Video: Fracking the cause of Fort Lupton's flaming faucet?

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Video below.
This week's cover story, "The Insider," profiles Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuller, whose efforts to defend her industry's strong presence in the state have been made tougher by the fallout from Josh Fox's antifracking documentary Gasland. That film "has really changed the conversation" about using hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas," Schuller admits -- especially a scene showing a Fort Lupton homeowner setting his tap water on fire.

The startling scene in question is considered the "money shot" in the grim 2010 documentary. In order to demonstrate just how badly his well water has become contaminated with methane, a man named Mike Markham fiddles with a lighter at his kitchen sink -- and produces a blast of flame. Filmmaker Fox then repeats the trick, cutting off the inferno by shutting off the water.

It's Markham's contention that the phenomenon was caused by the fracking going on in his vicinity, a claim that's been strongly challenged by Irish journalist Phelim McAleer and his pro-frack movie FrackNation, as well as by COGA and a host of other industry sources. A group called Energy for America even put out a fake trailer for Fox's follow-up film, Gasland 2, to try to discredit it even before it airs on HBO.

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But perhaps the most substantive rebuttal has come from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the primary regulatory agency overseeing fracking in the state. In a detailed "correction document" available on the agency website, the COGCC notes that it conducted its own investigation of complaints about possible methane contamination of water wells by three Weld County landowners featured in Gasland. One did have a problem that could be at least partly blamed on oil and gas development and reached a settlement with the operator. But the COGCC investigation concluded that in the other cases, including Markham's, the methane was "biogenic" in origin -- meaning that it was naturally occurring and not typical of the kind of "thermogenic" gas found in drilling operations.

"COGCC records indicate little or no temporal relationship between the Markham and McClure complaints and nearby drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities, which occurred several years earlier and in most cases many years earlier," the document states.

Fox has prepared his own extensive rebuttal to the rebuttals, in which he cites research that indicates fracking may well facilitate the migration of biogenic gas into well water: "So, just because the COGCC labeled the gas 'biogenic' doesn't mean that they actually looked into how it got there."

Fraud or fracking shame? As with most points of contention in the fracking debate, there's no easy answer. Check out the money shot below.

More from our Environment archive: "Fracking fight coming to Loveland?"

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40 comments
JimTom
JimTom

WestWord as I 've siad before stick to stories you can handle. Like the Gay Pride parade and Peter Boyles.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

EVERYONE, YOU ARE MISSING THE COVER STORY WRITTEN ALONG W/ THIS 'ADDITION' .

Refer to the front page . It's this issue's COVER-STORY !

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Obviously, the guy's really intelligent. He knows what he's going to do is stupid, but he does it anyway.

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

I didn't lift anything or search anything, I simply posted another article that Westword ran today, and a link to a documentary that I feel everyone should see regardless of which side of the debate you are on. And the years I spent getting an Energy degree did in fact involve quite a bit of research.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Lifting and rewording passages from Wikipedia and reliance upon random ambiguous search queries isn't exactly "a ridiculous amount of research."

clayton4H
clayton4H

The important correlation is how much Americans consume, how little they expect to pay, and how little they know about how it all happens. There's an incredibly efficient, sophisticated, and huge industrial process behind the curtain. Believe it or not, most people don't earn a living blogging or designing web pages. Most people sustain themselves as part of the processes that make things. If the folks of Boulder and Longmont wish to ban fracking, they should put their money where their mouths are and close the valve on the frack supplied gas pipeline at the city limit. It would be a wonderful social and economic demonstration of their theories.

Kudos to Westword for contributing to the debate!

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

They even reference the article "The Insider" in this story description!!!! Such a giant contradiction.

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

I am not a lobbyist at all I have just done a ridiculous amount of research on this topic and have formed my conclusions based on facts, not Hollywood stories like you have.

Emily Langley
Emily Langley

To say that the methane coming up is not a a result of fracking in the area is naive at best a flat out lie for anyone capable of understanding the statistical impact of the correlations in ALL areas where this is being done. There are zero areas where fracking is going on that don't have reports like this and 100% that do. If you want to look at a control of all areas that don't have fracking going on, less than 1 in 1 million homes not in areas with fracking report this...so if its not causing it, there's a very suspicious correlation here that needs to be investigated by anyone who understands stats and scientific method...

Emily Langley
Emily Langley

The fracking "process" itself may only use the chemicals mentioned, but the activity of what fracking does to the environment around the process releases the methane and other gases...its caused by the fracking but not a direct part of the process. Like when they put growth hormones in milk, the hormones may not cause issues, but the hormones or bodies create as a result of the extra hormones cause the problems...it is still cause and effect. It is still the fracking doing it, not hard to track at all. Just not a "direct" consequence of the process, but it is a direct consequence of what happens when the process is done in an area. Areas where there are not fracking rarely if ever see this problem, areas with fracking see it regularly...see a connection?

Emily Langley
Emily Langley

Steve how long have you been a lobbyist for the gas and oil industry?

Emily Langley
Emily Langley

right but all the natural methane comes up "naturally" after fracking starts in the area? And it doesn't come in places where there is no fracking and fracking isn't the cause? Really? Ever heard of science? Sure and when I take aspirin for a headache the headache naturally goes away on its own...there's no cause and effect with the aspirin. Why would we want to use logic and our brains if there is money to be made. Fossil fuels are nearly gone, time for a new and safe energy infrastructure, not to ekk out every cent from the remains of fossil fuels making homes explode...not cool!

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

^ maybe because there has always been naturally occuring methane there and that's why they want to drill there? Every case of tapwater igniting has been proven to be from natural methane and has nothing to do with Fracking.

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

You mean in Dimock, PA where there has been a town fountain on fire for over 100 years?? Seriously people do some research before believing films like Gasland. I would highly recommend any "fractivist" to watch - http://fracknation.com/ this completely disproves almost every claim made in Gasland

Steph Bailey
Steph Bailey

Yep, I'm very disappointed with what Westword has done. They have contradicting themselves all in the same day.

Stephanie Sarad
Stephanie Sarad

anyone with ANY knowledge on the bio sludge of fracking knows this is totally bogus. water, sand, and xantham gum does not catch water on fire. Also, since when can natural gas seep through 1 foot of cement casing? gimme a break. people need to read more

Katie Meier
Katie Meier

^^^??? Oooookay. Yea for many many centuries people have been lighting tap water and water on fire (sarcasm), and it is just now making the news as fracking becomes popular.

Steph Bailey
Steph Bailey

This happens around areas where fracking is taking place. Not BECAUSE of the fracking, but because of the nature of the area. Natural gas is found naturally in places where methane also is found naturally. There are documented cases decades ago before drilling, let alone fracking took place in these areas showing that the faucets caught fire. Yes, it is a brilliant move for the fracktivists to show water on fire - complete sensationalism. But please, do your homework, dig deeper, and realize that fracking is 90% water, 9% sand, and very little chemicals. It also takes place so far below the surface that it is not going to affect the water source.

Steve Florentine
Steve Florentine

^ maybe because there has always been naturally occuring methane there of course??? Come on Westword, you guys published a very good and informative article today about the truths of fracking from a very knowledgele woman who was once it's greatest opponent- http://www.westword.com/2013-06-13/news/tisha-schuller-fracking-colorado/ and you decide to put this very old and debunked story on FB?? Poor form, I was impressed by this article above, why not post an informative 6 page piece, instead of this pathetic half page article with a clip from a 3 year old movie that was proven to be complete BS?

Kurt Wildforster
Kurt Wildforster

That are of Pennsylvania had issues with water lighting on fire before the pilgrims came to America so I'd say don't jump to conclusions without doing an investigation. It's possible that fracking caused this, but it's also possible that any number or natural gases or oil has slipped into the water supply somehow. Check it out and follow where it leads

Sean Bracken
Sean Bracken

Same thing happened to that man's faucet in Pennsylvania after fracking. So I'd say yes.

Emily Langley
Emily Langley

Well, lets see, this happens everywhere along the lines around places where there is fracking...if it isn't the cause then its a pretty damn big coincidence...

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I applaud WW for making this it's featured piece !

Fantastic work Alan ! Be sure to send a copy to Sean .

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@JimTom  

Hey Bud, this WASN'T written by Michael Roberts ! Alan Prendergast IS the FINEST news/interest writer in the region !!!  Hands down the BEST !!!

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Cognitive_Dissident  

It's times like this I'm glad I grew up w/o much more than a few sets of clothes, books, & stray dogs . I can truly appreciate what my crippled ass has worked hard to obtain . Even the most basic is a victory for the ones born into condemnation !

I feel for the guy w/ the lighter BUT I'd be terrified of the place blowing up each time the 'fire trick' was preformed ......!

If you haven't watched 'GasLand', you can find it in it's entirety on YouTube . You might want to have a box of tissue close . If you possess 1/2 heart, you'll need it !..... 

BackOffImStarving
BackOffImStarving topcommenter

@Emily Langley And you are obviously NOT one of those people who understands stats and the scientific method, at least in relation to geophysics, mechanical, and petroleum engineering.

JimTom
JimTom

@Emily Langley What do you use to heat your house and water?

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@Emily Langley You mean a very suspicious correlation, like, places where they extract gas, there might be...wait for it...gas in the ground?

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@Emily Langley See how easy it is to discredit yourself? You just did it.

clinoform
clinoform

@Emily Langley - It is fairly obvious that you have very little understanding of science, and you are unwilling to educate yourself about the topic that you are so passionate about.  You are neither using logic nor your brain.  In fact, you have done yourself a tremendous disservice every time you have written something here.  The biogenic methane in Mr. Markham's aquifer is naturally occurring and was observed by scientists many years before any wells were drilled in the area.  And, yes, there are natural methane seeps all over the world - biogenic and thermogenic - and these seeps do not require a well (or fracking, for that matter) to 'come up.'

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Stephanie Sarad  

You need to start standing up to some of these bullies . DEMAND respect OR ignore them . Hotay IS a genius but is rather lacking in effective socializing . 'Headline readers' did this by running their mouths w/o reading the article . People see the name Hotay, & they automatically want to argue .

I'm a bit different . I DO in fact, hear everyone out and PREFER when links to sites supporting opinions, are provided . Especially w/ my complete DISTRUST of ALL American media !!!

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@Emily Langley Gee, they're also fracking where there's...gas in the ground. Hmm...

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Emily Langley Interesting point, Emily. Thanks for posting.

JimTom
JimTom

@Juan_Leg I guess I am on my why to OZ, need to see the wizard, I think I am missing something.

JimTom
JimTom

@Juan_leg A ride to Kansas.

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