Friday, December 28, 2012

The Truth about Fracking

Fracking is Going to Affect You. How Badly Is Up To You.

     The corporate-controlled media and the journalists who unquestioningly print their self-serving press releases are only going to give you the positive side of the fracking industry. However, there is a dark side, and I dedicate this post to publicizing the truth about that dark side that the Big Energy conglomerates don't want you to know.
     I pledge to tell the Truth and nothing but the Truth. I will provide references and citations for what I say. I will acknowledge and give fair credit to the corporate pundits when they have legitimate points or make improvements. But you must understand that it is in their best interests to lie to you, often by intentional omission, and I will see it as my duty to shed light on that.
     To those of you who cherish the environment and resent what this industry is doing to our world, or if you are simply a citizen worried about what it might mean for your family and loved ones, I hope this blog will prove a useful resource for you.

The Government won't protect you. The Government protects Them.

    The most shocking fact about Fracking to unleash new resevoirs of natural gas, as I have found time and again when talking to people about the problem, is that the regulations that we all suppose are there to protect our communities simply do not apply to the fracking industry!
     Unbelieveably, fracking is exempt from the Clean Water Act, and all Environmental Protection Agency regulations about the safety of our drinking water. In fact, the EPA is not allowed to touch the fracking industry at all!
     This is because of a blanket giveaway that Dick Cheney gave the industry back during the Bush years. You may have heard complaints about how he had drawn up the nation's Energy Policy in secret, behind closed doors, with no public imput allowed. Well, now you know why.
     A series of exemptions from all meaningful oversight was written into law as his payback for his energy lobby donors. They are even called "the Cheney exemptions". Due to them, a natural gas extraction company can come into your community and dump any amount of toxic chemicals into your water table and not have to tell you what any of them are. If you petition them to find out, they will deny you.
     The industry brochures will tell you that the amount of "additives" (as they call them) in the fracking fluid is just a small percentage of the whole. In that, they are telling the truth. What they don't tell you is that they are using millions of gallons of water to fracture the geological substrata, so less than one percent is still thousands of tons of pollutants! The amount of water used by the fracking industry in one year is equivalent to 8 large American cities! So, expressing it as a percentage rather than sheer weight is disengenuous at best, and outright misleading at worst.

     I have published a novel about fighting the fracking industry (available here ) which contains some useful information in its Appendices which I will reproduce here. Especially note the last part that gives guidance for what you can do to take action:

A p p e n d ic e s

A. What's in Fracking Fluid?
1.In October of 2004, OGAP filed a Freedom of Information Act request with EPA to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) supplied to the agency by hydraulic fracturing companies. (Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, Request Number HQ-RIN-00044-05). The information in this table were contained in MSDS sheets from Schlumberger:
Sand and Proppants
Conventional oil and gas wells use, on average, 300,000 pounds of proppant, coalbed fracture treatments use anywhere from 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of proppant and shale gas wells can use more than 4 million pounds of proppant per well.

Frac sand mines are springing up across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas, bringing with them their own set of impacts. Mining sand for proppant use generates its own range of impacts, including water consumption and air emissions, as well as potential health problems related to crystalline silica.

Toxic Chemicals
In addition to large volumes of water, a variety of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The oil and gas industry and trade groups are quick to point out that chemicals typically make up just 0.5 and 2.0% of the total volume of the fracturing fluid. When millions of gallons of water are being used, however, the amount of chemicals per fracking operation is very large. For example, a four million gallon fracturing operation would use from 80 to 330 tons of chemicals.
Many fracturing fluid chemicals are known to be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several are known to cause cancer. Potentially toxic substances include petroleum distillates such as kerosene and diesel fuel (which contain benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide.

Very small quantities of some fracking chemicals are capable of contaminating millions of gallons of water. According to the Environmental Working Group, petroleum-based products known as petroleum distillates such as kerosene (also known as hydrotreated light distillates, mineral spirits, and a petroleum distillate blends) are likely to contain benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at levels greater than five parts per billion (or 0.005 parts per million).

Other chemicals, such as 1,2-Dichloroethane are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic constituents have been shown to be present in fracturing fluid flowback wastes at levels that exceed drinking water standards. For example, testing of flowback samples from Pennsylvania have revealed concentrations of 1,2-Dichloroethane as high as 55.3 micrograms per liter, which is more than 10 times EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for 1,2-Dichloroethane in drinking water.

VOCs not only pose a health concern while in the water, the volatile nature of the constituents means that they can also easily enter the air. According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, organic compounds brought to the surface in the fracturing flowback or produced water often go into open impoundments (frac ponds), where the volatile organic chemicals can offgas into the air.

Additives and Their Purposes

As part of New York State’s Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) related to Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, the Department of Environmental Conservation complied a list of chemicals and additives used during hydraulic fracturing. The table below provides examples of various types of hydraulic fracturing additives proposed for use in New York. Chemicals in brackets [ ] have not been proposed for use in the state, but are known to be used in other states or shale formations.

Proppant “Props” open fractures and allows gas / fluids to flow more freely to the well bore. Sand [Sintered bauxite; zirconium oxide; ceramic beads]
Acid Cleans up perforation intervals of cement and drilling mud prior to fracturing fluid injection, and provides accessible path to formation. Hydrochloric acid (HCl, 3% to 28%) or muriatic acid
Breaker Reduces the viscosity of the fluid in order to release proppant into fractures and enhance the recovery of the fracturing fluid. Peroxydisulfates
Bactericide / Biocide Inhibits growth of organisms that could produce gases (particularly hydrogen sulfide) that could contaminate methane gas. Also prevents the growth of bacteria which can reduce the ability of the fluid to carry proppant into the fractures. Gluteraldehyde;2-Bromo-2-nitro-1,2-propanediol
Buffer / pH Adjusting Agent Adjusts and controls the pH of the fluid in order to maximize the effectiveness of other additives such as crosslinkers. Sodium or potassium carbonate; acetic acid
Clay Stabilizer / Control Prevents swelling and migration of formation clays which could block pore spaces thereby reducing permeability. Salts (e.g., tetramethyl ammonium chloride) [Potassium chloride]
Corrosion Inhibitor Reduces rust formation on steel tubing, well casings, tools, and tanks (used only in fracturing fluids that contain acid). Methanol; ammonium bisulfate for Oxygen Scavengers
Crosslinker The fluid viscosity is increased using phosphate esters combined with metals. The metals are referred to as crosslinking agents. The increased fracturing fluid viscosity allows the fluid to carry more proppant into the fractures. Potassium hydroxide; borate salts
Friction Reducer Allows fracture fluids to be injected at optimum rates and pressures by minimizing friction. Sodium acrylate-acrylamide copolymer;
polyacrylamide (PAM); petroleum distillates
Gelling Agent Increases fracturing fluid viscosity, allowing the fluid to carry more proppant into the fractures. Guar gum; petroleum distillate
Iron Control Prevents the precipitation of carbonates and sulfates (calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, barium sulfate) which could plug off the formation. Ammonium chloride; ethylene glycol; polyacrylate
Solvent Additive which is soluble in oil, water & acid-based treatment fluids which is used to control the wettability of contact surfaces or to prevent or break emulsions. Various aromatic hydrocarbons
Surfactant Reduces fracturing fluid surface tension thereby aiding fluid recovery. Methanol; isopropanol; ethoxylated alcohol

Disposal of These Chemicals

Clearly, some hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemicals deemed to be "hazardous wastes." Even if these chemicals are diluted it is unconscionable that EPA is allowing these substances to be injected directly into underground sources of drinking water.

Yet these same fluids (in diluted form) are allowed to be injected directly into or adjacent to USDWs.(Underground Sources of Drinking Water). Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, hazardous wastes may NOT be injected into USDWs. Moreover, even if hazardous wastes are decharacterized (for example, diluted with water so that they are rendered non-hazardous), wastes must still be injected into a formation that is below the USDW. However, under the Cheney exemptions, the Safe Drinking Water Act DOES NOT APPLY to Fracking companies. Go figure.

B. Health Effects of Fracking
In 2010, Theo Colborn and three co-authors published a paper entitled Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective. Colborn and her co-authors summarized health effect information for 353 chemicals used to drill and fracture natural gas wells in the United States. Health effects were broken into 12 categories: skin, eye and sensory organ, respiratory, gastrointestinal and liver, brain and nervous system, immune, kidney, cardiovascular and blood, cancer, mutagenic, endocrine disruption, other, and ecological effects.

Colborn’s paper provides a list of 71 particularly nasty drilling and fracturing chemicals, i.e., those that are associated with 10 or more health effects:

Acetic acid
Acrylamide (2-propenamide)
Acrylic acid
Ammonium chloride
Ammonium nitrate
Benzyl chloride
Boric acid
Calcium hypochlorite
Chlorine dioxide
Dibromoacetonitrile 1
Diesel 2
Dimethyl formamide
Ethanol (acetylenic alcohol)
Ethyl mercaptan
Ethylene glycol
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (2-BE)
Ethylene oxide
Ferrous sulfate
Formic acid
Fuel oil #2
Hydrodesulfurized kerosene
Hydrogen sulfide
Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol)
Isopropanol (propan-2-ol)
Light naphthenic distillates, hydrotreated
Mercaptoacidic acid
Methylene bis(thiocyanate)
Naphtha, petroleum medium aliphatic
Natural gas condensates
Nickel sulfate
Petroleum distillate naptha
Petroleum distillate/ naphtha
Phosphonium, tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)-sulfate
Sodium bromate
Sodium chlorite (chlorous acid, sodium salt)
Sodium hypochlorite
Sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrite
Sodium sulfite
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfuric acid
Tetrahydro-3,5-dimethyl-2H-1,3,5-thiadiazine-2-thione (Dazomet)
Titanium dioxide
Tributyl phosphate
Triethylene glycol

While Colborn and her co-workers focused on chemicals used in natural gas development, the chemicals used to fracture oil wells are very similar or the same. Looking at some of the oil wells that have been developed in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the fracturing fluid mixtures include some of the chemicals shown by Colborn to have the potential to cause 10 or more adverse health effects. Information posted hydraulic fracturing fluid chemicals on the FracFocus web site indicates that Bakken Shale oil wells may contain toxic chemicals such as hydrotreated light distillate, methanol, ethylene glycol, 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), phosphonium, tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)-sulfate (aka phosphonic acid), acetic acid, ethanol, and napthlene.

Calculations performed by EPA in the draft version of its study show that at least nine hydraulic fracturing chemicals may be injected into or close to USDWs at concentrations that pose a threat to human health. Chemicals may be injected at concentrations that are anywhere from 4 to almost 13,000 times the acceptable concentration in drinking water.

Not only does the injection of these chemicals pose a short-term threat to drinking water quality, it is quite possible that there could be long-term negative consequences for USDWs from these fracturing fluids. According to the EPA study, studies conducted by the oil and gas industry, and interviews with industry and regulators, 20 to 85% of fracturing fluids may remain in the formation, which means the fluids could continue to be a source of groundwater contamination for years to come.

For more details on the studies that have looked at stranded fracturing fluids and the potential for hydraulic fracturing to affect underground sources of drinking water, see Our Drinking Water at Risk, Oil and Gas Accountability Project's review of the EPA's study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane reservoirs on drinking water.
For a more personal perspective on the consequences to health caused by the practice of Fracking, here is a testimonial by Laura Amos, a homeowner who found her life invaded by fracking against her will (Laura Amos had her story told in the movie Split Estate) :

By Laura Amos
My husband Larry, our daughter Lauren and I live south of Silt in the heart of what we call Encana's Industrial Wasteland. (Colorado)
We were among the first in our area to have natural gas drilling on our property. We are among the unfortunate who do not own the mineral rights under our property.
No protection
The "Good Faith Negotiations" required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission addressed none of our concerns.
Encana sent to our home a nice old gentleman who sat at our kitchen table and told us more or less,
I feel for you, but you own the surface, we own the minerals, and we're coming in to drill. Here's the Surface Use Agreement, you can sign it, but you don't have to. If you sign it you get a check for $3000. If you don't sign you get no financial reimbursement for any damages that may occur.
We hesitated to sign for a couple of weeks until we learned that what he was telling us was accurate - the law provided us no protection, no mediation, and no real power to negotiate.
Contaminated drinking water
In May 2001 while fracturing four wells on our neighbors' property (less than 1000' from our house on what's known as the G33 pad), the gas well operator "blew up" our water well. Fracturing created or opened a hydrogeological connection between our water well and the gas well, sending the cap of our water well flying and blowing our water into the air like a geyser at Yellowstone.
Immediately our water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up.
Water production dropped drastically from 15 gallons per minute to nothing or near nothing.
Tests of our water showed 14 milligrams (mg) per liter of methane. That's almost as much methane that water will hold at our elevation. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) claimed that the methane was "transient" in nature. We were assured that methane is safe, that in fact our bodies produce it naturally, and that there are no known health effects.
We were warned, however, to make sure there were no closets or pockets in our home where the gas could build up and explode. They tested the water in our well a couple more times that summer, ending in August 2001.
Health problems
In the spring of 2003 I became very ill. I spent months in doctors' offices and hospitals. I was eventually diagnosed with Primary Hyper Aldosteronism, a very rare condition of a tumor in my adrenal gland. None of my doctors had any idea of how I could have acquired such a rare disease.The tumor and my adrenal gland had to be removed. As a result, I am concerned that my immune system is now compromised, as well as the other endocrine related systems that are linked with the adrenal glands.
For more than two years my husband and I felt more or less abandoned by the COGCC. We resolved nothing. In January 2004 I had had enough and decided to become better informed and make others aware of my predicament. I started my 1st letter-writing campaign. The gas commission came back, tested again, and again found 14 mg of methane per liter in our water. They determined that it was Williams Fork Formation gas, a Notice of Alleged Violation was issued to Encana, but no fine was administered by the COGCC.
An explanation: 2-BE
In August 2004 I came across a memo written to the US Forest Service and BLM Regional offices in Delta County, describing the health hazard posed by a chemical used in fluids that are injected underground to enhance the release of methane.
Dr. Theo Colborn of Paonia, Colorado submitted the memo in response to decisions that were being made in Delta County by the government officials to allow gas exploration and development on the Grand Mesa. Colborn is the President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc (TEDX) and for over 10 years directed the World Wildlife Fund's Wildlife and Contaminants Program. She has been honored worldwide for her focus on the effects of synthetic chemicals on human and wildlife health.
The focus of Colborn's memo was on a chemical called 2-BE, used in fracturing fluids.

