Top PA Environmental Watchdog, Pitt Prof. Reiterate the Fact that Hydraulic Fracturing is Safe, Tightly Regulated

What does Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary and a University of Pittsburgh environmental engineering have in common? They both understand the facts regarding the 60 year-old energy stimulation technology called hydraulic fracturing, which has been used safely to enhance oil and natural gas production in more than 1.1 million wells nationwide without every contaminating groundwater — and aren’t afraid to let these facts be known.

John Hanger, Gov. Rendell’s PA DEP chief and former Penn Future executive, notes that the media (err Josh Fox & CNN) are overestimating “the risks of hydraulic fracturing.” Sec. Hanger tells Reuters, under the headline “Pennsylvania regulator says shale gas drilling method safe,” this about fracturing, which has helped create nearly 88,000 jobs through the development of the Commonwealth’s clean-burning natural gas resources trapped in the Marcellus Shale formation over just the past few years:

Pennsylvania’s chief environmental regulator said on Friday he saw no evidence that the chemicals used in the shale gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing contaminates underground water supplies.

“It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground have returned to contaminate ground water,” Hanger said.

Hanger’s comments echo frequent statements by energy companies that there have been no proven cases of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing, a process used to remove natural gas from shale beds deep underground.

Hanger said the public and the media appear to overestimate the risks of hydraulic fracturing. “There’s a lot of focus in the media and the public on the problems that we have not had,” he said during an hour-long interview in his office.

But Sec. Hanger is not alone in ensuring that these critical facts about fracturing’s long and clear record of environmental safety are made available to the public. Under the headline “Pitt Professor Says Fracking Safe, Decades-Old Process,” the Wheeling News Register reports this:

[Radisav] Vidic, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, said this form of rock fracturing has been used for decades to extract minerals – and with no direct side effects.

I have not seen any evidence that fracturing itself poses a danger to the environment,” he said. “The process has been around since the 1950s. If everything is followed correctly and done by the book, the impact should be minimal.”

And from Central Pennsylvania to Eastern Wyoming, and many places along the way, fracture stimulation technology is to continuing to serve as a key component to energy and economic security for thousands of communities, and for our nation.

Here’s a quick look at what they’re saying about America’s oil and natural gas industry:

  • Taking responsibility: “Three companies with local Marcellus Shale drilling sites took state Fish and Boat commissioners on a field tour through Lycoming County Sunday, showing some of the methods in place to protect the environment and local wildlife, keep nearby residents happy and collaborate with one another to keep improving practices. Chief Oil & Gas, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Range Resources led a tour of sites in Mifflin, Watson and Cummings townships, where the shale is in various stages of extraction. (Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette, 10/4/10)
  • More oil rigs popping up around Cheyenne: “More oil rigs are popping up around Cheyenne, and a few rigs 50 miles north of town probably have reached their target, the Niobrara Shale. So how much oil is down there? If anyone knows yet, mum’s the word. … They’re betting that a combination of drilling techniques can unlock oil from the Niobrara. The shale formation is similar to the Bakken Shale in western North Dakota, scene of booming oil production for the past few years. (Associated Press, 10/3/10)
  • Drilling will help stimulate economy: “Hydraulic fracturing is a proven technology that is regulated at the state level. It involves pumping a water mixture into underground rock layers where oil and natural gas is trapped. This mixture is 99 percent water and contains a small amount of fracturing fluid and sand. The additives used in fracturing fluids are used in many household products, including toothpaste, cosmetics and even ice cream. These additives are diluted with water by a factor as high as 122 times before being pumped into the ground, according to federal studies. In fact, studies by the U.S. EPA  and the Ground Water Protection Council have confirmed no direct link between hydraulic fracturing operations and groundwater impacts. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/4/10)
  • Property owners stump for drilling rights at Wayne County barbecue: “The constitutionality of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s role in regulating the burgeoning natural gas industry in Wayne County came into question Saturday afternoon at a gathering of drilling advocates. “Our nemesis is the Delaware River Basin Commission,” said Bob Suhosky, a member of the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force who holds a lease individually in Cherry Ridge Twp. “They’re taking a certain amount of constitutional rights from us.” … Marian Schweighofer, executive director of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, concurred with Mr. Suhosky’s views. “In America, we own the property. We own it from here to China,” Ms. Schweighofer said. “If there’s a taking, you’re supposed to be compensated for it.” (Scranton Times-Tribune, 10/3/10)
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