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Fracking Falsehoods: Saying It’s So Doesn’t Make It So

fracking falsehoods -  Tom Shepstone Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

   

Numerous fracking falsehoods were stated as facts in two recent hearings by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on proposed fracking regulations, but saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has developed a proposed set of new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing in the state. It held hearings in Gaylord and Lansing in July to collect public comment. The results were all too typical of what we see at many such hearings, as fractivists used the forum to talk about everything but the regulations and perpetuate fracking falsehoods as if they were facts.  Several of those fracking falsehoods would have earned Pinnochios in any other setting.

Fracking Falsehoods – The Transcripts

The transcripts of the hearings were recently released and seeing the words of the fractivists who attended in print makes for some very entertaining reading as they engaged in the wild hyperbole that characterizes so many of them of their statements and costs them so dearly in terms of credibility. Consider this statement by LuAnne Kozma, the President of the Ban Michigan Fracking group, who also she says, serves as campaign director for the ballot question committee called Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan:

Chemicals will contaminate water, however. Large amounts of toxic waste will be created. The frack industry will pollute the air with the greenhouse gas methane and toxic chemicals. All injection well casings and frack well casings will leak in time. That’s been proven. Aquifers will become contaminated. People will become sick. Animals will sicken and die. Farms will become unfarmable. Landowners will get fracked first, pooled later. People will lose drinkable water, sue the companies and move from their homes.

That’s quite a string of fracking falsehoods. We know from the last two EPA Administrators, for example, there are no cases anywhere in this country, let along Michigan, where hydraulic fracturing has contaminated a water supply. Hal Fitch, from Michigan’s own DEQ reiterated it at these very hearings. Here’s a very short video of Ken Kopocis, another top EPA official, saying the same thing:

We also know the number of gas wells that have leaked is incredibly tiny (0.01-0.03%) based on extensive studies of 16,000 horizontal wells in Ohio and Texas by the Ground Water Protection Council, an organization created by the states. Moreover, methane releases are steadily declining with green well completions, and the evidence of animal and human health problems is anecdotal at best with no causal data whatsoever to substantiate the reckless allegations that have been made.

LuAnne Kozma, in other words, wasn’t even close to the truth. She gets 5 Pinnochios on the Washington Post scale (yes, it only goes to 4 but she clearly went above and beyond).

There were others who did nearly as well with the fracking falsehoods. A township clerk from Antrim County said “there’s a violation of the public trust for the unreasonable use of groundwater and is deliberately contaminated and not returned to the hydrological cycle for future use by the public” (sic). First of all, no one deliberately contaminates groundwater. Some of it is removed, but it is not returned to the aquifer in that condition. Even then, that does not mean it’s removed from the hydrologic cycle. Natural gas, or methane, when combusted, yields more water back into the hydrologic cycle than is removed for fracking. It’s basic chemistry.

fracking falsehoods

Ellis Boal (right) with Yassar Arafat

Then, there is Ellis Boal, Treasurer of Ban Michigan Fracking and Green Party politician with predictable views on pretty much everything. Boal is a labor attorney, member of the radical National Lawyers Guild and admirer of the late monster Yassar Arafat. He’s also the husband of LuAnne Kozma, making Ban Michigan Fracking a family affair. Boal told the DEQ “Many of the speakers today will be talking about the hazards of fracking to water. My own opinion is the greater danger is to climate,” citing the UN, while others of his group (including his wife) relied upon the IPCC to make similar claims.

They apparently didn’t read the IPCC’s latest climate assessment report, which says this:

A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic‐fracturing and horizontal‐drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas (IEA, 2012b); this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.

Talking about a section of the regulations called “construction of part” which establishes how the regulations are to be construed, Boal also offered this self-righteous perspective:

The straight environmental groups in Michigan have not taken up arms against construction of part. Why would that be? My own view is that they have made their peace with natural gas, but we cannot, the DEQ should not. I don’t have much hope for the DEQ, but I do have hope for people in this room. I’ll just say in the end, the changes that will come out of this will not be significant. But one benefit of this hearing will be we help the people of goodwill who will realize the futility of compromising and appeasement will come over to our side in the end.

Boal is the classic true believer, convinced of the superiority of his intelligence and his views and determined to impose them and his fracking falsehoods on the rest of society.

More Fracking Falsehoods

There were many other fracking falsehoods propagated at the two hearings. Here is  brief sampling:

“There is no process where the DEQ at this time can check on the trade secret chemicals being used. These chemicals are health and environmental dangers that should not be allowed to hide behind the shield of confidentiality. There are 2,500 known hydraulic fracking additives of which more than 650 of them are known carcinogens that are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

The numbers keep rising as fractivists further exaggerate their claims on this one every time they repeat it. The truth is that most fracking fluids contain a handful of ingredients, the vast bulk of the fluid is sand and water and it’s all disclosed on FracFocus.org. You can also read about the common “green” cleaning products that protect their proprietary information, in this EID article I penned a while back. As I stated in that article, “If it’s possible to put things directly into the water supply with full disclosure of risks, but not necessarily exact formulations, it sure as heck ought to be possible to do the same for stuff  injected a mile below the water table with numerous layers of impenetrable rock between.”

“I just really would like to know what they’re using to bring this stuff out of the ground, too, for fear, if my well became contaminated, I wouldn’t even know what to ask the people that are in charge of what to look for in my water. I just haven’t got a clue. And I’m so naive as to believe we live in a democracy and that we should know these things, but we don’t. Even Rick Snyder [Governor of Michigan] doesn’t know. I used to live in Ann Arbor. He doesn’t know either. Nobody seems to know what they’re doing. And it doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever and that’s basically what I’d like to know is what are you doing?”

This commenter is correct – he doesn’t have a clue. I suggest he visit our Hydraulic Fracturing page to get educated.

“Now, this is to the audience. Be aware we’re at  war with a dying industry. I say dying because it needs a legal, economic and environmental free pass to be profitable.”

No, it’s the renewables industry that gets legal favoritism in the form of state mandates such as Michigan’s, economic favoritism in the form of tax credits and “green banks” and environmental favoritism in the form of special waivers to kill eagles with wind towers. Moreover, the Energy Information Administration has demonstrated the leveled cost of electricity generation by natural gas is well below hydro, solar, wind and everything else with the exception of geothermal, which also often involves fracking.

“Tourism which has declined because of poor economic conditions already will shrink to nothing if our underground aquifer, our streams, our lakes are polluted. Property values will decline as people will stop buying land that has been fracked, near property that might be fracked and near injection wells with old contaminated water and chemicals.”

No, the experience of Pennsylvania is that tourism has increased along with property values. Let me quote Simon Cowell here by saying “sorry.”

“This water will never be returned to the hydrological cycle. It is gone, used and abused forever. And our birth rate’s not going down.”

Once again, sorry, but the hydrologic cycle is more than replenished (see above) and the birth rate is going down. Michigan, in fact, needs babies. Here is the chart:

Fracking Falsehoods

Perhaps Michigan needs some economic development and if it had a little more development of its natural gas resources it would doing better baby-wise.

This brings us to what is perhaps the most honest of all comments made by the fractivists who attended the two hearings; the one thing that wasn’t a fracking falsehood.  It was offered by Chris Wahmhoff, a community organizer and US Senate candidate from Kalamazoo when he said “This is about big oil and gas. It’s not about the environment really anymore.” He is absolutely correct. These fractivists aren’t truly interested in the environment or they’d be focused on the details and improving the process, but their approach, in the case of Ban Michigan Fracking at least, is an uncompromising “we don’t care what you do or how you do it, because we’re against it,” and what they are against is capitalism, private business and anything they don’t control.  Indeed, the biggest fracking falsehood is that ever gave a damn about the environment.

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11 thoughts on “Fracking Falsehoods: Saying It’s So Doesn’t Make It So

  1. Tom,
    Is there a subtlety to using the specific term ‘hydraulic fracturing’ when saying there is no relationship between HF and ground water contamination?

    I ask because ground water contamination has occurred in 209 different locations since shale gas development in the Marcellus shale started according to the PDEP. Doesn’t that mean the water supply of previously potable water wells are ruined indefinitely because of shale gas development?

    Is that not worthy of study by http://www.naturalgasnow.com?

    http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthgwaquifer.html

    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1263262-dep-determination-letters.html

    Thanks for any information you have about this subject matter,
    Matt Wandel

      • If you look at the development of a producing well as a whole (i.e. clearing the pad, drilling the well, completing the well with hydraulic fracturing, and then producing) and the anecdotal evidence that: aquifers near the producing well provided potable water before producing wells were drilled and completed and those same aquifers are now contaminated, would you say there’s a causal relationship or the potential of one? Do you think it’s worthy of investigating a causal relationship between contamination of the aquifer and natural gas development from unconventional reservoirs like the Marcellus?

        Thanks,
        Matt

          • I agree. I’m asking if you think there is basis for forming a scientific hypothesis for further study. Given that methane and chemicals have signatures, couldn’t it be easily proven as unrelated if more extensive scientific studies were undertaken?

            Wouldn’t you really enjoy giving support to some comprehensive studies into the signatures of the pollutants contaminating these aquifers near Marcellus development that were not polluted before Marcellus development but now are? You would be able to scientifically conclude that the two things are unrelated and irrespective of each other.

            So, do you think the scientific method should be more rigorously pursued?

            Thanks,
            Matt

          • I have no issue with what you suggest. There have been studies already, however, that raise some issues. Thermogenic gas, for example, can naturally migrate along with biogenic, which means one has to know the precise imprint of the gas, etc. It’s a difficult in some cases to pinpoint things but, as a general rule, the more science and research on an on-going basis the better.

  2. Tom– had i not witnessed the mythmaking, the sheer absurdity and an almost complete lack of integrity of this movement first hand, I might find it hard to believe that activists and environmentalists could be so passionate about this topic that they have become untethered from reality and long ago abandoned any semblance of truth or rationality routinely in their actions and words. Jim’s description of the final NY DEC hearing a few years back reminds me of the ridiculous few hours I spent in the Rockaways at a draft EIS hearing on the Rockaway pipeline project last fall. http://marcellusdrilling.com/2011/12/final-ny-dec-hearing-in-nyc-surreal/

    Your write up here reminds me of what it has been like dealing with this movement the last two years in New York City. From larger NGO’s like the various Sierra clubs of NY to Food and Water Watch to the smaller “grassroots” groups like Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and Bruce Ferguson’s Catskills group and then even groups that may only appear on facebook as organizations like FoodnotFracking, I’ve had some contact personally with them all because of a pipeline that is being built in Brooklyn and Queens, Williams Rockaway Lateral project, and I have never seen people so willing to embrace falsehoods in my life. I’ve never seen anything so hysterical and nonsensical. And I’m an environmentalist– a bicycle riding, organic vegetable growing community gardener– who has personally had fractivists accuse me of being a spy simply because I will not repeat lies and other crap. This is a movement that has been unhinged and out of control for a while now.

    • And, right off the bat you distort the facts. These cases have nothing to do with fracking. They are drilling incidents, minimal in number and are unrelated to hydraulic fracturing.

      • Right, and that’s a VERY important distinction. This is what the ignorant deserve when they deliberately conflate all parts of the process together for their own ends. The importance is that since these occured during drilling, ANY drilling process could cause the same thing – water wells, geothermal, etc. A number were surface spills that could just as easily have been caused by a fuel oil truck skidding off an icy road into the winter while delivering oil to a citizen. And another point to be made is that this report is basically raw data with names redacted, so there is no way to know if the issue was resolved or not, or if it was a temporary disturbance. In the past I’ve had my well run cloudy or even run low on water for a few days due to new home construction in the area. No complaints from other neighbors because the builders don’t have deep pockets like the gas companies.

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