Colborn cited the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Profile that listed the following effects of 2-BE:
  • kidney damage,
  • kidney failure,
  • toxicity to the spleen, the bones in the spinal column and bone marrow,
  • liver cancer,
  • anemia,
  • female fertility reduction,
  • embryo mortality,
  • and the biggie that got my attention - elevated numbers of combined malignant and non-malignant tumors of the adrenal gland.
Of course that sent up a huge red flag! I have had no peace of mind ever since.
Remember that from August 2001 until January 2004 no testing was done on our water. Our daughter was only 6 months old when fracturing blew up our water well. I bathed her in that water every day. I also continued breast-feeding her for 18 more months until she was 2 years old - during the time the tumor was developing in my adrenal gland. If there was a chemical in my body causing my tumor, she was exposed to it as well. She was in contact with the chemical through every possible exposure pathway.
Encana uses 2-BE, and creates one mad mother
After reading Colborn's memo, I tried to find out if Encana used 2-BE in fracturing.
Encana's spokesman, Walt Lowrey, assured several of our neighbors, and my husband and me that 2-BE was NOT used. In addition, Lowrey told many reporters in western Colorado, Denver and the Associated Press that 2-BE was not used on the pad, or anywhere in this area.
However, on January 31, 2005, I learned that the industry had not been telling the truth to all of us.
In June 2001, five weeks after the operator and the COGCC knew that there was a connection between the gas well and my water well, they proceeded to fracture wells on the G33 pad again. It was reportedly an experimental fracture, a new idea to fracture into the Wasatch formation, the same formation that our water comes from. They fractured 2000 feet below the surface, and they DID use 2-BE. Encana is now delivering us alternative water for use in our home, but we are concerned that our well water may never be safe again.
I am ONE MAD MOTHER who intends to continue to challenge the system that allows average citizens to be ignored and trampled on, without consideration for their health, their children's health, and life-long investments. I am ONE MAD MOTHER who believes it is the role of government to protect the average citizen.

- You can read Laura Amos' blog at:

C. Why a Ban? Can’t Better Regulations Make Fracking Safer?

1. No. Fracking is inherently unsafe and we cannot rely on regulation to protect communities’ water, air and public health. The industry enjoys exemptions from key federal legislation protecting our air and water, thanks to aggressive lobbying and cozy relationships with our federal decisionmakers (the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act is often referred to as the Cheney or Halliburton Loophole, because it was negotiated by then-Vice President Dick Cheney with Congress in 2005.) Plus, the industry is aggressively clamping down on local and state efforts to regulate fracking by buying influence and even bringing lawsuits to stop them from being implemented. That’s why fracking can’t be made safer through government oversight or regulations. An all out ban on fracking is the only way to protect our communities

` 2. The process of fracking introduces additional industrial activity into communities beyond the well. Clearing land to build new access roads and new well sites, drilling and encasing the well, fracking the well and generating the waste, trucking in heavy equipment and materials and trucking out the vast amounts of toxic waste — all of these steps contribute to air and water pollution risks and devaluation of land that is turning our communities into sacrifice zones. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. That’s why over 250 communities in the U.S. have passed resolutions to stop fracking, and why Vermont, France and Bulgaria have stopped it. Let that sink in; the Bulgarians are smarter than we are.

