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:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail