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EPA Muddles, Generalizes and Redefines Fracking

Constitution Pipeline - MarkindDaniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP

 

The EPA, after five long years of research had to muddle, generalize and redefine “fracking” to say it could impact driving water in “some circumstances.”

On Tuesday, the EPA released its revised report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.  Modifying its previous conclusion that the process does not cause “widespread, systematic” effects, the EPA now claims that fracking for oil and natural gas can contaminate drinking water under “certain circumstances.”  This report ends more than five years of research.  While not giving a definitive conclusion, according to EPA science advisor Thomas Burke the report offered the most complete scientific analysis on the potential link between fracking and drinking water contamination.

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Not surprisingly, the report immediately was hailed by environmental groups as another piece of evidence pointing to a ban on hydraulic fracturing.  This is unlikely, given the upcoming change in Administration.  It seems more likely that the EPA did everything it could to show links between the process and water contamination, was hampered by the lack of evidence, and could only resort to broad generalizations.

The change in Administration will come with lots of challenges, both internally and externally.  In the energy context, most of the discussion has centered around problems in the Middle East and the close relationship between Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Lost in the shuffle, however, may be the most important immediate crisis that will be felt in the energy sector and likely affect the new Trump Administration in its earliest days.  The country with the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela, is imploding.

In the last two days, hapless Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has pulled the country’s largest denomination bill, the 100-bolivar, now worth about 3 cents, closed the border with Columbia to prevent “mafia” tactics of the Columbians (who allow Venezuelans to cross the border, convert to dollars and actually buy things) and attempted to crash the talks in Buenos Aires of the South American multi-national trading group Mercosur, from which it was suspended.  According to Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez was “thrown to the ground” by Argentine authorities as she attempted to enter the meeting.

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Venezuelan Government confiscating toys

Venezuela was suspended this month for its human rights record, but its economy is the real cause for concern.  Long held together by sheer force of personality of former President Hugo Chavez, the utterly uninspiring Maduro has found it impossible to replicate the late Chavez.  The economy, already reeling under the populist / socialist / redistributionalist policies of Chavez, is now collapsing.  Last week, the government confiscated 4,000,000 toys from a toy distributor, claiming that the distributor was attempting to sell the toys at inflated prices during the Christmas season.  The government is now known as the “Grinch that stole Christmas”.

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At least Maduro now has toys to distribute, which is more that can be said of much of his oil.  Suffering under decades of disinvestment and Chaves/Maduro cronyism, the world’s most oil-rich country is now importing from the United States.  In 2015, 9% of American oil imports came from Venezuela.  Now, Venezuela even is curtailing its oil exports to Cuba, straining ties among the two most left-wing nations in the Hemisphere as Venezuelan production dives to a 13 year low.

If Maduro falls – a distinct possibility – then the economic crisis will be joined by a political crisis.  At that point all bets are off.   For Americans facing an early polar vortex portending a long, cold winter, the potential loss of much Venezuelan oil, together with continued Middle East instability, Russian adventurism, Chinese militarism and stalled American infrastructure development provide the new Administration with little breathing room as it takes office.  If nothing else, the Venezuelan situation should remind us that to the extent we can, maintaining our energy independence is a worthwhile endeavor.  While we focus halfway around the globe for problems, we ignore our own back yard at our own peril.

Editor’s Note: Dan gets it exactly correct on the EPA report when he says “It seems more likely that the EPA did everything it could to show links between the process and water contamination, was hampered by the lack of evidence, and could only resort to broad generalizations.” What they did is exactly what all fractivists do; they redefined fracking to include much more than hydraulic fracturing so they wouldn’t have to admit the process hasn’t contaminated drinking water and is no threat. They muddled through, pretending drilling is fracking and fracking is drilling to falsely allude those occasional methane migration and other drilling issues were somehow connected to hydraulic fracturing. It’s the big lie, first perpetrated by Josh Fox with his Gasland flaming faucet. The reality is that those issues are few and far between and there simply aren’t any with respect to hydraulic fracturing. It’s sophistry – pure sophistry to suggest otherwise and its why the public doesn’t trust government.

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9 thoughts on “EPA Muddles, Generalizes and Redefines Fracking

  1. So… hearing here in this blog post that:

    “In the last two days, hapless Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has pulled the country’s largest denomination bill, the 100-bolivar, now worth about 3 cents, closed the border with Columbia to prevent “mafia” tactics of the Columbians (who allow Venezuelans to cross the border, convert to dollars and actually buy things) and attempted to crash the talks in Buenos Aires of the South American multi-national trading group Mercosur, from which it was suspended. According to Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez was “thrown to the ground” by Argentine authorities as she attempted to enter the meeting.”

    I am trying desperately to understand what in the world this has to do with the long-awaited EPA report that asked and answered the wrong questions about natural gas anyway.

    Desperately.

    • Don’t play games, Stan. You’re a regular reader and you know very well Dan’s posts are more or less weekly sets of observations on all sorts of things connected to energy and energy politics. The Maduro story, of course, in not connected to the EPA report but the latter was the main subject of this post; hence the total. But, you knew that before writing your snide comment. What interests me is that you took such offense to Dan’s mention of the socialist thug Maduro. Are you a secret admirer or something, Stan? I’m desperately trying to understand, you see.

  2. EPA ignored the language of SAB commentary Members of the EPA Science Advisory Board [SAB], which reviews major studies by the agency, says the main conclusion — that there’s no evidence fracking has led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water” — requires clarification, David Dzombak, a Carnegie Mellon University environmental engineering professor leading the review, said in an e-mail.

    Per EPA 12/13/16 release EPA’s report concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence these impacts

    Please note the following articles that offer a Peer Review Perspective to EPA’s final report on hydraulic fracturing

    Goodwin R.W. “COMMENTARY: EPA and Peer Review Science – Environmental Evaluation Hydraulic Fracturing [Part I]”; Oil Pro Sept. 14, 2016
    Peer review data suggest that for unconventional wells, the violation rate in the northeast was 9.8% for wells drilled from 2000 to 2008 compared with 9.1% for 2009 to 2012.
    Nationally the violation rate of frac wells are slightly less than in northeast. Such extensive data supports the USEPA position, per their draft study, that found no ‘widespread, systemic’ impacts to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing”.

    http://oilpro.com/post/27281/commentary-epa-and-peer-review-science-environmental-evaluation-h

    Goodwin, R.W. “COMMENTARY: EPA and Peer Review Science – Environmental Evaluation Hydraulic Fracturing [Part II]”; Oil Pro, Sept. 14, 2016
    A review [analysis and evaluation] of regulatory and governmental scientific peer reviews shows that Hydraulic Fracturing [HF[ does not pose an environmental and/or health threat – when practiced according to sound engineering principles.

    http://oilpro.com/post/27282/commentary-epa-and-peer-review-science-environmental-evaluation-h

  3. http://m.democracynow.org/stories/14872

    Let’s revisit Democrat now’s coverage back when the ny fracking ban was announced in 2014. Stan scobie is credited with doing something.

    Ingraffea is interviewed along with Sandra steingraber, Josh fox is mentioned and so is mark ruffalo. Give the credit where it is due for the ban on fracking in ny. It was the ban fracking movement that made it happen, zucker and martens right?

    In addition zephyr teachout was mentioned in relation to cuomo? (By the way she apparently was so impressive back in 2014 when she ran against Cuomo based in part on an antifracking stance one might think she actually won her race for Congress this year but no she lost. )

    One can only wonder at this point what it is that Stan scobie thinks wasn’t answered or asked about fracking and natural gas. Is it whether natural gas infrackstructure needs a health review? Oh wait that was reported on by Brian nearing a while ago.

    Is there anything that hasn’t been discussed over and over and over again with this issue? What’s the stat on how much of the current united states natural gas supply comes via this fracking? 2/3rds? Have some new lng export projects been built?

    This report is in the news again because of the change in a single sentence?

  4. http://www.thedailystar.com/news/local_news/cornell-duo-natural-gas-fuels-climate-change/article_d13319e9-7e28-5425-8e81-413101387f9f.html

    By the way the two professors part of the hey natural gas is maybe worse than coal because of fracking thing are back in the news again. Apparently ny has increased its use of natural gas since the fracking ban. This is news?

    Joe Mahoney who has covered such epic sagas as the Constitution pipeline covered something about this along with another favorite goto reporter always willing to wrote somehing about the antifracking movement over at wamc.

  5. What the EPA could have written the first time is “there is no statistical correlation /significance between HF and water well failure.” In other words the occurrence is so small with such a large nr of wells. It’s the same with air travel. To deny that water wells have been affected during the HF process does not contribute to more and better safety, the same way air accidents are studied and corrections are made. In the words of Sect if Energy Moniz “the risks with HF are manageable”.

  6. If the evidence is not there, it is not there . It may not exist. In any event no conclusions can be formed. This after 5 yrs and $29 mm. No wonder Trump won.

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