D. Some tidbits from
            Insurance agency says fracking too risky to cover:
            A major insurance company has announced that it won’t cover damage related to fracking, reports the Associated Press. “Fracking" is when oil and gas companies blast millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals into the ground to force oil and gas from hard-to-reach places deep inside the earth. Along with a fracking-fueled gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths and sick families. In an internal memo not meant for the public, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. acknowledged these risks, writing: “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore.” Earthjustice and other environmental and health groups agree, which is why we’re pushing to enact tougher regulations for fracking.
            There are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to ensure that this industry can continue to operate without the science and without the protections we need. As a result, what we are hearing now is not how we're going to end our addiction to fossil fuels, but instead, a hundred years of gas.

E. Water Use
In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year. This is approximately the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000. Fracture treatments in coalbed methane wells use from 50,000 to 350,000 gallons of water per well, while deeper horizontal shale wells can use anywhere from 2 to 10 million gallons of water to fracture a single well. The extraction of so much water for fracking has raised concerns about the ecological impacts to aquatic resources, as well as dewatering of drinking water aquifers.

It has been estimated that the transportation of a million gallons of water (fresh or waste water) requires 200 truck trips. Thus, not only does water used for hydraulic fracturing deplete fresh water supplies and impact aquatic habitat, the transportation of so much water also creates localized air quality, safety and road repair issues.

Spills of fracturing chemicals and wastes during transportation, fracturing operations and waste disposal have contaminated soil and surface waters. This section provides a few examples of spills related to hydraulic fracturing that have led to environmental impacts.

Two spills kill fish: In September 2009, Cabot Oil and Gas spilled hydraulic fracturing fluid gel LGC-35 twice at the company’s Heitsman gas well. The two incidents released a total of 8,000 gallons of the fracturing fluid, polluting Stevens Creek and resulting in a fish kill. LGC-35, a well lubricant used during the fracturing process. A third spill of LGC-35 occurred a week later, but did not enter the creek.
Fracturing fluid taints a high quality watershed: In December 2009, a wastewater pit overflowed at Atlas Resources’ Cowden 17 gas well, and an unknown quantity of hydraulic fracturing fluid wastes entered Dunkle Run, a “high quality watershed”. The company failed to report the spill. In August 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) levied a $97,350 fine against Atlas Resources
Another fracturing fluid spill impacts a high quality waterway: In May 2010, Range Resources was fined was fined $141,175 for failing to immediately notify the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection when the company spilled 250 barrels of diluted fracturing fluids due to a broken joint in a transmission line. The fluids flowed into an unnamed tributary of Brush Run, killing at least 168 fish, salamanders and frogs. The watercourse is designated as a warm-water fishery under Pennsylvania’s special protection waters program.
Fracturing fluids affect soil and irrigation ditch: In October 2005 a valve on the wellhead of a Kerr-McGee well in Colorado failed. As a result, between168 and 210 gallons of flowback fluids sprayed into the air and drifted offsite, primarily onto pasture land, resulting in a visible coating that was as much as 1/2 inch thick.
F. Fracking Accidents

Bainbridge, Ohio
In December 2007, a home exploded in the small town of Bainbridge, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Methane entered nearby water wells and the basement of Richard and Thelma Payne's home where it was ignited by a spark.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources later issued a 153-page report that determined a nearby gas well's faulty cement casing and hydraulic fracturing pushed methane into an aquifer and caused the explosion.

In October 2008, the home of Irvin and Joanne Mesmer filled with a dangerously high level of methane gas, which had seeped into their water well. An explosion was narrowly averted after the fire department responded and vented the home.

In total, 46 water wells in the area are contaminated by methane gas that leaked from an Ohio Valley Gas Company well into the aquifer.

Many homes now use bottled water.

Source: "Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling." Abrahm Lustgarten. ProPublica. April 26, 2009

Washington County, PA
George Zimmerman, the owner of a 480-acre property in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, said his water has been contaminated by nearby hydraulic fracturing. Atlas Energy, Inc. operates ten natural gas wells nearby. Zimmermann says that baseline tests on his water were "perfect" a year before drilling began.
In June 2009, tests of his water found arsenic at 2,600 times the federally acceptable level, benzene at 44 times above the standard and naphthalene at five times the standard.
Samples of Zimmerman's soil showed mercury and selenium above official limits; also found in the soil were ethylbenzene, a drilling chemical, and trichloroethene, a naturally occurring but toxic chemical that can rise to the surface due to gas drilling.
Source: "Pennsylvania lawsuit says drilling polluted water." Jon Hurdle. Reuters. November 9, 2009.

Avella, Pennsylvania
On an Avella property where Atlas Energy was engaged in hydraulic fracturing, a wastewater impoundment (where the fracking fluid that makes its way back to the surface is stored) caught fire and exploded. Flames went 200 feet into the air, burned for six hours, and produced a thick, black smoke cloud visible ten miles away.

Soil sampled on the site was found to contain arsenic at 6,430 times the permissible level and tetrachloroethene (a carcinogen and central-nervous-system suppressant) at 1,417 times the permissible level.

G. Radioactive Fracking

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.
With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of waste water that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the waste water by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.
The documents reveal that the waste water, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants ( i.e., radioactive ones) and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008. Yet sewage treatment plant operators say they are far less capable of removing radioactive contaminants than most other toxic substances. Indeed, most of these facilities cannot remove enough of the radioactive material to meet federal drinking-water standards before discharging the waste water into rivers, sometimes just miles upstream from drinking-water intake plants.

H. Lax Oversight

Drilling contamination is entering the environment in Pennsylvania through spills, too. In the past three years, at least 16 wells whose records showed high levels of radioactivity in their wastewater also reported spills, leaks or failures of pits where hydrofracking fluid or waste is stored, according to state records.

Gas producers are generally left to police themselves when it comes to spills. In Pennsylvania, regulators do not perform unannounced inspections to check for signs of spills. Gas producers report their own spills, write their own spill response plans and lead their own cleanup efforts.

A review of response plans for drilling projects at four Pennsylvania sites where there have been accidents in the past year found that these state-approved plans often appear to be in violation of the law.

At one well site where several spills occurred within a week, including one that flowed into a creek, the well’s operator filed a revised spill plan saying there was little chance that waste would ever enter a waterway.

From October 2008 through October 2010, regulators were more than twice as likely to issue a written warning than to levy a fine for environmental and safety violations, according to state data. During this period, 15 companies were fined for drilling-related violations in 2008 and 2009, and the companies paid an average of about $44,000 each year, according to state data.

This average was less than half of what some of the companies earned in profits in a day and a tiny fraction of the more than $2 million that some of them paid annually to haul and treat the waste.

In December, the Republican governor-elect, Tom Corbett, who during his campaign took more gas industry contributions than all his competitors combined, said he would reopen state land to new drilling, reversing a decision made by his predecessor, Edward G. Rendell. The change clears the way for as many as 10,000 wells on public land, up from about 25 active wells today.

In arguing against a proposed gas-extraction tax on the industry, Mr. Corbett said regulation of the industry had been “too aggressive.” You read that correctly. To a Republican governor, no regulation at all is still “too aggressive”.

I. Fracking and Earthquakes
Researchers have long known that fluid-injection operations can trigger earthquakes. For instance, in 2006 one geothermal energy site triggered four earthquakes in Basel, Switzerland, ranging from 3.1 to 3.4 on the Richter scale. Fracking also appears linked with Oklahoma's strongest recorded quake in 2011, as well as a spate of more than 180 minor tremors in Texas between Oct. 30, 2008, and May 31, 2009
It remains unclear why some injection wells set off earthquakes whereas others do not. To find out, seismologist Cliff Frohlich at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed seismic activity in the Barnett Shale of northern Texas between November 2009 and September 2011 and compared the properties of injection wells located near quake epicenters. He relied on mobile seismometers deployed as part of the EarthScope USArray program over an approximately 23,000-square-mile (60,000 square kilometer) area.

Frohlich identified the epicenters for 67 earthquakes — more than eight times as many as reported by the National Earthquake Information Center — with magnitudes of 3.0 or less. Most were located within a few miles of one or more injection wells, suggesting injection-triggered quakes might be more common than thought.

"We found a lot of events that weren't getting reported," Frohlich told LiveScience.

A report released recently by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission sheds light on the huge shale gas deposits in northeastern B.C. Quakes recorded by Natural Resources Canada ranged from 2.2 to 3.8 on the Richter scale, below the 4 mark and thus deemed minor.

"The investigation has concluded that the events observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults," the commission said in its report.

It began its probe after learning of several "low level seismic events" recorded by Natural Resources Canada near the development areas.

No such activity was recorded in the region before 2009, the report noted.

