There’s fiction with fracking foes

A recent article about the League of Women Voters sounding off before the Portland Town Board about the dangers of fracking continues more of the same ill-advised and ill-informed science fiction about fracking.

And I hope the irony of being anti-natural gas in this county, of all places, isn’t lost on folks. But let’s address the fear mongering and other non-factual facts alluded to by a long-time League member.

Fracking a single well requires a million gallons of water, which can deplete local water resources. In addition, flowback water contains radioactivity which waste water treatment plants can’t treat. This is true.

What they don’t tell you is that drillers have accelerated the efforts to recycle flowback water, as well as reduce their use of fresh water. Why? Because water is expensive and because the industry realizes it’s the right thing to do. Apache Corp. is fracking their wells with 100 percent non-fresh water. And, all wastewater treatment plants are forbidden from accepting radioactive water.

Dangerous fracking chemicals are kept secret. The mixture is a trade secret. Forty-one fracking chemicals are extremely toxic. Yes, the mixtures are proprietary information. No, the chemicals are not a secret. Anyone can go to fracfocus.org and see the list of chemicals used. While some of these chemicals are toxic, they are used in more places than fracking. Others can be found in your kitchen, garage or bathroom: citric acid (lemon juice), hydrochloric acid (swimming pools), glutaraldehyde (disinfectant), guar (ice cream), dimethylformamide (plastics), isopropanol (deodorant), borate (hand soap); ammonium persulphate (hair dye); potassium chloride (intravenous drips), sodium carbonate (detergent), ethylene glycol (de-icer), ammonium bisulphite (cosmetics) and petroleum distillate (cosmetics).

Big oil and gas are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act. So not true, the member should be ashamed and embarrassed to present this as fact. As with conventional oil and gas development, requirements from eight federal environmental and public health laws apply to unconventional oil and gas development. For example, the Clean Water Act regulates discharges of pollutants into surface waters. Among other things, the act requires oil and gas well site operators to obtain permits for discharges of produced water which includes fluids used for hydraulic fracturing, as well as water that occurs naturally in oil- or gas-bearing formations to surface waters. In addition, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act governs the management and disposal of hazardous wastes, among other things. In fact, here is a list of specific federal environmental and public health laws that govern the development of oil and gas: the Safe Drinking Water Act (for disposal wells); Clean Water Act; Clean Air Act; Resources Conservation and Recovery Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; Toxic Substances Control Act; and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Light my fire. The farce, “Gasland,” purported to show that nearby drilling caused methane to contaminate water supplies in Dimock, Pa., and allow tap water to be set on fire. It made for great visuals but the facts turned out to be that methane in the water supplies had been occurring for decades. The Environmental Protection Agency closed its investigation at Dimock, concluding there was no evidence of contamination; abandoned its claim that drilling in Parker County, Texas, had caused methane gas to come out of people’s taps; and withdrew its allegations of water contamination at Pavilion, Wyo., for lack of evidence. Two recent peer-reviewed studies concluded that groundwater contamination from fracking is “not physically plausible”.

The number of fracking wells is growing exponentially and no one is safe from the spread of this dangerous drilling practice.

Let’s see, no one is safe from exactly what? We’re not safe from energy self-reliance? We’re not safe from rising employment and increased dollars flowing to municipalities and schools for much needed improvements? We’re not safe from land owners being allowed to develop their private property, enabling them to spread the wealth? We’re not safe from a totally renewable energy future by using natural gas as the bridge to get us there? We’re not safe from reduced carbon and green house gas emissions that the use of natural gas brings? Maybe the anti-natural gas crowd is against these things but you can bet your vertical fracture that I’m not. Which leads us to …

Climate control. This is a big one for the League. If you go to their web site, you can read all about their efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to support climate control. Yet, it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that natural gas burns cleaner than coal and has less tailpipe emissions that gas or diesel. It may not be as clean as solar or wind but right now, I can’t drive my car on wind or heat my home with solar. I believe we can in the future but that doesn’t do us any good in the here and now.

I’m not going to claim there haven’t been any problems with drilling and fracking. But the problems have been rectified. The industry is continually reporting new technologies, new environmentally acceptable fluids, and other environmentally friendly drilling and fracking practices.

People need to do their homework and not just listen and nod in agreement. For instance, a little research would show that all of these anti-fracking organizations such as Food and Water Watch receive large amounts of funding from special interests that derive a great deal of their personal wealth from selling petroleum products like gas and diesel. Think of the Rockefeller Foundation, a major contributor to stop the use of natural gas in transportation.

The first commercial gas well was drilled in Chautauqua County in 1821 and the first fracked well occurred here in 1857. I’m pretty sure no one was frightened then. The only thing I find frightening today is out-of-towners and their local mouthpieces telling us how to lead our lives.

If they all drove horse and buggy and burned wood, it might give them some credibility, but the facts are that they don’t.

Bob Reuther is a Lily Dale resident.