Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fracking Insane - scientific evidence shows fracking causes illness by contaminating water and air with methane gas and toxic chemicals

The only reports saying it doesn’t are funded by the companies involved in fracking

Fracking or ‘hydraulic fracturing’ for shale gas has been being carried out for decades in the US and has now been approved by the British Coalition government (including Lib Dem minister Chris Hune) in Lancashire, including near Blackpool and by the Scottish SNP government in Scotland near Dumfries – with plans for more elsewhere (1) – (2).

 This is either a major mistake due to governments being taken in by propaganda and supposedly objective scientific studies funded by the companies involved; or else they are selling out the people they're meant to represent.

Oil companies who want to carry out ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing) for gas are constantly claiming that there is ‘no evidence’ that fracking causes pollution of ground water or drinking water and no evidence it causes illnesses due to chemical and methane gas poisoning.

That claim is completely false. There’s lots of evidence of methane gas pollution of drinking water and ground water caused by fracking, found over decades, right up to the present ; and some recent evidence of chemicals used in fracking polluting water supplies.

The Evidence that Fracking causes air and water pollution with methane gas and fracking chemicals and serious illness

There’s a 1987 US environmental Protection Agency report on methane pollution of water supplies due to fracking in the mid-1980s in the US (3).

Those details of that report were not publicised by the EPA at the time for the same reason that most investigations of the effects of fracking are withheld for decades in the US - because big companies involved in fracking threatened people with law suits and legal bills they couldn’t afford if they continued to mention it ; and offered massive pay outs for ‘sealed court’ settlements on the other hand.

There are also recent scientific studies of dozens of fracking operations which found thatIn aquifers overlying the Marcellus and Utica shale formations of northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, we document systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale-gas extraction.’ (4)

There are also studies from 1999 to the present showing levels of methane in well water in areas where fracking has taken place being vastly greater than in other areas – often high enough to cause explosions (5) – (7).

The US EPA has also recently found evidence of pollution of water in Wyoming with chemicals used in fracking there (8).

The documentary film ‘gasland’, which showed people made seriously ill by air and water pollution and tapwater which could be set on fire as a result of fracking, is constantly attacked as ‘propaganda’ and ‘unscientific’ by the oil and gas companies and their lawyers. In fact it is supported by all of the above scientific evidence; and the main critics of Gasland have been revealed as industry front groups – especially Energy in Depth, whose funders are all companies involved in fracking (9) – (10).

BBC reports from Pennsylvania show the same problem – tapwater so full of methane and other chemicals that it can be set on fire – as the Gasland documentary did , as well as the same serious illnesses among residents within days of fracking beginning, including barium poisoning (11).

Many of the supposedly objective scientific studies of fracking which claim there’s no evidence it pollutes water supplies are directly or indirectly funded by the oil and gas companies involved in fracking.

Even one of these studies (by the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh) admits thatAir pollution is another factor that must be taken into consideration. Near the end of the well development, there is a practice called flaring that is used to get rid of the waste gas that is not able to be used. The excess gas is essentially set ablaze, leaving flames spewing far into the sky, burning for days on end, and emitting a significant amount of noxious gases.’ (12)

The Swanson study quotes it’s ‘additional resources’ as including  another supposedly objective academic study ‘The Economic Impacts of the Marcellus Shale: Implications for New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia’ which was a study funded by the ‘Marcellus Shale Coalition’, which factcheck.org found is in fact a trade association of companies involved in fracking for gas in the US (13) – (15).

A look at the full members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the funders of Energy in Depth shows they are the same companies (16) – (17).

Reports by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette found the Universities of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania are among those who refuse to provide details on what departments and studies were funded by private companies, let alone which private companies; and that campus associations and other proxy groups of these universities are taking money from the oil and gas companies for fracking operations on land owned by the universities, giving their studies of fracking another source of bias and conflict of interest (18) – (19).

Unsurprisingly the Swanson report  ends with the standard (and false) industry line thatIt is important to note that not one case of pollution due to hydraulic fracturing has ever been recorded, though there have been occurrences due to other stages of the drilling process’ (my emphasis) (20)

The second part of the sentence seems to be making a distinction which in practice reveals how dishonest the first part of the sentence is. It’s just a semantic trick - playing with words by pretending that the stage of the fracking process which causes methane gas or chemical pollution of water supplies makes any difference.

The costs of fracking vastly outweigh the benefits

What will the costs be in terms of polluting farmland and drinking water supplies if fracking is allowed to continue? What will the cost be to the NHS and in lives of making large numbers of people ill , requiring treatment and unable to work, from methane and chemical pollution of drinking water and air due to fracking? What will be the cost in lives as people start dying due to fracking pollution of air and water supplies? How can jobs for some justify illness and death for far more people?

Is the plan perhaps that the number of people who die will reduce the unemployment statistics in the long run and that any who become too ill to work in the meantime will be classed as disabled rather than unemployed?

Any local council or national government giving permission for fracking is failing to protect the health and lives of it’s own people and is opening itself up to legal action and massive costs in the future, plus the responsibility for allowing the illness and death of large numbers of people and pollution that may last long after any jobs provided by fracking are gone. We have other industries we can create jobs and provide energy with – wind power, wave power and tidal power.

The economic benefit of the jobs created will be cancelled out by the bill in illness, death and increased food costs as polluting ground water will also reduce food production by killing crops and animals.

With climate change increasing droughts and the spread of desert and water use draining acquifers and rivers to the point they can’t recover across the world from California to the Middle East, water may be the ‘blue gold’ of the twenty first century (21) – (23). Permanently polluting it for gas supplies that may last only a few decades is not wise either.

What You Can Do

In Scotland:

Email First Minister Alec Salmond on this address -  Alex.Salmond.msp@scottish.parliament.uk and the Scottish cabinet scottish.ministers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk citing the scientific evidence from the US that fracking causes air and water pollution and serious illnesses and asking them to ban fracking in Scotlandon those grounds .

Please also forward this email,  or send an email with a link to this blog post to everyone you know who might sign.

In Wales:

Email the First Minister carwyn.jones@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Please also forward this email,  or send an email with a link to this blog post to everyone you know who might sign.

In England or anywhere in the UK

Sign the  UK government e-peitition calling for total ban on fracking in the UK, and/or the petition for a moratorium until further study .

You can email Prime Minister David Cameron on this link or write to him by post on the address on this link.

You can email UK Energy Minister Chris Huhne at this address ps.chris.huhne@decc.gsi.gov.uk.

To contact your local councillor, MP, MSP or member of the London, Welsh or Northern Ireland Assemblies go to this link.

Support the campaign to get 38 degrees to start a campaign against fracking in Scotland, England and Wales – add a comment and give 3 votes to the suggestion (this is not vote rigging – 38 degrees allows people 7 votes on what campaign suggestions it should take up at any time).

Please also forward this email, or send an email with a link to this blog post, to everyone you know who might sign.

In the US

You can contact your elected representatives at any level of government through the contact details on this website , refer them to the studies showing fracking causes air and water pollution and serious illnesses and ask them to call for a ban on it.

There are also petitions you can sign up to including Save the Water Table’s petition to ban fracking.

Please also forward this email, or send an email with a link to this blog post, to everyone you know who might sign.


(1) = Guardian.co.uk 02 Nov 2011 ‘Fracking 'probable' cause of Lancashire quakes’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/02/fracking-cause-lancashire-quakes

(2) = Scotland on Sunday 05 Nov 2011 ‘Fracking’ for gas given the green light’,  http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/scotland/fracking_for_gas_given_the_green_light_1_1950654

(3) = US Environmental Protection Agency 1987 ‘Report to Congress – Management of Wastes from the Exploration, Development and Production of Crude Oil, Natural Gas and Geothermal Energy – Volume 1 of 3 – Oil and Gas’,http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/drilling-down-documents-7.html

(4) = Osborn, Stephen G et al (2011) ‘Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing’in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 17, 2011 vol. 108 no. 20 8172-8176http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.short

(5) = Holzman, DC (2011) ‘Methane Found in Well Water Near Fracking Sites’ in Environ Health Perspectives 119 (01 Jul 1999),http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.119-a289

(6) = AP 5/9/2011 ‘Methane in water near gas drilling sites, study finds’,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42964307/ns/us_news-environment/t/methane-water-near-gas-drilling-sites-study-finds/#.TuPXPHpU2uI

(7) = CNN money 10 May 2011 ‘Tainted drinking water found near gas wells’, http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/09/news/economy/natural_gas_fracking_duke/index.htm

(8) = Bloomberg 12 Dec 2011 ‘Wyoming’s Tainted Water Puts Pressure on EPA to Act on Gas Fracking’,http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-12/wyoming-s-tainted-water-pressures-epa-on-to-act-on-gas-fracking.html

(9) = http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/

(10) = The Independent Petroleum Association of America 05 Jun 2009 ‘Hydraulic Fracturing under attack’,http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/HFUnderFire.pdf , ‘The "Energy In Depth" project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.’

(11) = BBC news 28 Nov 2011 ‘How fracking affects a community in Pennsylvania’,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-15919248

(12) = Korey A. Kirker & Ryan N. Burger (2011) ‘JUST THE FRACKING FACTS’, Swanson School of Engineering 9 April 20011, University of Pittsburgh , Eleventh Annual Freshman Conference, http://region8water.colostate.edu/PDFs/1267.pdf

(13) = see (10) above)

(14) = Condisine, Timothy J et al (2011) ‘The Pennsylvania Marcellus Natural Gas Industry: Status, Economic Impacts, and Future Potential’, Pennsylvania State University College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering http://marcelluscoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Final-2011-PA-Marcellus-Economic-Impacts.pdf , p ii ‘Acknowledgements The authors of this study acknowledge that the Marcellus Shale Coalition provided the funding for this study.’

(15) = Factcheck.org 14 Oct 2011 ‘Just the Fracking Facts’, http://www.factcheck.org/2011/10/just-the-fracking-facts/

(16) = Marcellus Shale Coalition – Full Members, http://marcelluscoalition.org/about/full-members/

(17) = See (10) above

(18) = Pittsburgh Post Gazette 07 Nov 2011 ‘Corporate funding of Marcellus Shale studies at universities raises alarms’http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11311/1188150-503.stm#ixzz1gApAdRyG  (details companies involved in fracking funding studies of fracking at American universities, some of whom refuse to provide details of who funds research – including Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pittsburgh)

(19) = Pittsburg Post Gazette 06 Nov 2011 ‘Drilling on Campus: Marcellus Shale boom puts colleges at crossroads’, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11310/1187594-113.stm#ixzz1gB2BK1jO (details how students associations and campus groups in Pennsylvania university are selling drilling rights for fracking operations to companies on campus)

(20) = See (12) above

(21) = Reuters 14 Dec 2009 ‘California aquifers seen rapidly losing water’, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/12/15/us-water-california-idUSTRE5BE0FP20091215

(22) = US geological survey ‘Groundwater depletion’, http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/gwdepletion.html

(23) = BBC News 06 Oct 2009 ‘Jordan faces up to water crisis’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8292228.stm

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