Appalachian Basin

Resnikoff’s Latest Study Misleads Public

Marvin Resnikoff is well known in the Marcellus region for his anti-shale stance.  He has been the subject of at least four posts written by our counterparts in the Marcellus, each highlights the fallacies, bizarre claims, and faulty science that Mr. Resnikoff has offered in an attempt to instill fear to block shale development in its tracks.  Now, Resnikoff has made his way to our state with his latest report titled “Hydraulic Fracturing Radiological Concerns for Ohio.”  The 37-page study is devoid of credible science, and it’s mostly just the same alarmism Mr. Resnikoff is known for in New York and Pennsylvania.

Reznikoff’s latest research begins with the following sentence:

“It is a known fact that the Marcellus and Utica shale formations are radioactive, with concentrations of radium-226 that are up to 30 times background.”

An astute reader will check the citation for this claim and when they do they find Resnikoff’s entire house of cards is built upon a citation of his own work.  Of course, it’s worth mentioning that work was thoroughly debunked by Ralph Johnson, an attorney who has practiced radiation law for over 30 years and led the U.S. Department of Justice Radiation Litigation Team. His research in 2012 on this same subject, by the way, was equally bogus – and EID has a brand new video explaining why.

This time around, Mr. Resnikoff sets his sights on Ohio and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM), as well as technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM). Let’s go through some of Mr. Resnikoff’s more egregious assertions.

In describing Ohio regulation of radioactive materials at landfills, Mr. Resnikoff mistakenly reports that field testing is becoming more widespread, but still not required.  While this may be true for some landfills, every solid waste landfill that accepts TENORM from oil and gas operations is required to test TENORM entering their facilities. From the Ohio EPA:

“In order to receive drilling wastes containing TENORM, landfill operators must ensure sample analysis of the waste received meets the exemption requirement of less than five picocuries per gram above background for combined radium 226 and 228.  If combined radium 226 and 228 levels of drilling wastes are determined to be more than 5 picocuries per gram above background, facility operators must obtain authorization from ODH BRP in order to process the drilling wastes for the purpose of dilution.  Regulatory requirements for TENORM can be found in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3701:1-43.” (Ohio EPA)

When further discussing the NORM/TENORM issue, Mr. Resnikoff is fond of referencing this magic number of 15,000 pico curies per liter of radium in brine as a cause for concern.  In his footnotes he claims that he got this number from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) report titled “An Investigation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Oil and Gas Wells in New York State.”  After a reviewing the document, there’s no mention of any brine containing radium with levels of 15,000 pico curies per liter.  In fact, the levels reported in the study are actually hundreds of times lower. From NYDEC:

“The brine radium results, 0.95 and 24 picocuries per milliliter (pCi/ml) for one sample, and 3.8 and 7.7 pCi/ml for the other (Ra-226 and Ra-228 respectively), pose no threat to public health or the environment.” -An Investigation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Oil and Gas Wells in New York State,  p. S-2

“The 29 oil well samples were of more diversified origin, including four brine, one scale, six sludge, eight sediment, one water, two oil, and six wax samples. (Wax, or paraffin, may coat the interior of some pipes as a consequence of oil abstraction.) No brine, scale, wax, or oil samples appeared elevated”- An Investigation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Oil and Gas Wells in New York State, p. S-3

Furthermore, the NYDEC states that these findings are nothing to cause alarm:

“The concentrations of NORM found on oil and gas production equipment and wastes pose no threat to the public health and the environment.” (p. S-1)

So why is Mr. Resnikoff citing this report as a reason to incite fear? Your guess is as good as ours, but it’s certainly not supported by the evidence he provides.

Of course, no flimsily researched study about the “harms” of shale development is complete without mentioning the good ole’ “Halliburton Loophole,” which Mr. Resnikoff make sure to include. Just to take a quick step back: this provision is referring to language adopted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which simply reaffirmed the fact that states have always taken the lead in regulating hydraulic fracturing. And it should be noted, the 2005 energy bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support — with 74 “yea” votes in the U.S. Senate, including votes from the former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, then a senator from Colorado; and then-Senator Barack Obama.

This time around, Mr. Resnikoff is using that talking point to declare that Ohio’s hands are somehow tied from doing anything to regulate NORM.

“State governments, like Ohio, say their hands are tied in regulating NORM from drilling operations due to the Cheney Amendment. Also known as the Halliburton Amendment, this loophole can be found in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.”

It’s an odd statement, mostly because the state does regulate NORM and TENORM.  In fact the Ohio Department of Health states they have some of the most stringent TENORM rules in the nation.

“The state of Ohio has some of the most restrictive regulations in the country regarding TENORM.”- Ohio Department of Health NORM/TENORM Information Sheet

Resnikoff’s next assertion shows his knowledge of oil and gas is limited at best.  Mr. Resnikoff claims: “After lining the vertical hole part way down with cement casing, drillers move horizontally through shale rock.”

Okay, deep breath. Let’s take a look at what actually happens during this process.

When developing a well, the operator uses 6-7 layers of steel and cement casing to ensure groundwater is protected.  There are multiple layers of cement casing, and protections extend from the top of the well all the way to end of the horizontal lateral.  At no point is there steel casing in the vertical section exposed without cement surrounding it when the well is in operation.

Granted, Mr. Resnikoff has a long history of being an alarmist, so his casual dismissal of facts and evidence isn’t really surprising. In fact, Mr. Resnikoff wrote a book titled “Living Without Landfills,” which was reviewed National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP). It should be noted that the NCRP committee found that his book was “misleading,” because it: (1) “excluded relevant information,” (2) “contained misstatements of fact,” (3) “contained many exaggerations,” (4) “exhibited bias,” and (5) “contained many instances of faulty logic.”

Like his book, this report is misleading, exhibited bias and contained many instances of faulty logic. Just another day at the office, it seems.

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