Appalachian Basin

Mr. Krancer Goes to Washington

**Cross posted at Energy In Depth

This week Michael L. Krancer, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, traveled to Washington, D.C. to give testimony to the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee regarding Pennsylvania’s experience in developing their shale resources.  Secretary Krancer’s testimony highlighted the safe and responsible development occurring in the Commonwealth and the long and successful history of regulating oil and gas development at a state level making federal intervention in such matters un-necessary and ill-advised.

Krancer began his comments by highlighting the fact that Pennsylvania hasn’t received this much attention on oil and gas development since 1859 when Edwin Drake struck “black gold” in Titusville. Of course he is right, as production occurring in the state has drastically shifted natural gas supplies in the United States and has awoken other nations to the potential of this resource as well.   Of course with great notoriety comes great criticism a point Krancer took head on when he stated, “Increased well drilling [in Pennsylvania] has also brought with it unfounded skepticism about Pennsylvania’s ability to properly oversee the oil and gas industry”.

While Krancer’s message was appropriately tailored to the Commonwealth, the points he made are applicable in most other oil and gas producing states as well.   Below find a rundown of highlights of Krancer’s testimony.

Point 1: State regulatory efforts are not only succeeding in protecting precious water and environmental resources but are also encouraging industry innovation.  As noted by countless EPA officials.

  • “I have no information that state’s aren’t doing a good job already [regulating fracing]”, Steve Heare, Director EPA Drinking Water Protection Division.
  • “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water”, Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.
  • These statement match those by regulators in fifteen other states with decades of experience regulating hydraulic fracturing.
  • Krancer also pointed to regulatory efforts in the past year which has led to an industry-wide increase in water recycling and reuse with 80% of flowback in the Commonwealth now being recycled for use in additional hydraulic fractures.

Point 2: Krancer rightfully points out his job is to protect public safety and the environment based on sound science however the topic of hydraulic fracturing has encouraged some to offer “very suspect science” according to Krancer.  In his testimony he highlighted a few examples.

  • In referring to the May 2011 Duke Study Krancer had significant criticism, “the Duke paper seemed to be based on only a few selected samples in a selected area with previously documented problems,” adding “the fact is that the methane in the area being seen is the product of shallower, Upper Devonian formations about 1,000 to 3,000 feet deep, not the deeper shale formations which are about 7,000 feet deep. Yet the paper improperly attempts to link the source to the deeper Marcellus Shale”.  Krancer would also question Duke’s unwillingness to share their data and sample locations suggesting this action raises credibility questions in and of itself.  EID debunked the Duke Study previously here.
  • Cornell Howarth Greenhouse Gas Emissions Study. “Howarth’s supposed study has been rejected by almost every legitimate source in the scientific community. Even Howarth himself admits that the data in his study is, in his words, “limited”, “unpublished”, “really low quality”, “lousy”, and from “weird powerpoints.” He also echoed concerns levied by Carnegie-Mellon researchers who in a later study declared that Howarth’s was not using credible data and made some biased assumptions to support his findings. EID was the first of many to debunk this study, located here.

Point 3: Putting Impacts Into Perspective Using Pennsylvania as a model. Krancer also took to task some of the more outrageous claims being levied by critics and the anti-development community at large.

  • On water contamination.  “There has been a misconception that the hydraulic fracturing of wells can or has caused contamination of water wells.  This is false.  Hydraulic fracturing is not new in Pennsylvania; it has been going on here since about the 1950’s and has been standard practice since the 1980’s.”
  • Adding to this is a statement Krancer quoted former DEP Secretary by John Hanger who in October 2010 stated, “Pennsylvania has not had one case in which fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground returned to contaminate groundwater.”
  • On water withdrawals. “Marcellus Fracing is the smallest major water user in Pennsylvania using only 0.2% of the daily water withdrawn which ranks it ninth of the top nine water users in the state.  Marcellus drilling uses only 1.9 million gallons of water per day (MGD).  This is in stark contrast to power plants which use 6.43 billion galas per day (BGD).  Other major users include public water suppliers (1.42 BGD); industrial users (770 MGD); Aquaculture (524 MGD); Private Water Wells (152 MGD); Mining (95.7 MGD); livestock (61.8 MGD); and irrigation (24.3 MGD).”
  • On radiation in water. “DEP recently announced the results of our in-stream water quality monitoring for radioactive material in seven of the Commonwealth’s rivers.  All samples showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of gross alpha and gross beta radiation.  Those tests were conducted in November and December of 2010 at stations downstream of wastewater treatment plants that accept flowback and production water from Marcellus Shale drilling.”
  • On air quality. “DEP took the proactive step of launching a short-term ambient air quality sampling initiative in the southwest, northeast and north central regions of Pennsylvania in April 2010.  While concentrations of certain natural gas constituents were detected during these studies DEP did not identify any concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale Activities.  DEP also tested for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone, but did not detect concentrations above National Ambient Air Quality Standards at any of the sampling sites.

Secretary Krancer’s well presented testimony confirms what most living in shale producing states already know.  That the safe and responsible development of shale resources occurs daily with minimal environmental impacts and maximum economic reward.

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