gas market, where gas prices are at an all-time low thanks to overproduction.
In the end, Rogers says, the money these wells actually produce isn't enough to offset the cost of land rendered worthless thanks to contamination. In essence, the industry is creating thousands of mini Superfund sites, leaving someone else to deal with the ruin.
"Fracking is exempt under the Energy Act," Rogers says. "Now people have no recourse if they contaminate your aquifer or if they contaminate your air. They don't have to pay for it and they don't have to use pollution control devices that other industries have to use. They've basically been given a free ride by the federal government."
Rogers isn't the only person arguing that fracking isn't the economic savior promised by the industry. Recent studies by Penn State and Ohio State researchers show that the industry's boasts of prosperity have been grossly exaggerated.
Penn State found that half the land being drilled is owned by people from outside the state. Moreover, half the employees of fracking companies are also imported from elsewhere. "This would imply that a large portion of the economic benefits immediately leaves the communities being impacted by drilling," professor Timothy Kelsey says.
Worse, Pennsylvania has opted not to tax fracking ventures, buying the industry's claim that the state is the most expensive area to drill and a tax could make fracking economically unfeasible. As a result, the state has lost more than $300 million in potential revenue — while simultaneously slashing funding for everything from education to hospital trauma centers.
Critics note that Gov. Tom Corbett has received more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the gas industry. Rogers says the same has been true in Texas and every other state where fracking has appeared.
"We've been experiencing the shale gas boom since 2005, and we are in horrible shape economically," she says. "Shale gas was supposed to be this economic powerhouse for the next 40 years, they said. It didn't even work out in the past seven. And it's the same story in every other state. Unfortunately, that's just how the game is played."
It's easy to ignore the fallout if you don't live in Dimock, Pennsylvania; or Wise County, Texas. But few parts of America remain untouched.
Though companies aren't drilling in Wisconsin or Minnesota, the industry's effects are certainly being felt. Both states offer rich supplies of fine sand called silica, used in fracking. In the past four years, sand mining in both states has doubled — along with the rates of respiratory problems associated with it. At least nine Minnesota cities have enacted moratoriums on mining, because treatment plants use toxic chemicals, presenting a threat to water supplies.
The U.S. Geological Survey further believes that an uncharacteristic surge of earthquakes throughout the Midwest is "almost certainly" related to gas companies disposing wastewater into deep-injection wells.
In 2008, there were just 29 earthquakes in the Midwest. Three years later, after fracking became widespread, the figure had more than quadrupled to 134. Most of them were clustered close to wells.
After a series of earthquakes occurred earlier this year in Youngstown, Ohio, the state banned gas companies from using deep-injection wells for water disposal.
The problem is that homes outside natural earthquake areas aren't built to withstand even the smallest tremor. Nor do insurers offer earthquake coverage in these regions.
Even the West Coast isn't immune. Since 1924, the Baldwin Hills Oil Field in Los Angeles has been a source of tension between residents and the Plains Exploration and Production Company, which runs the 1,000-acre plot. Last year, the company settled a class-action lawsuit filed by neighbors who claimed that wells contaminated their air and increased the rate of earthquakes.
Now the company, which has largely relied on conventional drilling techniques, plans to frack in the same area. California doesn't regulate or track fracking, giving gas companies free reign to do as they please.
Despite the industry wreaking havoc wherever it goes, America's politicians have decided to look the other way. On June 12, an anonymous source in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration told the New York Times that Cuomo was set to lift the ban in his state, one of the final fracking battlegrounds in the nation. (Cuomo's office did not respond to interview requests.)
Less than an hour south of the New York border, near the town of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, former residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park can be found camping at the edge of Route 220, holding signs that read "Save Riverdale!" and "No Fracking!"
In February, they learned that Richard Leonard, who owns the Riverdale land, had sold it to Aqua America, which supplies fracking companies with water. Residents were ordered to vacate the park by the end of May. Some had lived there for more than 30 years.
In a joint venture with Range Resources, Aqua America plans to spend $12 million turning the land into a pump station, taking 3 million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River. Residents have written and called the company but have yet to receive a single response. The only contact they've had was with a Range security guard, who showed up to take photos of them setting up camp outside the trailer park.
Nor has the state been any more receptive. Aqua America just happens to be owned by Nicholas DeBenedictis, former head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources.
"We just want it all to stop," resident Gerlinda Trimble says. Riverdale is located in Lycoming County, home to more than 667 wells, which have been cited for environmental violations 474 times. One toxic spill dumped 13,000 gallons of fracking fluid into a stream. "It's enough now. They've poisoned our land and now they're taking our homes."
Told that Governor Cuomo might lift the moratorium in New York, Trimble simply shakes her head. "I'll pray for them," she says.
a. mcelroy quotes an Alberta regulator, good old Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, formerly Alberta Environment and Water, formerly Alberta Environment, formerly Alberta Environmental Protection.
Name changes, seems to happen whenever contamination events hit the papers in Alberta. The energy regulator seems partial to name changes as well, I suppose when they get caught spying on Albertans, it makes sense to try and shed their skins.
Alberta Environment makes it sound like our water wells are all energy disasters in Alberta, but if the gas is so prevalent in our water here (which it's not), why do they have to frack it?
In a report published by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) 1995 and 1996 titled “Migration of Methane into Groundwater from Leaking Production Wells Near Lloydminster” 24,000 historic Alberta water well records were reviewed by the regulator, 17 (0.07%) reported “gas” present before oil and gas development (1935-53), 41 (0.17%) reported “gas” present after (1960-95).
This report is about 2 inches thick, I believe people can contact CAPP to purchase a copy.
Quote from a 1993 Husky report, “Could some part of the problem be attributable to ‘natural sources’ (eg swamp gas), which are using the wellbores as a conduit?”
- “A 2002 field study by Trican Well Service and Husky Energy reported that the percentage of leaking wells ranged from 12% in the Tangleflag area in eastern Alberta to as high as 80% in the Abbey gas field in southern Alberta32. In 2004 the ERCB reported that the number of leaking gas wells in the Wabanum Lake area increased from none in 1990 to more than 140 in 2004.33
- A peer reviewed paper36 published in 2009 by the Society of Petroleum Engineers co-authored by the ERCB states that the regulator ‘records well leakage at the surface as surface-casing-vent flow (SCVF) through wellbore annuli and gas migration (GM) outside the casing, as reported by industry’ and maintains information on ‘casing failures’ but that details are ‘not publicly available.’ The paper reports that ‘SCVF is commonly encountered in the oil and gas industry….high buildup pressures may potentially force gas into underground water aquifers’ and that soil GM occurs when deep or shallow gas migrates up outside the wellbore ‘through poorly cemented surface casing.’ The paper concluded that the factors affecting wellbore leakage ‘can be generalized and applied to other basins and/or jurisdictions.’”
a. mcelroy says: “Thermogenic methane comes from natural gas drilling and it can be tested for as it was in Mr. Mayer's case. The article states the DEC "staff concluded that the gas in Mr. Mayer's well was naturally occurringt" meaning that he had biogenic methane.”
Aren’t biogenic and thermogenic methane both ‘naturally occurring?’ No one put them there. And since companies are frac’ing for both, vertically, horizontally, deep and shallow, with all the leaky energy wells, I imagine it’s a bit of a crap shoot on which one, or both, are responsible for the contamination and blowing up of water wells, water towers and homes.
From “A Primer for understanding Canadian Shale Gas – Energy Briefing Note” by the National Energy Board, November 2009:
“…As mud turns into shale during shallow burial, generally just a few hundred metres deep, in the “nursery”, bacteria feed on the available organic matter (up to 10 per cent of the rock volume but generally less than five per cent) and release biogenic methane as a byproduct (Figure 3). Natural gas is also generated during deep burial while the shale is in the “kitchen”, generally several kilometres deep, where heat and pressure crack the organic matter, including any oil already produced by the same heat and pressure, into smaller hydrocarbons, creating thermogenic methane (Figure 3). Some of the oil and gas manages to escape and migrate into the more porous rock of conventional reservoirs. In fact, the vast bulk of the world’s conventional reserves of oil and gas were generated in and escaped from organic-rich shales. But some oil and gas does not escape, as it is either trapped in the micropore spaces or attached to the organic matter within the shale. For example, the natural gas produced from the Second White Specks Shale of Alberta and Saskatchewan comes from shallow burial (it is shallow enough that gas is still being generated by bacteria), while the natural gas from the Devonian Horn River Basin and Triassic Montney shales was generated during deep burial. The Utica Shale of Quebec has both shallow and deep sections and there is potential for both biogenic and thermogenic natural gas, respectively.
… Vertical wells targeting biogenic shale gas, like in the Colorado Shale, are far less expensive: the resource is shallow and the wells cost less than $350,000 each.
… In the Wildmere area of Alberta, the Colorado Shale is approximately 200 metres thick, from which natural gas has potential to produce from five intervals. … Furthermore, the gas produced in the Colorado has biogenic rather than thermogenic origins.
… Biogenic gas can be found in the Utica in shallow areas, while thermogenic methane can be found in medium-deep and structured shales (Figures 13 and 14). The reservoir has an advantage over others in that it is folded and faulted, which increases the potential for the presence of natural fractures (Figure 4).
Only a handful of wells have been drilled in the Utica, most of them vertical.
… Drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells can be water-intensive procedures; however, there is very limited Canadian experience from which to estimate potential environmental impacts.”
“Calgary-based Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. wants to develop a resource in Ontario that has been largely overlooked by its rivals: shale gas. …
… What about Ontario’s own shale resources? “The question obviously comes up,” said Terry Carter, petroleum resources geologist with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources. … Carter said the Marcellus zone doesn’t offer much in Ontario. “Almost all of it is beneath Lake Erie,” he said. “Kettle Point and Blue Mountain would appear to have better potential.” Both have what Carter described as biogenic gas, created when bacteria in fresh water come in contact with organic-rich bedrock. The bacteria eat the organic material and produce methane. ‘The natural gas is being produced in real time, just like in a landfill site,’"
And finally, as a. mcelroy seems so enamoured with what our Alberta regulators have to say, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) formerly the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (AEUB or EUB), formerly the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) admits that:
The potential for hydraulic fracturing to contaminate “useable water aquifers” with fracturing fluid chemicals and natural gas “is a recognized risk” – http://www.ercb.ca/reports/r2011-A.pdf
But, as in the US, when those risks become reality, they ignore us, blame nature, and try to bury it. http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/
Mcelroy uses the only tool in his bag. Deny there's a problem until you cannot keep it hidden anymore and then throw money at it. That seems to be the industry answer to everything. Here is the story about the Leightons in PA who have Chesapeake (CHK) gas migrating into their well and into their home from a gas pad over 1/2 mile from their home. DEP says without a doubt that it IS CHK's gas. Its not being quickly handled or resolved by CHK's cheesy vents. http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2012/08/28/more-than-three-months-later-methane-gas-is-still-leaking-in-bradford-countyThen there iss the story of the Hallowich family also in PA who's home was ruined by Range Resources. After years of fighting they finally reached a settlement that they aren't allowed to speak about because Range insisted the records be sealed. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/photogalleries/101022-energy-shale-gas-drilling-pictures
Ask Mcelroy how many Hallowichs there are across the country. How many people have been forced to remain quiet in order to have the problems caused by shale gas drilling "quickly handled and resolved." Truth is that no one knows. Could be 20, could be 2000. No one knows because no one is keeping records of that.
The title of this story is completely misleading and wrong. Wells using high volume hydraulic fracturing (the process called fracking that anti gas drilling activist are against) have been drilled all over PA, Ohio, WV and Texas without environmental disaster or any significant problems. Have some landowners complained, yes? Have many of these complaints been investigated by environmental agencies in these states and been found to be unrelated to natural gas drilling, yes! Have there been very rare instances of problems, yes, but the problems been quickly handled and resolved by natural gas drillers and government agencies. Therefore, have there or will there be any environmental disasters, no! In addition, Mr. Mayer's story here is an example of someone complaining that natural gas damaged their water when it in fact had nothing to do with it!
The problems Mr. Mayer experienced are from naturally occurring biogenic methane. "Methane gas occurs naturally in groundwater aquifers in most geological sedimentary basins worldwide . . . Methane gas exists in a dissolved state in groundwater underground and will “bubble out” when pumped to the surface. For those on private water well supplies, spurting taps is a common result of this phenomenon." Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development http://environment.alberta.ca/02883.html. Thermogenic methane comes from natural gas drilling and it can be tested for as it was in Mr. Mayer's case. The article states the DEC "staff concluded that the gas in Mr. Mayer's well was naturally occurringt" meaning that he had biogenic methane. In the movie "Truthland" (free to watch online) a man in New York lights his water on fire and there was no drilling anywhere near his property. Sound familiar to this story?
One can actually make the inference that Mr. Mayer would benefit from natural gas drilling. In fact, he already has to the tune of $58,200. That was simply his signing bonus for signing a lease on his 97 acre property and no drilling was ever done there. I am guessing most people would not mind getting that much money just for signing their name. Mr. Mayer is actually upset he is not getting more money. The 17% he refers to is his natural gas drilling royalty payment. Landowners get royalty when drillers drill, and then sell, the gas that is underneath your property. The royalty is actually a share of the revenue from drilling, in this case he would get 17% of all revenue from the well. If High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing was allowed in New York Mr. Mayer and the other landowners around him could be receiving thousands of dollars an acre in royalties per year in addition to their original bonus payments. Let's say his 17% royalty netted him $1,000 an acre per year for ten years (modest estimates given the current production of Marcellus wells), that's $970,000! Sounds like he is upset that he's not getting that money and the only way he would get it if from safe natural gas drilling under his property. Landowners in PA, OH and WV are already getting these types of royalties without any environmental or water problems whatsoever. I have met and spoken to many of them but again, as mentioned above, there will always be landowners who complain. Unfortunately many complaints are founded on the jealousy that another landowner is getting more more money than them. This actually seems to be Mr. Mayer's main issue.
In conclusion, Mr. Mayer got $58,2000 (alot of money for most people) for doing nothing and he seems to be upset primarily because he wants more money. The biogenic methane in his well is naturally occuring and if drilling were allowed it would actually give him and thousands of other upstate New Yorkers (including struggling farmers) money in their pockets. Natural Gas Drilling is highly regulated and is being done safely without damage to water supplies or the environment. It should be allowed in New York but unfortunately it has been banned for four years and the ban continues. If the ban is lifted and Mr. Mayer eventually gets his royalty money without any adverse affects you won't hear him complaining about drilling anymore.
Note about me: I work for a Western New York based land service company that serves both oil and gas clients and renewable energy clients. I care about the environment and would not support this process if it really did damage the environment or ruined water supplies. The facts show that this process does not destroy the environment or ruin water supplies and I believe it's important to get that message out because there is alot of misleading and false information out there from anti-drilling activists. There will always be rare accidents, as with any industrial process, but previous accidents that have happened with natural gas drilling have been fixed and did not have any long term impacts. It makes no sense to completely ban an activity that benefits millions of people because there is a risk of an accident, especially ones that can be fixed. Natural gas drilling has already lowered the energy costs for millions of homeowners across the country (just look at your home gas bill) and reduced US carbon emissions to 1992 levels! You can find me at @atmcelroy.
@a.mcelroy bla bla bla...your pay check depends on fracking people. I live in Arlington TX ground zero to 55-60 padsites in URBAN areas. If you care about the truth, then you'd help me advocate for responsible drilling (there is no such thing as safe drilling).
1) use electric rigs
2) invent frac sand catchers that work so we don't have to breathe in toxic, silica dust during fracturing.
3) Flowback into open hatch containers using SCRUBBERS so the steamy, white clouds of hydrocarbons don't go into our neighborhoods and schools.
4) mud farming and spreading brine on roads is NOT safe so test and post the results and prove our food is safe from this run off stuff
5) Green Completion equipment should be immediate or stop until you have the equipment. We should have to wait 2.5 years because man made global warming is happening now. Don't confuse warming and cooling periods with cylical events.
6) Cement casings fail-they rot...migration happens-please invent another material that stands the test of time.
7) Stainless Steel is corroded by brine waters...the two don't mix so don't marry them! If you think that methanol will stop the corrision...then tell my body not to metabolize methanol into formaldehyde...cause once migration happens from rotted casings (injection wells too) and once it take years to get into our water...I don't want to be prematurely injected with formaldehyde like in a morgue-I want to die a natural death.