Applications for new injection well permits were suspended in January following a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area last winter caused by oilfield waste fluids injected into a fault line.

Charles Frohlich detailed his findings online Aug. 6 (today) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

J. Corporate Lies

    Here is an excerpt from Greenpeace (
    Blogpost by Matthew K - October 21, 2011 at 12:26 :
    Last week, the EPA fired back on Capitol Hill at an investigation that claims the EPA and Transportation Department are carrying out closed-door deals with the auto companies in an effort to promote the EPA’s Clean Air Act and upcoming fuel standards.
    Republican Darrell Issa currently chairs the committee that is leading the investigation, claiming that the regulations found within fuel regulations of the Clean Air Act will be detrimental to the average consumer. He is also asking for a list of the names of all the people that took part in forming the rules on fuel regulation.
    It is an interesting accusation Mr. Issa is making, in saying that the regulations will have “negative impacts on consumers.” In a Politico piece published on October 12, EPA Air Chief Gina McCarthy noted that, since the Clean Air Act was passed 40 years ago, U.S. gross domestic product has increased by 200 percent, much of which was due to the environmental goods and services created through the regulations. She also noted that, with the new fuel standards that will be finalized in 2025, consumers will use less gas, thus saving them money and reducing toxic greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our atmosphere.

  • A lot of focus right now in the life of the average American is on the economy. Given the economic state the world is currently experiencing, it is time that people start focusing on clean, sustainable energy. The GOP accuses that green energy promotion “kills” jobs, and that the regulations of the Clean Air Act will be devastating to the job industry. Where is the proof?
    It seems as though all this rhetoric of “job killing” is coming from the supporters of the wallets of these GOP members. For example, in 2006, 89 percent of ExxonMobil's donations went to Republicans. In the 2012 election cycle thus far, Koch Industries have contributed $430,750 to Republicans, compared to the $16,500 contributed to Democrats. Mr. Issa’s name was on that list, might I note, already receiving a nice contribution of $4,000 from Koch.
    It is time that the American people stand up against the practices really going on behind closed doors. In a study conducted at UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, research found that, over a 10-year period, 5.65 jobs are created for every million dollars invested in the solar energy industry and 5.70 jobs are created for every million dollars invested in the wind energy industry. This is compared to the 3.96 jobs created for every million dollars invested in the coal industry.

  • Not only would green energy create jobs, but it would also reduce the average spending of Americans. The current energy required to power, heat, and cool a house is expensive and unfriendly to the environment. Solar and wind energy is an alternative, one that is sustainable and eco-friendly. Previously mentioned was the cost of fuel. If all cars have to meet a MPG standard aimed at reducing toxic emissions, citizens would pay substantially less at the pump.
    It is shocking that an idea so simple is so hard to promote because industries are pumping millions of dollars annually into the pockets of politicians, making who are supposed to be the voice of the people, the puppet of the industry. In a new age of innovation, sustainability, and clean energy options, it is time that the people reclaim their voice.

K. Taking Action

Are you pissed off yet? You should be! Here are some things you can do:

  1. Send your representatives the report Gas Patch Roulette, that will give them and their staff the data they need to be informed. Get it here:

  1. Contact your local anti-fracking environmental group and join up! Here's a partial list:

Local and State Groups:


STRONGER (State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations):
 STRONGER was formed in 1999 to reinvigorate and carry forward the state review process begun cooperatively in 1988 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). STRONGER is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization whose purpose is to assist states in documenting the environmental regulations associated with the exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas.
Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.Earthworks stands for clean water, healthy communities and corporate accountability.
Western Resource Advocates 
Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is a non-profit environmental law and policy organzation.Our mission is to protect the West’s land, air, and water. Our team of scientists, economists, policy experts and attorneys: 1) advance clean energy to reduce pollution and global climate change; 2) promote urban water conservation and river restoration; and 3) defend special public lands from energy development and unauthorized off-road vehicle travel. We collaborate with other conservation groups, hunters and fishermen, ranchers and others to ensure a sustainable future for the West.
Eerie Rising:
Erie Rising is a grassroots, mom (parent) powered organization, dedicated to protecting our children, our health, our environment and our community, as well as those beyond our reach. Founded by accomplished women, mothers and business owners, Erie Rising is quickly becoming the an effective grassroots mom-powered organization bringing awareness to the issues related to hydraulic fracturing and concerns for children’s health in Colorado and beyond.

