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Fracking contamination "inconceivable," says John Hickenlooper -- but EPA disagrees

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Governor John Hickenlooper has walked a taut tightrope on energy issues since taking office, pushing for more natural gas drilling in a state already leading the region in drilling starts, while at the same time nudging the industry toward greater disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" processes. But he may be exhibiting too much confidence in the way the fossil fuel crowd does business.

Earlier this week, in his opening speech at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association annual meeting, the former geologist-brewer-mayor told state energy moguls that more information on the toxic brew of chemicals injected into wells needs to be shared with the public, according to this account in the Denver Business Journal.

"Everyone in this room understands that hydraulic fracturing doesn't connect to groundwater, that it's almost inconceivable that groundwater will be contaminated," the governor said. "But the industry needs to be transparent. It needs to demonstrate, beyond a doubt, that this doesn't happen."

There's only one problem. It does happen.

In the widespread debate over fracking, oil and gas executives have kept their message simple and adamant -- in the course of drilling more than a million wells using fracking techniques, there's never been a documented case of groundwater contamination. The wells typically extend thousands of feet below freshwater aquifers and are sealed after use; while there have been cases of surface spills or gas seepage contaminating drinking water, no one has demonstrated that the fracking chemicals have migrated into acquifers.

That's the message, anyway. But this story in today's New York Times unearths an Environmental Protection Agency report that does deal with a drinking supply contamination by fracking in West Virginia.

The incident described dates back to the 1980s, and industry leaders are quick to point out that fracking methods have improved greatly since then. But sources interviewed by the Times strongly suggest there may be other instances that have been hushed up in lawsuit settlements, and that the EPA's probe of the issue has been less than comprehensive.

It's sobering reading -- and, when added to the pile of other exposés and reports on fracking concerns, it makes a case that more disclosure and supervision of the industry's extraction methods is not simply a good-sense exercise in public relations, but downright essential.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Fracking primer: State seeks to address uproar over drilling process."

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6 comments
JaneMiami
JaneMiami

Awe, the EPA is just doing their job now because they don't want to get the axe.  Where have you been on Florida rock mining?  

Travis
Travis

Below are two people that know nothing of the actual details surrounding the actual report.  It's funny how those so quick to admonish do not take the time to realize the true facts and background of the situation and the report that the New York Times is equally as quick to point to.  Don't think environmentalists have an agenda?  Of course they do, which is why they leave out these KEY details which completely undermines the claims of the report.  Industry knows how to gather the whole picture, why not environmentalists? 

I'll leave this here. 

http://www.energyindepth.org/2...

My advice: Study, research, and know the details before blasting your mouth off with things you have no idea about.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

He is exhibiting the same cluelessness in evidence long before he was elected Governor -- this is a man who supposedly earned a degree in geology many years ago.  Denver elected this failed petrologist turned restaurateur and bland, tabula rasa, Chamber-of-Commerce Democrat to two terms as Mayor; now Colorado is stuck with a Governor who has the skills and vision required to run a restaurant and shill for natural gas producers (who, having successfully duped Colorado voters -- it was easy -- into defeating a fair severance tax comparable to that in neighboring states, are now in the process of destroying aquifers for huge profits).

Judy Jordan
Judy Jordan

An unabashed industry apologist who obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. When is the last time he studied this?  Fracking itself takes place deep in the earth, in some cases at depths well below useable aquifers.  But Hick anad his good old industry buddies miss the point.  The wells go right THROUGH the aquifers on the way down to the hydrocabon bearing zone, and since they're not sealed properly, they serve as conduits for the fluids to rise up to zones that ARE close to the useable aquifers.  

Robert Finne
Robert Finne

So we should just relax and take the industries word that its safe? Sorry, I'm just not that trusting of the industry funded PR machine, IED. That would seem like a KEY detail people need to be aware of.

Another incident recently happened in Bradford County, PA that resulted in a $1.8 million dollar fine for Chesapeake (CHK). They contaminated USDW and surrounding surface while fraccing a Marcellus shale well. Not the first time that's happened either.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Judy -- one we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats, and thanks for posting.

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