Utica Observer-Dispatch Gets It Wrong, Very Wrong
UticaOD.com recently ran an appalling piece entitled “Fracking up close and personal isn’t a pretty sight” that was such a biased and infactual article that we had to issue a response. The article attempts to portray the “bad” side of natural gas exploration but provides no hard facts, relying instead upon unsubstantiated accusations, assertions and assumptions. Why is it we see so much of this shoddy journalism? Is anybody in the media checking facts anymore?
Among the many accusations made are assertions that natural gas exploration is harmful because it is different than “old” fracturing, is contaminating the Susquehanna River, is releasing carcinogens and radioactivity, is generating too much traffic as industry suppliers drive in and out of the towns where they are working, and of course our all time favorite lie and distortion- that the natural gas is being shipped overseas. This all reminds me of the saying that you can say things as often as you want but it does not make them true.
Where to begin? The author incorrectly states that there is an “old” and “new” fracturing in regards to fracturing fluids. He goes on to state that this changed only after the “gas companies succesfully lobbied Congress to exempt it from the 1972 Safe Drinking Water Act”. Interesting that an owner of a Farm Garden Center is an expert on the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids but I digress.
The reality is the composition of fracturing fluids was not magically changed in 2005. The fluids have had the same components for decades. Their purpose to provide lubrication, and prevent corrosion and the accumulation of bacteria during natural gas production. In fact, the reference to the 2005 Energy Policy Act is about the only thing the author gets right. However, it was not an exemption, it was a clarification after an Alabama court ruled that the practice of fracturing should be regulated under the underground injection program (a requirement it was never meant to be subjected to and hadn’t been since fracturing began decades earleir). The U.S. Congress seeing this misinterpretation and knowing that fracturing was not an underground disposal process (as UIC is intended to regulate) exempted the activity. It did so only after the completion of an EPA study which found no threat to water resources from fracturing. Oh, and it specifically outlawed the use of diesel fuel which the author claims is present in most hydraulic fracturing solutions. At best this is an individual speaking on a topic of which he has no knowledge, at worst its an outright lie. Also, hydraulic fracturing is tightly regulated, a full understanding of these regulations can be found here and here
The author then espouses his great understanding of carcinogenic chemicals, focusing on those involved with gas exploration. Of course, he didn’t mention any of the ways people come in contact with carcinogens each day, for example, by applying scented body lotion to one’s skin. The scent is pure perfume and the only way these perfumes will stick to a human body is through the use of parabens, which are carcinogens. Additionally, such varied items as shampoos, shaving cream, spray on tan, makeup and some foods also contain parabens, as they act as preservatives and are used in common every day products because they are cheap and the exposure levels are unharmful. We consume many things that in larger quantities could be harmful. It is the amount and the level of exposure that is important and determines toxicity, not the fact an item is carcinogenic in some quantity. Of course we wouldn’t expect someone who manages a garden center to have a detailed understanding of toxicity, how it is reached and levels at which certain chemicals can be harmful. This is nuanced and important. Clearly the author is only trying to drive an agenda which these inconvenient facts do not support.
The article further claims that water wells in Pennsylvania have been contaminated because of natural gas exploration. This is simply not the case. The water wells that some claim have been affected by natural gas development have not. Natural gas is a naturally occurring and, the flaming faucet in Josh Fox’s infamous Gasland scene had previously been known to have natural gas in it. There are, throughout our region, many people who can turn on their faucets and light them on fire because of naturally occurring methane in their well water, where there is no hydraulic fracturing. This is a problem that is rampant in Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York. Don’t take my for it though, check out Saba-2011 Hydraulic fracturing, which was published by the National Academy of Sciences. Also, let’s not forget Crystal Stroud and her tearful story which was later found to be bunk. Lot’s of claims, none found to be related to natural gas production.
The author also claims flow back water is being dumped into the Susquehanna River. Flow back water is not being dumped in the Susquehanna River. Rather, it goes into closed loop systems and is recycled. Where it is not recycled it is properly disposed of in underground injection wells (mostly in Ohio). There is contamination of the Susquehanna River, though. Raw sewage (580,000 gallons) was recently dumped into the river when a sewage treatment plant’s wall collapsed.
Another mischaracterization is that the natural gas is radioactive-it is not. Pesky facts.
I also beg to differ with the author’s interpretation of trucking impacts. The hundreds of trucks seen transporting different things to and from the well sites are a great sign – a sign of desperately needed prosperity. This increase in activity reflects an increase in the the local economy. Each person working at a wellsite or driving a truck from place to place needs somewhere to eat, fuel for the trucks and someone to supply all their other needs. The local economy in places such as Towanda and Montrose is booming, booming with opportunity for everyone who lives and works there.
As far as roads are concerned, gas companies have entered into road use agreements with every town where they are working. When the roads break or wear down, the gas companies fix them, many times leaving them better than they were before the gas companies came to the area. Millions and millions of dollars have been poured into communities for these purposes.
Governor Cuomo seems to be trying to help New York out of its economic devastation through natural gas development. The economy is in horrific shape and unemployment is far too high. Gas exploration is exactly what New York State needs if it ever wants to see the booming economy we once knew. Gas exploration will keep families here and allow them to live with the dignity that comes from gainful employment. Right now, New York is seeing residents move out of the state instead of in, which hurts the state in more ways than one.
Finally, Marcellus gas is not being shipped overseas. The only export terminal for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) that currently exists in the United States sits in far away Alaska. There is no pipeline taking Marcellus gas to this terminal. This terminal is not shipping Marcellus gas overseas. That simple really. A more educated follower of natural gas development would know this very simple fact.
Unfortunately, the author of this UticaOD.com piece chose to ignore facts and science and instead offer his speculative unfounded views to the citizens of Utica. More unfortunately, the Utica Observer-Dispatch printed this ignorant work.