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       My father was an important executive in the natural gas industry.  Before he died in 1997, he had been president of a municipal gas company, president of the Southern Gas Association, and a board member of the American Gas Association.  When my grammar school science book worried me by stating that the world would run out of fossil fuels within a century, he reassured me that we have enough coal to last a millennium and new deposits of oil and natural gas were being found every day.

    Still, toward the end of his career, I noticed that he was traveling farther afield either by helicopter to drilling rigs far out in the Gulf of Mexico or by private jet to Algeria to investigate new discoveries of natural gas. Was it getting harder to find gas? He would have been delighted at the current boom right here in America in hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits to release their natural gas. A chip off the old block, I have reveled, as he would have, in the dramatic results now being achieved with this method.

    However, my views have now been completely reversed by two documentaries, Gasland and Gasland Part II, and by the all-out and totally unscrupulous efforts by the gas industry to discredit the information provided by those two films.  I have little love for environmentalists, but, when they are right, we must pay attention, and this is just such a case.

       Both films are by Josh Fox, who won me over to his cause with both hard facts and sad human interest stories. He lives in Pennsylvania in the Delaware River Basin, which is over the huge Marcellus Shale deposit. He was offered about $100,000 for drilling rights on his property. He decided to investigate. What he found was shocking.

        The Marcellus Formation encompasses large regions of Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, and other areas. It is one of several such deposits in North America and throughout the world. The shale contains massive amounts of natural gas, which is mainly methane. This gas is recovered by a process of drilling down through bedrock to the deposit, redirecting the drill to a horizontal path deep within the shale, and pumping liquid into the hole at extreme pressure. This fractures the shale, releasing the gas which then flows to the surface under pressure.

        Gas industry ads blanketing television now are intended to show you how safe this process is and how we all benefit from it. The ads show how this “fracked” shale is separated by thousands of feet of rock from the aquifers high above and how steel casings and cement liners prevent any gas from escaping into the aquifer.

    Unfortunately, data provided by the industry itself shows that about 5% of cement liners fail immediately, and, over time, more than half fail. When the liners fail, the gas is free to leak, polluting the ground, the water, and the air. The result is tap water that contains methane, other gases, and chemicals. You have likely seen the iconic films of people in affected areas lighting their taps on fire. The documentaries capture extraordinarily numerous cases of severe gas pollution. Special FLIR cameras captured scenes of massive amounts of methane escaping from the drilling sites, polluting the air. In some cases shown, this gas catches on fire, producing frightening displays. Unburned, methane gas is 21 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Texas environmental scientists have proven that there is more air pollution in the Fort Worth area from these wells than from all of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles there.

    However, that is not the only source of pollution. The drilling fluid used to lubricate the drill and the fracking water used to liberate the gas contain harmful chemicals that the industry has neatly shielded by law from clean air and water regulations. By law, they do not even have to reveal what these chemicals are. These chemicals, many known carcinogens and neurotoxins, are also found in the drinking water of people in the areas where drilling has occurred. The industry claims disingenuously that the water was always naturally polluted and demands that the residents prove that the drilling caused the pollution. Prior to the drilling residents had no occasion to test the sweet well water that generations of their families had used in good health. Post-drilling tests show the contamination, but without pre-drilling samples for comparison, it is tough to make a case in court.

    Industry ads show idyllic farms with small drilling rigs, hardly disturbing the pastoral scene. In fact, the industry bulldozes entire forests to put up hundreds of wells, large “condensate tanks,” and huge amounts of equipment and piping. Hundreds of trucks bring in equipment, concrete, drilling fluid, and fracking water over newly bulldozed roads.  No effort is made to prevent soil and hazardous material from running off these large blighted areas into streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers. There is very little oversight of this destruction because politicians are totally in bed with industry on this. The films document the political corruption. There is a revolving door between politics and industry in which high level government officials leave government to work for industry. Political contributions buy support for the unsupportable.

    Fox in Gasland Part II presents the case of a well-to-do Texan, who had just built his family a magnificent dream home, complete with ponds and a swimming pool. The Texan was offered money for the drilling rights on his property, but he refused. However, his neighbors did not refuse, therefore the family soon found themselves surrounded with gas wells. Gas leakage from the wells was such that his family was exposed to the toxic fumes no matter which direction the wind blew. His water well spewed methane along with polluted water. His family became ill. The documentary shows the children suffering from nosebleeds. Tests of the air revealed dozens of toxic gases. Had he accepted the drilling company offers, the money would not have begun to cover the medical expenses his family suffered. The drilling companies actually drilled under his home. They could do this because, in this country, few of us own the mineral rights under our property. He had to move away.

