Appalachian Basin

Wealthy Agendas Driving Natural Gas Discussion in Buffalo

The Buffalo News recently featured two opinion pieces opposing natural gas development, which one New Yorker, Bob Reuther, felt compelled to respond to. The pieces were written by members of organizations funded heavily by outside interest groups and  lacked facts but were heavy in fear-mongering according to Reuther.

Saturday’s Buffalo News featured two opinion pieces (links below) opposing natural gas development.  While I am all for the honest and factual discussion of this subject, I am getting more than a little annoyed by the specious arguments made against  horizontal drilling.  If one’s logic is compelling enough, false or distorted claims need not be part of the argument.

The local coordinator for Food and Water Watch offered up a very sloppy opinion on the dangers of natural gas production.  However, readers should first be made aware that Food and Water Watch is an organization located in Washington DC.  It is stridently opposed to the use of natural gas and is funded by the Park Foundation, which also gave hefty financial support to  Gasland and other anti-natural gas initiatives.  These are not unbiased groups.

Image from Park Foundation 990 reporting on their website. The total amount given to FWW from Park in 2012 was $290,000 and more than $520,000 in past years.

The first erroneous statement was that “the gas industry will not disclose the chemicals used in fracking” or what chemicals are brought back up.  A list of common hydraulic fracturing chemicals are readily available on the Internet, all you have to do is look.  As for what is brought back up, these are naturally occurring compounds.  In any event, the regulations pertaining to these ingredients, as well as successful industry advancements in using “green” hydraulic fracturing solutions and waste water recycling make this point increasingly moot.

The writer then employs scare tactics, citing the ominous sounding compulsory integration and using the (purposely) familiar sounding but misleading name of Pavillion, Wyoming as an example of uncontrolled natural gas development.  Compulsory integration assures affected landowners have a say in nearby development.  As for the problems in Wyoming, public officials stated explicitly that the situation there was unique, that the wells drilled “aren’t separated by thousands of feet of rock” from the aquifers as they are here and that the “outcome does not apply to shale formations found” here in the Marcellus.

The final comment in this opinion piece questions the ability of water treatment plants here in Buffalo to handle natural gas waste water (flowback) and compares hydraulic drilling to the Love Canal.  I find no reason to give these assertions any credence by commenting on them.

The second opinion piece was written by a member of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.  The main claim to “scary” environmental degradation contained in this letter was that “new data from researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that methane leaks from fracking occur at an alarming rate”.    I would like to quote the conclusion of this report:

Great care should be taken to avoid drawing conclusions based on the partial data these studies provide.

Or as the Environmental Defense Fund put in a blog post recently:

In other words, anyone who wants to get this important story right will need to be patient and wait for more comprehensive results to come in later this year.  Until then, no accurate conclusions can be drawn about the full scope of this critical issue.  Please proceed with caution.

Proceeding with caution simply doesn’t allow for the ego-stoking that goes hand-in-hand with scare-mongering and the hijacking of important and complex issues associated with shale gas and oil development.  We have the opportunity to control our energy needs, re-vitalize our local economies with non-taxpayer stimulation and, with stringent governmental and citizen oversight, continue to expand our use of a source of energy that is continually building on its inherently pollution reducing characteristics through innovative and industry accepted “green” extraction and production protocols.

If my Amish neighbors want to weigh in against natural gas, I’m inclined to give them a listen.  But when local mouthpieces shill for wealthy individuals and out of state organizations who couldn’t care less about paying for home heating or worrying about their next paycheck, assuming there is one, it’s pretty much what comes out of the back ends of those Amish horses.


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