Upstate New York Landowner
Shale Gas Activist at NYRAD-R
A new study on fracking from supposed health professionals is a collection of anecdotes and assertions that should be called “100 or So Lies About Fracking”.
There was a news conference the other day where the usual suspects, operating under one their various aliases, the Concerned Health Professionals of NY (CHPNY), attacked natural gas yet again with a new “study.” It’s anything but a study, of course. Rather, it is a
collection of allegations and anecdotes; the sort of pseudoscience we’ve come to expect from this gang. Their latest report is pompously titled as a Compendium of Scientific, Medical , and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventioanl Gas and Oil Extraction).
It might better be called 100 or So Lies About Fracking. Sandra Steingraber (pictured doing one of her schticks), uses natural gas to heat her home in Trumansburg, NY, and was the ringleader, which was hardly a surprise.
“Health Professionals” Tell Lies About Fracking
I reviewed the “compendium” in detail and think you’ll agree the fractivist movement has hilt bottom with this effort. Let me share some of their lies about fracking:
CHPNY: “A significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities are inherently dangerous to people and their communities.”
Nowhere in this report did I the reader find any evidence of evidence that came from a unbiased source study. Much of the material consists of self authored rhetoric from 30 More Days of Fracking, or New York Residents Against Fracking, which are anything but reliable sources as their aim is simply to stop natural gas development in New York or anywhere else.
CHPNY: “Studies increasingly show that air pollution associated with drilling and fracking operations is a grave concern with a range of impacts.”
There is no evidence in the compendium to support this allegation, other than references to some junk science reports that have been previously debunked; no scientific backup. There is, though, considerable evidence contradicting everything Steingraber and company assert and it’s available online. Check out this set of charts comparing Bradford County, Pennsylvania air pollution levels in 2006 (pre-drilling era) and 2012. No county in Pennsylvania has more Marcellus Shale wells than Bradford.
The charts tell the real story:
CHPNY: “The emerging science has significantly strengthened the case that drilling and fracking inherently threaten groundwater.”
Fracking itself has never contaminated water sources or aquifers as Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA, testified at congressional hearings in 2011. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has also said “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.” No one denies surface contamination can occur if fluids are illegally disposed of, if their is an equipment failure, or operator negligence. Or, that methane migration issues can’t be aggravated by drilling in some instances.
These cases, however, aren’t limited to natural gas development and are very rare. Also, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation notes “A combination of existing Department engineering controls and management practices, enhanced as necessary to address unique aspects of multi-well pad development and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, would be required in appropriate permits to prevent spills and mitigate adverse impacts from any that do occur.”
CHPNY: “Studies and emerging data consistently show that oil and gas wells routinely leak, allowing for the migration of natural gas and potentially other substances into groundwater and the atmosphere.”
The report notes “Schlumberger, one of the world’s largest companies specializing in fracking, published an article in its magazine in 2003 showing that about five percent of wells leak immediately, 50 percent leak after 15 years and 60 percent leak after 30 years.” This information is true, but what is conveniently or accidently left out is that these numbers include off-shore oil and gas production which is done under water and has a higher failure rate. Additionally, the Ground Water Protection Council has also done extensive reviews of data from more than 220,000 wells in Ohio and Texas and found failure rates of only 0.03% in the former and 0.01% in the latter.
CHPNY: “High levels of radiation documented in fracking wastewater raise special concerns in terms of impacts to groundwater and surface water.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says there have been no red flags in their monitoring of radioactive elements in waste from Marcellus Shale development. The NYS-DEC has also addressed concerns over radioactive waste cuttings from the Marcellus Shale in it’s SGEIS. See here, here and here. It’s a non-issue.
CHPNY: “Fracking jobs are dangerous jobs. Occupational hazards include head injuries, traffic accidents, blunt trauma, burns, toxic chemical exposures, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sleep deprivation.”
OSHA regulations apply to operations on a well pad and, as I noted earlier here, oil and gas extraction, combined with the support activities connected with it, has had fewer total fatalities than agriculture or tourism. Rates of non-fatal occupational injury in the industry have averaged 1.5 per 100 full-time workers in 2012, compared to 3.5 for all industries combined. See the details here. Moreover, if we are going to compare industry dangers and death risk to workers, then let’s compare that of oil and gas to coal mining, one of the deadliest and most dangerous jobs a person may have.
CHPNY: “Chronic exposure to light at night is linked to adverse health effects, including breast cancer.”
Should we not work off shift factory jobs that require lighting at night? And, since when is lighting from a drilling rig, that is up for maybe two weeks at most, “chronic exposure to light”? How can anyone take this hyperbole seriously?
CHPNY: “Exposure to environmental noise pollution is linked to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and sleep disturbance.”
Where are the scientific studies that show this statement to be true as applied to gas drilling, which is a short-term activity? What were the measured parameters used in the study, was it nocturnal mice and rats or was there a study with human participants and by whom?
CHPNY: “Workers and residents whose homes, schools and workplaces are in close proximity to well sites are at risk from these exposures as well as from related stressors.”
Drilling has been going on in America for over 100 years and although some people may be stressed over the work and noise others are not. More importantly, once a well is completed, these variables discontinue. If any stress is put on the public, it is brought on by fractivist misinformation campaigns such as this one! Consider, too, that many of us find gas drilling to be exciting and invigorating, although these dogs seem non-plussed.
CHPNY: “A growing body of evidence links fracking wastewater injection (disposal) wells to earthquakes of magnitudes as high as 5.7, in addition to ‘swarms’ of minor earthquakes and fault slipping.”
Why is it so many fractivist arguments begin with “A growing body of evidence…” but are accompanied with little or no evidence? Yes, there is some evidence of a connection between wastewater injection and small earthquakes, but wastewater injection is not being proposed in New York and gas companies operating in the region are already recycling 100% of their wastewater. Finally, geothermal energy has been inducing earthquakes since the 1960s, so why isn’t this renewable energy source getting the same attention?
CHPNY: “Millions of abandoned and undocumented oil and gas wells exist across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.”
What relevance does this have today? We are in the age of information technology and environmental awareness were drillers are required to be permitted with comprehensive drilling plans showing depth, well pad placement, pressures, seismic anomalies, etc.. Drillers use the latest technology to check for fractures in the cement casings and mapping of the well bore. Pressure tests on completed wells are done prior to fracturing operations to identify any avenue of possible escape of the fracturing fluids before even one gallon of of the stuff is sent down a well. The pressure in a well also goes down over time, meaning it is highly unlikely to leak later if it doesn’t leak at the outset when pressure is much. much higher.
CHPNY: “Massive land clearing and forest fragmentation that necessarily accompany well site preparation increase erosion and risks for catastrophic flooding, as do access roads, pipeline easements and other related infrastructure.”
Are we to believe well sites aren’t subject to erosion, sedimentation and stormwater management planning? If so, what are all those stormwater control measures I see on well sites? More to the point, can anyone tell me any type of economic or energy development that, with the possible exception of nuclear, produces more with less land disturbance
CHPNY: “Drilling and fracking pose risks to the agricultural industry. Studies and case reports from across the country have highlighted instances of deaths, neurological disorders, aborted pregnancies, and stillbirths in cattle and goats associated with livestock coming into contact with wastewater.”
I have read the report of goats being born with just a head, but I ask how does a head develop in a womb without a heart, spine or other organs needed to develop. So, I ask where is the science and why are there no links to these wild claims that demonstrate the silliness of this contention? There is no causal evidence to support any these contentions, wild or otherwise. It should also be noted most farmers are desperate to see natural gas development move forward so they can continue to farm.
CHPNY: “A range of studies have shown high levels of methane leaks from gas drilling and fracking operations, undermining the notion that natural gas is a climate solution or a transition fuel.”
Referring to Anthony Ingraffea’s studies are questionable at best as he is an avid anti-drilling advocate funded by the Park Foundation not to find anything positive about drilling but to only come up with negative rebuttals to the science of drilling itself. The EPA and Department of Energy have both stated that converting to natural gas from coal will in fact slow down climate change, buying us more time to develop renewables and get off fossil fuels eventually.
CHPNY: “Experiences in various states and accompanying studies have shown that the oil and gas industry’s promises for job creation from drilling for natural gas have been greatly exaggerated and that many of the jobs are short-lived and/or have gone to out-of-area workers.”
Putting Americans to work in any state is the necessity of a nation starving for work. Making statements about the jobs all going to out-of-towners is false. The vast majority of oil and gas industry workers in Pennsylvania are local hires and they’re making excellent money.
CHPNY: “With the arrival of drilling and fracking operations, communities have experienced steep increases in rates of crime – including sexual assault, drunk driving, drug abuse, and violent victimization, all of which carry public health consequences.”
The claim of crime increase is highly exaggerated as well. The numbers mean little in small towns where one one more crime can quadruple the rate, but are an effective scare tactic. As Tom noted in this blog post, “Bradford County, the most heavily developed county in Pennsylvania with respect to natural gas, has reported some increases in crime statistics but a comparison of Bradford with Pike County, a similar sized county in northeastern Pennsylvania with no natural gas development, reveals the latter had significantly higher rates of homicide, robbery, assaults, property offenses and drug violations.”
CHPNY: “Industry estimates of oil and gas reserves and profitability of drilling have proven unreliable, casting serious doubts on the bright economic prospects the industry has painted for the public, media and investors.”
Deborah Rogers, Arthur Berman and Chip Northrup have all tried to make this claim, but the evidence is against them. See this recent piece from my fellow guest blogger, Nick Grealy.
Lies About Fracking Can’t Be Allowed to Determine State Policy
Never have I read a more biased statement against drilling as this one presented by Sandra Stiengraber and the Concerned Health Professionals of NY!
I see no link to blood, urine, mucus, human or animal cell studies. I see no independent lab test results. What is highly present in this paper is references to press stories and unsubstantiated claims brought forth by paid activists from New York agitating people in drilling communities to bring frivolous law suits against drilling companies simply with the promise of a big payout.
Have there been problems? Yes, of course, but the problems found in natural gas drilling are also found in wind power, solar energy and geothermal (which often uses the same fracking technology as natural gas). It is the responsibility of the New York State DEC to ensure environmental protection and they do it well. Since the 1960s, DEC has helped clean up dead lakes in the Adirondacks caused by coal-burning acid rains and mercury contamination, and the Susquehanna River where, as a child, I remember local factories in Broome County dumping hazardous waste directly into the river.
Let me, in closing, say that with over 30 other states safely drilling for natural gas one can only ask “why is NYS faltering on its responsibility to the country’s energy independence, to the state, and to the people when there has yet to be a single water aquifer polluted by the fracturing process?”
More tomorrow! Watch for Part II.