    The documentaries claim that the fracking or, more likely, the disposal of drilling and fracking fluids causes earthquakes. These fluids are often sequestered by pumping them under extreme pressure deep into the earth, often near fault lines. I suspect, but it is not mentioned in the documentary, that these quakes may be a factor in the failure of many cement casings.

     Both documentaries show in bleak detail how all across this country, thousands upon thousands of these wells have destroyed the once beautiful countryside, polluting the air and water, killing the wildlife, and driving people from land that they have lived on for generations. In Gasland Part II, Fox shows how fracking has now become a worldwide problem. Similar shale deposits can be found on every continent. He takes you to Australia where farmers show him their water well, which is polluted with natural gas. The farmer ignites his water well head, resulting in a fiery display like the Lillehammer Olympic Flame. The farmer points out that Australia is very dry, so farmers depend for their lives and livelihood on aquifers that are now being polluted forever.

    Gasland interviews a Wyoming rancher whose water has been so polluted by the drilling that he does not know how his cattle can bear to drink it. He describes frequent fogs of brown gas leaking from wells, blanketing his home and herds. You may now be eating meat from cattle raised in this environment. Much of our country is being destroyed by fracking. Just the sight of dead wildlife, poisoned streams, sick children, burning wells, and government and industry mendacity and collusion will disgust you.

       I have made recent trips around the Southwest and across the country. The scale of fracking going on is amazing. Motels in Texas and Louisiana are doubling their prices because drillers take up all of the rooms. After standing in line behind a dozen drillers at one motel in New Mexico, I was asked by the desk clerk what drilling company I was with. The documentaries show aerial shots of vast areas of drilling pads across the country. The drilling frenzy is out of hand, and control and oversight of it are out the window.

    Water is becoming scarce throughout the world. Fracking requires trillions of gallons of water that then becomes totally unusable and hazardous. In California, the prime area for proposed fracking is the shale under the Central Valley, where water shortage is already a serious problem. The valley is where the bulk of this nation’s produce is grown. Imagine all of that produce becoming unfit to eat. If we do not stop plans to frack there, we will be totally fracked!

Originally posted to Skipper Al on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 01:43 PM PST.

Also republished by Maryland Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Quick! Before They Stop Us! (7+ / 0-)

    This will become an identifiable national crisis, i.e. Time magazine cover or CNN fear headline "are you at risk?" only when it's too late to do anything about it and the national collection of aquifers is hopelessly poisoned.

    To the hungry, God is a loaf of bread. - Gandhi

    by bisleybum on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 02:25:25 PM PST

    •  There are other problems than water pollution, too (5+ / 0-)

      Here in Texas, where fracking goes on in residential neighborhoods and next to schools, etc, the air pollution aspect has turned out to be another harmful effect.  

      Especially during the fracking process, but basically from then on from the tank farms, compressor stations, well pads,  etc, all sorts of harmful vapors are constantly vented.  Shale Test is going around taking infrared video of toxic vapor being constantly released from these facilities.  The people stuck in their homes in this hell are suffering all sorts of health problems from the fumes.  Not many people can afford to walk away on a poisoned home that no one would buy.

      Another problem is the massive amount of earthquakes caused by this process.  Not so much the fracking itself, but  the billions of gallons of poisoned radioactive water and chemicals are produced by fracking (which the industry calls 'brine' or 'saltwater') that are dumped into injection wells because God forbid the frackers reuse their waste water in drought-ravaged Texas.

      North Texas is having an absurd amount of earthquakes, often multiple times per day.

      There are so many bad aspects to this whole process.

      "It was clear that any research would be in the nature of a post mortem." - Rachel Carson

      by todamo13 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 06:38:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The level of arrogance, (13+ / 0-)

    that is required to claim that you can't know what they are putting in your water because it is a trade secret is beyond absurd. If there is any doubt about who puts profits above public welfare, just find out which politicians votes to allow this travesty. You can be sure they are of the conservative variety.

    The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

    by Pirogue on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 02:37:53 PM PST

    •  Even if they're "Democrats" (9+ / 0-)

      Money buys all politicians and there's lots of money out there for this.

    •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
      The level of arrogance that is required to claim that you can't know what they are putting in your water because it is a trade secret is beyond absurd.
      Hydraulic fracturing operations are conducted thousands of feet below potable water aquifers and there is not any basis to say that a hydraulic fracturing operations are putting toxicants "in your water."
      •  Contradicted in this Diary that you seem (7+ / 0-)

        not to have read. Yes, the fracking goes on deep down, but then the well casings fracture, allowing pressurized methane and fluids to escape into the ground, onto the surface, and into the air.