Longmont ROAR:
Our group of concerned citizens come from all over Longmont, and from its neighboring rural areas. We share the hope that the City of Longmont will assert its right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our urban community. We want to prevent the wasteful destruction of our environment, preserve our economic vitality and our home values, and conserve Longmont’s water, minerals, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for future generations.

Fracking Colorado:
This site will provides information about fracking, to raise awareness of what is happening in Aurora and Colorado, and anywhere else this method of gas and oil extraction is used.
New Mexico:
Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.Earthworks stands for clean water, healthy communities and corporate accountability.
New York:
Last year, the state issued a draft plan that would allow shale gas drilling under certain conditions.  The state received more than 66,000 public comments on the plan that ran 10-1 in opposition to shale gas drilling according to Albany Times-Union columnist Fred LeBrun.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to decide this year whether to allow shale gas drilling in the state.
The New York Times reported that after a two-year review, Gov. Cuomo intended to lift an effective state-wide moratorium on fracking with exemptions for the watersheds and underground sources used by New York and other cities. The state is revising its regulations.

Catskill Mountainkeeper  has an analysis of flaws in the DEC’s regulations.

Earthworks, Texas

StateImpact Pennsylvania :
StateImpact is a collaboration among NPR and local public radio stations in eight pilot states to examine public policy issues in-depth. The cross-platform reporting network seeks to inform and engage communities with explanatory, data-driven stories focused on how government decisions affect people’s lives.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Pipeline blog
Pilpeline is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's interactive website on news and issues surrounding development of the Marcellus Shale. The Post-Gazette launched Pipeline in February 2011 as a specialty news website that employs multimedia, social media and interactive maps and that curates daily coverage from the PG and other news organizations to provide an authoritative resource for Marcellus Shale news and information

Protecting our Waters
Protecting Our Waters is a Philadelphia-based grassroots nonprofit organization committed to protecting the Delaware, Susquehanna and Ohio River Basins — the state of Pennsylvania — and our region from unconventional gas drilling and other threats to our drinking water, environment, and public health.
Marcellus Protest is an information clearing house about Marcellus Shale gas drilling and activism and related issues. Although this website's primary geographic focus is Western Pennsylvania, also includes content pertaining to the five states in which the Marcellus Shale is located - as well as other Shale gas formations across the U.S.

No Frack Ohio
The No Frack Ohio Coalition is composed of member organizations and individuals who signed on to a Statewide Moratorium letter in the Spring of 2011.  Since the original sign on campaign, these groups and individuals have worked across Ohio on outreach to Elected Officials at all levels of government, landowner education, and mobilizing members for activism.
Ohio Citizen Action
Ohio Citizen Action is 80,000 members who have joined together to prevent pollution. Non-profit and non-partisan, Ohio Citizen Action was founded in 1975.In the past fifteen years, Ohio Citizen Action has developed the ‘good neighbor campaign,’ which uses the power of community organizing to convince major industries to prevent pollution at their facilities. These campaigns have won changes far beyond what federal or state regulations would require at Eramet (Marietta), AK Steel (Middletown), Sunoco Refinery (Toledo), Brush Wellman (Elmore), Lanxess Plastics (Cincinnati), and many others.

Maryland has a moratorium on shale gas development in the state’s portion of the Marcellus Shale while the state prepares an analysis of the issue scheduled to be completed in 2014.  See Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland, Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, June 6, 2011. Accessed online February 20, 2012 at


Both Rockingham County and Washington County have successfully opposed shale gas drilling proposals under local zoning rules.  You can find stories from the Washington Post (Rockingham Co.) and Bristol Herald Courier (Washington Co.) about these decisions.

Shenandoah Valley Network

The Shenandoah Valley Network works to maintain healthy and productive rural landscapes and communities, to protect and restore natural resources, and to strengthen and sustain our region’s agricultural economy. We pursue this mission by supporting strong local citizens’ groups and promoting good local land use and transportation plans, compatible economic development strategies, and effective land protection programs. We serve community groups in six Virginia counties: Frederick, Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rockingham and Augusta.

Southern Environmental Law Center
For over 25 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has leveraged the power of the law to protect the environment of the Southeast—the fastest growing region of the U.S. Working in all three branches of government and with more than 100 partner groups, this nonprofit organization shapes, implements, and enforces the laws and policies that determine the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the landscapes and communities you love.

  1. Buy the documentary GASLAND on DVD and show it to friends and family. Here is its creator talking about it and where to get it:

  1. Go to Earthjustice's Citizens' Tip Guide for tons of good, step-by-step advice on how to protect your community. This is one of the very best resources I found: