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Fracking: another view


Merdies Hayes’ July 19 article (“Is Baldwin Hills ‘Fracking Up’?”) helps stir up anxiety about a hydraulic fracturing, but fails to provide context, or scientific facts, needed for Our Weekly readers to understand that this anxiety is unfounded and is being manufactured by out-of-state activists opposed to all oil and gas exploration.

Activists like Food & Water Watch of Washington, D.C., have been drafting purely symbolic resolutions across the country as a way to push an end to domestic oil and natural gas production.

Local cities are being pressured to vote on these resolutions automatically and without any substantive analysis.  This tactic was evidenced last week when the Carson City Council copied and pasted Culver City’s resolution by simply changing the name of the cities. The city of Carson was later embarrassed because it rushed the resolution so fast that it had forgotten to omit several Culver City-specific references in the measure. This is what happens when policymakers let activist groups do their thinking for them.

Food & Water Watch’s claim that the process of hydraulic fracturing is “unproven” demonstrates how its rhetoric is completely untethered from the facts. The truth is that hydraulic fracturing has been used on more than 1.2 million wells in the U.S. since the 1940s. During that time, there has never been a verified case of the hydraulic fracturing process contaminating groundwater.

Not one case in more than 60 years! This isn’t a statistic from the oil and gas industry. It’s a statistic by the U.S. EPA.

If an activity has been done over a million times and never resulted in a case of contamination, how can it be “unproven”?  In their pursuit of a political agenda, the professional, D.C.-based activists don’t care about the facts, but as Californians, we should.

Here are just a few of the facts that activists don’t want you to know:

  • *  The safety of hydraulic fracturing is a matter of extensive record, and is not new. It is a safe, proven and well-understood technology, and scientists and regulators– including President Obama’s administration–acknowledge this fact.
  • * In the million-plus times fracturing has been used, there has never been a case of fracturing fluids migrating through thousands of feet of rock into shallow groundwater. This was recently confirmed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, as well as Stanford University geophysics professor Mark Zoback, who said last August: “Fracturing fluids have not contaminated any water supply and with that much distance to an aquifer, it is very unlikely they could.” The “1,000 cases of water contamination” cited in the Our Weekly article is a pure fabrication.
  • * Fracturing has never been linked to earthquake damage. According to a new study from the National Academy of Sciences: “The process of fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events.” Scientists concluded that fracturing activity doesn’t affect the subsurface pressure enough to trigger a seismic event that could typically be felt on the surface, let alone cause damage.
  • * Fracturing fluid is comprised on average of 99.51 percent water and sand. The other additives the activists are trying to generate fear about perform important safety functions like preventing corrosion in the well, so that oil, gas and fracturing fluid remain completely isolated from groundwater. Nearly all of the additives used for safety purposes can be found in various household and commercial products.
  • * Increased U.S. production means reduced reliance on foreign countries with less stringent environmental rules than we have and it allows for the expansion of compressed natural gas vehicle use that is critical to improving air quality in areas like Los Angeles.

California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is in the process of preparing new regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing. Rather than call for extreme actions like bans based on nothing more than sound bites, it is important to let the experts do their jobs–gather and examine the best science available and proceed with policy changes based on the facts, not fictionalized allegations manufactured in Washington, D.C. For more information on the facts, visit

Dave Quast
California Director, Energy in Depth

Editor’s Note:
The EPA website,  states: “At the request of Congress, EPA is conducting a study to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and ground water. The scope of the research includes the full life span of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal.

“A first progress report is planned for late 2012. A final draft report is expected to be released for public comment and peer review in 2014.”

Also, “A Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources” dated Feb. 7, 2011, page 56, said this about seismic activity possibly caused by fracking:
“It has been suggested that drilling and hydraulically fracturing shale gas wells might cause low magnitude earthquakes. Public concern about this possibility emerged in 2008 and 2009, when the town of Cleburne, Texas–where there had been a recent increase in drilling into the Barnett Shale–experienced several clusters of weak earthquakes (3.3 or less on the Richter scale) for the first time in its history. A study by University of Texas and Southern Methodist University did not find a conclusive link between hydraulic fracturing and these earthquakes, but indicated that the injection of wastewater from gas operations into disposal wells (the preferred means of waste disposal for natural gas operations in the area) might have been responsible (GWPC and ALL Consulting, 2009).”

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