        There is a problem not noted here. In some areas, methane was in the aquifers naturally before fracking began. This greatly complicates the legal situation, even though such areas used to be quite limited in extent.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 03:33:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
          but then the well casings fracture
          Well casings are constructed of high strength steel and the occurrence of casing failure is very, very infrequent.   And hydraulic fracturing does not cause any such casing failures.
          allowing pressurized methane and fluids to escape into the ground, onto the surface, and into the air.
          A sustained annular casing pressure in a well does not mean that the well is leaking methane or any other substance into the air.   A well with a sustained casing pressure problem can also be remediated.
          In some areas, methane was in the aquifers naturally before fracking began.

          This is a rather frequent and widespread phenomena according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

          •  Casing failure (5+ / 0-)

            It is the cement casings that are tasked with preventing methane and fracking fluids from leaking into the aquifer. The industry admits that 5% of these casings fail immediately and 50% do over time. This allows leakage out the sides or to the top of the wellhead, polluting the water and air. The documentaries show methane and groundwater bubbling out the top of a wellhead in which a cement liner has failed. FLIR camera footage shows clouds of methane gas escaping from a fracking field at night.

            •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
              The industry admits that 5% of these casings fail immediately and 50% do over time.
              The oil and gas industry does not make any such claim.   This is a claim from Gasland that is Josh Fox's view of industry information, but it is an erroneous rendition.

              The cement installed during the final well construction process is not a liner.  It seals the space between the borehole and the exterior diameter of the steel casing that is installed.   If a steel casing is not properly centered in a borehole before cementing, then such a problem can cause an underground blow out, but these don't happen very often.....certainly nothing close to 5% of the time.  

              Here is Michigan, the last time we had any kind of serious problem from a natural gas well was at Williamsburg, MI in the mid-1970s when a natural gas well blew out because of an improperly performed casing cementing operation.

              Hydraulic fracturing cannot cause a well cementing failure.   Josh Fox's insistence that hydraulic fracturing caused the problems at Dimock, PA when the industry has indicated that it was a cementing failure, and then continuing to claim that the Dimock, PA problems were caused by hydraulic fracturing even after such the cause was known....is a demonstration of Gasland scientific misconduct.

          •  More horeshit (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snoopydawg, OHdog

            You know what the failure rate is, both because it's in Gasland and this diary: 5% at installation and 50% after a decade. Don't lie. Have some respect for yourself.

            Also, cut it with all the jargon. You didn't need to say "sustained annular casing pressure". You did it because you think obscurity helps your point. Have some respect for your audience.

            And of course the fracking doesn't cause the casing failure. The immense pressure from being buried under thousands of feet of rock does. That point is obvious, and your pivot away from it even more so. Stop being a shill.

      •  Lake Superior: bullshit. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snoopydawg, OHdog

        Much as you -- and Fishgrease -- disagree, the fact is cement fails. You might've heard of such a case a few years ago. Block 252, Macondo. Also known as Deepwater Horizon.

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 05:44:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The reason that the cement failed for that well (0+ / 0-)

          was that the operator did not properly install the required number of bore hole centralizers and they did not properly cement the casing in the borehole.   As a result, the well blew out during the cementing operation, causing the disaster [along with a concomitant failure of the blow out preventer to shut in the well].

        •  And, conflating a well cement failure (0+ / 0-)

          and the problems caused by such a failure at a shale gas well into something alleged to be cause by hydraulic fracturing is not a valid environmental enforcement approach to addressing problems which do occur with oil/gas industry facilities.   Yet this is exactly what Josh Fox does with respect to the Dimock, PA problems.

  •  Is it true that the wells are short-lived, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, antirove, cotterperson, todamo13

    that the productivity plunges after one year and dwindles to nothing after five?

  •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
    Both films are by Josh Fox, who won me over to his cause with both hard facts and sad human interest stories. He lives in Pennsylvania in the Delaware River Basin, which is over the huge Marcellus Shale deposit. He was offered about $100,000 for drilling rights on his property. He decided to investigate. What he found was shocking.
    This is an act of deception in the promotion of the Gasland films because it is an attempt to show Josh Fox's decision to "investigate" as some sort of a personal story with the offered drilling rights....when Gasland and Gasland II are both works that were heavily financed by HBO and the Park Foundation.

