FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fracking Your Water

ExxonMobil Chairman/CEO Rex Tillerson sounded very confident when he told a congressional hearing last year that extracting natural gas by the “hydraulically fractured” process has not led to even one “reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated.”

But drinking water supplies in Pavillion, Wyo., and Dimock, Pa., are suspected of contamination from such drilling and a study by Duke University researchers showed that methane can leak into drinking water near active fracking sites.

The oil companies are backing up their story with an effective ad campaign. Example: ExxonMobil’s ad in the Sept. 19th New Yorker claims existing gas buried deep beneath our water supplies could “meet our needs for over 100 years.”

Besides having “thousands of feet of protective rock between the natural gas deposit and any groundwater” drillers’ install “multiple layers of steel and cement” in shale gas wells to keep the gas “safely within the well,” the ad said. The slurry is made up of sand, water, and chemicals—but drillers don’t have to identify the chemicals.

That’s because in the 2005 energy bill, crafted in part by goodfella Vice-President Dick Cheney, “fracking was explicitly exempted from federal review under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert in an incisive article in the December 5th “New Yorker.” This exemption, dubbed the “Halliburton Loophole,” does not require drillers to reveal which chemicals they use, so they could be carcinogens such as “benzene and formaldehyde.” Might this be why some irate homeowners say their tap water can be set on fire?

This hasn’t stopped more than 1,000 Pennsylvania and New York property owners from accepting up-front payments (with a pledge of future royalties) to allow drilling,

Even though “as much as forty per cent of (the water used in extraction) can come back up out of the gas wells, bringing with it corrosive salts, volatile organic compounds and radioactive elements, such as radium, ” Kolbert writes.

Pennsylvania has asked drillers to stop taking this flowback water to municipal treatment plants and New York State has ordered a moratorium on fracking permits. And it is seeking to ban fracking in New York City’s upstate watershed.

Says Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, “Once hydrofracturing begins in the (Delaware River) basin, the proverbial ‘faucet’ cannot be turned off, with any damage to our freshwater supplies likely requiring generations of effort to clean up.”

In a letter earlier this year, Tom Curtis, deputy executive director of the American Water Works Assn., called upon the EPA to evaluate every pathway for drinking water contamination and asserted a new study is needed that will cover fracking’s impact on water supply.

“Impacts on existing water resources can only be ascertained by properly designed monitoring programs,” Curtis wrote. “Protecting drinking water should trump everything.”

Indeed. It’s past time for state governments to ban all fracking until additional research finds conclusively it is safe to continue the practice—if it does.

The oil firms are claiming natural gas can satisfy the nation’s energy wants for anywhere from a century to 250 years. No doubt. But wind power, by contrast, is a resource that lasts forever. What’s more, if harnessed,  there’s enough of it blowing in just a couple of Dakota counties to light up the entire USA year-round, and without polluting the water we drink and upon which all life depends.

Sherwood Ross is former administrative assistant to the Chicago Department of Water & Sewers and served as public relations director for the Illinois Section of the American Water Works Assn. His views do not necessarily represent those of AWWA. Reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com.

More articles by:

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail