Posts by Abrahm Lustgarten/Pro Publica
A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.
The Canadian oil and gas company EnCana, which at one time held the record for the highest state fine for a gas-drilling spill case in Colorado, has been stymied in its attempt to sell a Wyoming gas field where hydraulic fracturing has allegedly contaminated groundwater.
Federal environment officials investigating drinking water contamination near the ranching town of Pavillion, Wyo., have found that at least three water wells contain a chemical used in the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing. Scientists also found traces of other contaminants, including oil, gas or metals, in 11 of 39 wells tested there since March.
They were tough words for the natural gas industry to hear. In a blunt speech before the Colorado Oil and Gas Association last week, Timothy Wirth, a former Colorado Democratic senator and Under Secretary of State for global affairs in the Clinton administration, warned industry leaders that they need to pay attention to the environmental and climate concerns that are shaping national policy, or risk being left behind.
The two key arguments that the oil and gas industry is using to fight federal regulation of the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing — that the costs would cripple their business and that state regulations are already strong — are challenged by the same data and reports the industry is using to bolster its position.
Four years after Vice President Dick Cheney spearheaded a massive energy bill that exempted natural gas drilling from federal clean water laws, Congress is having second thoughts about the environmental dangers posed by the burgeoning industry.
With growing evidence that the drilling can damage water supplies, Democratic leaders in Congress are circulating legislation that would repeal the extraordinary exemption and for the first time require companies to disclose all chemicals used in the key drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing.
In his Jan. 10 column in the Rocky Mountain News, Independence Institute analyst David Kopel significantly misstates the record on the environmental risks posed by the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
Using carefully culled quotations and selected statistics, Kopel asserts “indisputably false facts” in ProPublica’s reporting.
In fact, it is his column that is indisputably misleading.
That clarion call to develop energy here on U.S. soil rallied fervid support in the past year when substantial natural gas deposits were identified from Connecticut to Louisiana — anything but your typical drilling states.
Since burning gas emits 23 percent less greenhouse gas than burning oil, finding new resources here at home targets two important priorities: climate change and energy independence.
But it turns out drilling for gas may not be as clean as burning it. And it may come at the expense of another vital resource: water.