    Gasland and Gasland II are not documentaries.  What these videos are is entertainment workproduct that is drama, performance art, conflation and fabrication.   Gasland and Josh Fox workproducts are not valid environmental enforcement analysis, not valid environmental health analysis, not valid description of the causation of events and problems in the oil and gas industry, not valid or credible medical evidence or public health claims and not valid description of applicable statutory requirements on the oil and gas industry.

    When Josh Fox tells you in Pink Sky, for example, that hydraulic fracturing has something to do with breast cancer, this is a fabricated and erroneous claim made for dramatic purposes and which has no medical or scientific credibility.    

    The drilling fluid used to lubricate the drill and the fracking water used to liberate the gas contain harmful chemicals that the industry has neatly shielded by law from clean air and water regulations.
    This is erroneous.

    For effluents discharged to waters of the United States, such effluents are regulated by the Federal Clean Water Act.   All information about effluent data for fluids or process wastewater discharged by an an oil and gas operator to surface water that is obtained by EPA or a state environmental agency is precluded from being considered as a trade secret under the Federal Clean Water Act at 33 U.S.C. Section 1318(b).  

    Similarly, any constituent of an atmospheric discharge emission is 'emission data' which EPA is precluded as considering as a trade secret and must be disclosable.  See Federal Clean Air Act at 42 U.S.C. Section 7414(c).

    Special FLIR cameras captured scenes of massive amounts of methane escaping from the drilling sites, polluting the air.
    These cameras do not quantify emissions, they only visualize emissions.   As a result, there isn't any way of saying that emissions are massive from viewing a FLIR camera produced image.   Determination of the amount of methane emissions from a vent requires a total hydrocarbon analyzer or EPA approved method which can determine quantitative emissions for a given averaging time.
    •  Oh hey what do you know (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Munchkn, Calamity Jean, OHdog

      Right on schedule! I see you've added a new factoid to your repertoire.

    •  So, according to you (6+ / 0-)

      it would only be a documentary if it had not been funded, and it had met the standards of peer-reviewed science? And, also according to you, we can always find out what is in fracking fluid because it necessarily escapes into air and water where the protective shield laws don't apply?

      You fail the smell test.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 03:39:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gasland is not an attempt to meet the (0+ / 0-)

        standards of peer-reviewed science.  What Gasland entertainment workproduct is ....is evasion of sciences;  it is a form of anti-science as a pseudo-science.   Part of Josh Fox's performance art is the making of claims that what is presented in Gasland is scientifically valid when Gasland is really only scientific misconduct.

        Democrats are supposed to be the party that does not confuse entertainment with policy.  

        If EPA or the states have either effluent data or emission data in hand from a discharge or an emission from oil/gas site process equipment, the public is absolutely entitled to gain access to that information because there is a statutory bar against a trade secret claim for such information.  

  •  A Brave And Informative Post. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Munchkn, todamo13, corwinabell
  •  The claims portrayed in Gasland entertainment (0+ / 0-)

    products about methane emissions from shale gas production making natural gas to electricity worse than coal to electricity - the claim by Howarth/Ingraffea - have all been rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

    All of the Gasland claims that the oil and gas industry and hydraulic fracturing being exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are all erroneous claims that are made for dramatic and entertainment purposes in Gasland.

    In Gasland, all of the cases depicted in that video of flaming faucets claimed to be caused by oil and gas industry operation are also false claims and demonstrably erroneous.

  •  Just so you know, (7+ / 0-)

    the environmentalists have ALWAYS been right.
    Humans can't survive without a healthy ecosphere. It's just the simple truth--common sense.

    I don't know why you wouldn't be on the side of environmentalists. We're only trying to save the planet for everyone, you included.

    •  I'll be writing shortly about the BREATHE ACt, (0+ / 0-)

      a proposal supported by virtually the entire environmental movement, which would damage provisions of the Clean Air Act that Senator Muskie himself put there by deregulating all hydrogen sulfide emission limitations at refineries and paper plants and other facilities across the United State....and this is misconduct directly suborned by Josh Fox and the Gasland conflation/fabrication bubble.

      •  Okay will study that (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Munchkn, Calamity Jean, melo

        But I can't help but think you are a little too much on the side of the extractors who really don't care about us or the planet. Now you are trying to deny that the extractors have special loopholes to escape accountability for the results of their profit-making actions.

        I haven't even seen a Josh Fox movie but I know that my immediate countryside is being chopped into fragments, pipelines all over, there are horrendous loud noises from compressors in the far backwoods that were never there before, and our governors (Dem and Rep) have made sure that the extractors won't have to pay too much for wrecking our state even though we have a Constitution guaranteeing us a clean environment.

        One either has to live with the anxiety of cognitive dissonance and the destruction of one's integrity, or take a stand for what one knows is truly right.

      •  Out of curiosity, I went and looked up BREATHE (0+ / 0-)

        Surprise surprise, you're lying about that too!

        Bringing Reductions to Energy's Airborne Toxic Health Effects Act or the BREATHE Act - Amends the Clean Air Act to repeal prohibitions against: (1) aggregating emissions from any oil or gas exploration or production well and emissions from any pipeline compressor or pump station with emissions from other similar units, whether or not such units are in a contiguous area or under common control, to determine whether such units or stations are major sources of listed toxic air pollutants under such Act; (2) aggregating such emissions for any purpose under such Act, in the case of any oil or gas exploration or production well; and (3) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listing an oil and gas production well as an area source category of toxic air pollutants under such Act.

        Requires the Administrator to: (1) issue a final rule adding hydrogen sulfide to the list of hazardous air pollutants; and (2) revise such list within 365 days after issuing such rule to include categories and subcategories of major sources and area sources of hydrogen sulfide, including oil and gas wells.

        Its adding hydrogen sulfide to the Act, not removing it! Jesus, you've got no hesitation about lying at all, do you?
  •  I'd of wished you had done some more thinking (0+ / 0-)

    than watching a couple films that are decidedly opinionated. What if you'd watched a couple films by the oil industry? I suspect there are less biased sources.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 07:43:24 PM PST

  •  Fracking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, WakeUpNeo, OHdog

    I grew up in the industry, and, as I indicated in the introduction, I wanted desperately for fracking to be a good thing. However, I have been to the areas being fracked three times in the last two years. I have found that the wildcatting attitude of drillers seeking a quick buck is leading to shortcuts which endanger our environment. I have published essays in which I have excoriated environmentalists for their excesses, but this time I have reluctantly joined their cause. I want an America that is energy independent, but being as pollyannaish as Lake Superior will just foster overlooking real problems in the rush to get there. We need to slow down and do this right -- and only in areas where it can be done safely.

  •  Why in the world (0+ / 0-)

    did you say that you have little love for environmentalists?

    •  Still trying appeal to people like Lake superior (0+ / 0-)

      who will in fact never change their opinions because their opinions are really soneone else's.

      Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

      by OHdog on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 06:37:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Environmentalists (0+ / 0-)

             A few years back, Southern California experienced a series of vicious attacks by "environmentalists" such as ELF, burning hundreds of apartment units under construction and burning SUVs at dealerships. Less extreme environmentalists were blocking many worthwhile projects. Unions were using enviromental laws and regulations to hold contracts hostage until government and developers agreed to employ union workers for the jobs. As soon as the project labor agreements were signed, the environmental disputes were dropped.

              In San Diego there are so-called "vernal ponds." In winter, water collects in depressions of the land and fairy shrimp (brine shrimp) hatch from cysts in the soil. Often, these ponds are just ruts in dirt roads on private property. Environmentalists claimed that the fairy shrimp in our county were a unique species that required protection. Since these brine shrimp were ubiquitous in the area, any project could be blocked by claiming that it would destroy shrimp habitat, whether the project were widening a highway, building a school or factory, etc.              

              In this atmosphere, I penned a humorous article suggesting that, as Shakespeare had said, "The first we do, let's kill all of the lawyers" (King Henry VI, Part II), we should add environmentalists to that proscription.   It was published in "San Diego Mensan" and in my book, "'Sea Story!" & Other Sketches."

  •  Thanks for this. (0+ / 0-)

    This thread is probably dead and buried, but I liked your current diary and went over some past ones.

    I grew up in the industry, and, as I indicated in the introduction, I wanted desperately for fracking to be a good thing.
    I've been through the same process. I first saw fracking proposed at the Permian Basin Oil Show some time back in the late '80s - early '90s. My dad worked in the industry and at that point, just about all the conventional oil was tapped out and the area was hurting. Both he and my mom worked as oil and gas equipment designers, and fracking held out hope for a lot of people I liked.
    I turned against it when Chesapeake land men in the Barnett first turned neighbours against each other. In short order, gas production cranked up the pollution in the area way beyond it's already high level.
    I've lived in rural England for eight years and still get nosebleeds. Now they're talking of fracking here. It will be safe. It will be different than it is in America. It will make everyone rich. The most active people in the anti-fracking movement here are ex-oilfield workers who know the lies when they hear them. Thanks for adding your voice.

    "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

    by northsylvania on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 03:46:25 AM PST

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