Fracking Industry Coming up Short on Voluntary Disclosures

NewsInferno; August 15, 2012

The fracking industry’s purported willingness to disclose the chemicals it uses at active drilling sites across the U.S. in an industry-maintained online database is coming under question. According to a Bloomberg report this week, that database is riddled with omissions and inaccuracies.

FracFocus.org was created by companies that currently use the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling process to extract natural gas and oil from underground shale formations. Thousands of wells are operating across the U.S., with most centralized in the Mid Atlantic region. A boom in fracking development has created an abundant supply of natural gas reserves but has also drawn the ire of a skeptical public which believes the process is wrought with potential hazards, both to the environment and public health.

The FracFocus.org database was created last April as a means of helping to allay the public fears. It is supposed to be an easily-accessible font of information on active fracking sites around the country but a Bloomberg investigation has revealed that it likely only contains sparse information, at best. One company’s submissions to the database for example, Apache Corp., omits three out of every five wells it operates and whether or not the company is fully disclosing the contents of its drilling fluids is unknown, but seems unlikely. The report indicates every company submitting to the database is just as lax in succumbing to full disclosure.

Fracking companies have taken advantage of lax environmental regulations that created a boom in drilling after 2005. Being able to hide so-called trade secrets means fracking companies are not required to disclose everything that goes into the well. The process employs the use of hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, a drill, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals. Together, these contents are rushed below the suface some two miles via an underground well shaft. Once it hits the intended shale bed, the rock is blasted apart and natural gas or oil deposits are released and supposed to be all rushed back to the surface for collection.

Skeptics of the process believe that fracking causes underground chasms to open that allow the dangerous contents of fracking fluid to escape the intended path. This, environmental advocates believe, has led to widespread contamination of the ground, water, and air surrounding active fracking sites. Homes within a mile of an active fracking well are more likely to realize the hazardous effects of fracking drilling. Some neighbors of wells have been forced to cap their private freshwater wells  and find alternate supplies, all while the fracking industry denies that first, the process is dangerous and secondly, that it uses the chemicals or agents believed to be contaminating those wells.  For instance, some homes in Pennsylvania can actually light their tap water on fire due to an excessive build-up of methane gas that neighbors of fracking wells believe can be blamed on the energy exploration process.

To avoid potential environmental regulations that would seemingly hinder or almost halt the process altogether, fracking companies have attempted numerous times to fully disclose what exactly goes into each well. In many cases however, that full disclosure is only as full as those companies want the public to believe.

Bloomberg’s investigation revealed that “in eight states, companies told regulators that 18,158 wells were readied for production or were newly producing from April 11, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011. They disclosed 8,555 of them on FracFocus. If 85 percent of the total wells were fracked, that means 45 percent of the fracks weren’t disclosed on the website.”

Altogether, Bloomberg has determined that of the more than 1,100 companies which may potentially use fracking drilling or have plans to operate wells, just 8 percent of them have contributed to the industry-fed online database.

http://www.newsinferno.com/fracking/fracking-industry-coming-up-short-on-voluntary-disclosures/40213

Report Says New York Set to Allow Fracking After Labor Day

NewsInferno; August 21, 2012

Environmental regulators in New York are set to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas in the state and guidelines for drilling should be available just after Labor Day.

According to a CBS News report, the decision is being met with the same skeptical optimism that it’s faced across the country, with some people facing dilemmas in which they stand to gain financially while others worry their natural resources and normal way of life are about to face grave threats.

New York has been a holdout in the fracking debate. Former Gov. David Patterson had enacted a moratorium on fracking drilling while he was in office. That moratorium extended into the current term of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who promised to lift that act once state environmental regulators concluded a full safety review of the fracking process. With that nearly complete, the state appears set to allow fracking drilling, at least on a limited basis, on private lands, permitting landowners to lease their land to drilling companies who will set up wells on their property.

Fracking drilling employs the use of fresh water, sand, a drill, and a mix of more than 500 chemicals which are injected into the ground through a long horizontal well until they reach a shale formation about two miles below the surface. Once the rock is fractured, it releases natural gas deposits that are rushed back to the surface.

New York sits atop several shale formations, mostly the Marcellus shale bed, a massive, multi-state expanse of rock across the Mid Atlantic region once believed to contain more than $3 trillion in natural gas reserves. Those estimates have since been scaled back, as have other beliefs on the benefits to allowing drilling.

 

Critics of the fracking process believe the drilling and extraction process contaminates groundwater and underground water aquifers, thus contaminating the fresh water supply in an immediate and more widespread area. Until now, environmental advocates have successfully launched campaigns at delaying fracking in New York, making up for their losses in Pennsylvania, where drilling occurs daily almost unchecked from state regulators. The boom there has created a wealth of problems along with an abundant supply of natural gas.

New Yorkers are worried that allowing fracking drilling in the state will create the same problems being faced in Pennsylvania: residents blaming the drilling for contaminating their drinking water supply and polluting the air, putting a strain on natural resources and local infrastructure, along with the false promise of abundant jobs and a renewed local economy.

Some private landowners told CBS News they welcome the introduction of fracking to the state, believing their ability to lease farmland, for example, could provide a necessary investment that could save their farms. Pennsylvanians have banked $2 billion this year in fracking land leases, allowing drilling companies to create well sites and extract the gas in the shale formations below the surface.

New York’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation has promised to enact the strictest standards for any proposed fracking drilling and some areas of the state have been labeled as off-limits to any drilling. To combat expected passage at the state level, about a dozen local municipalities in New York have passed their own bans on drilling, all which have stood up to at least one court challenge from the fracking industry.

Environmental regulators in New York are set to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas in the state and guidelines for drilling should be available just after Labor Day.

According to a CBS News report, the decision is being met with the same skeptical optimism that it’s faced across the country, with some people facing dilemmas in which they stand to gain financially while others worry their natural resources and normal way of life are about to face grave threats.

New York has been a holdout in the fracking debate. Former Gov. David Patterson had enacted a moratorium on fracking drilling while he was in office. That moratorium extended into the current term of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who promised to lift that act once state environmental regulators concluded a full safety review of the fracking process. With that nearly complete, the state appears set to allow fracking drilling, at least on a limited basis, on private lands, permitting landowners to lease their land to drilling companies who will set up wells on their property.

Fracking drilling employs the use of fresh water, sand, a drill, and a mix of more than 500 chemicals which are injected into the ground through a long horizontal well until they reach a shale formation about two miles below the surface. Once the rock is fractured, it releases natural gas deposits that are rushed back to the surface.

New York sits atop several shale formations, mostly the Marcellus shale bed, a massive, multi-state expanse of rock across the Mid Atlantic region once believed to contain more than $3 trillion in natural gas reserves. Those estimates have since been scaled back, as have other beliefs on the benefits to allowing drilling.

Critics of the fracking process believe the drilling and extraction process contaminates groundwater and underground water aquifers, thus contaminating the fresh water supply in an immediate and more widespread area. Until now, environmental advocates have successfully launched campaigns at delaying fracking in New York, making up for their losses in Pennsylvania, where drilling occurs daily almost unchecked from state regulators. The boom there has created a wealth of problems along with an abundant supply of natural gas.

New Yorkers are worried that allowing fracking drilling in the state will create the same problems being faced in Pennsylvania: residents blaming the drilling for contaminating their drinking water supply and polluting the air, putting a strain on natural resources and local infrastructure, along with the false promise of abundant jobs and a renewed local economy.

Some private landowners told CBS News they welcome the introduction of fracking to the state, believing their ability to lease farmland, for example, could provide a necessary investment that could save their farms. Pennsylvanians have banked $2 billion this year in fracking land leases, allowing drilling companies to create well sites and extract the gas in the shale formations below the surface.

New York’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation has promised to enact the strictest standards for any proposed fracking drilling and some areas of the state have been labeled as off-limits to any drilling. To combat expected passage at the state level, about a dozen local municipalities in New York have passed their own bans on drilling, all which have stood up to at least one court challenge from the fracking industry.

http://www.newsinferno.com/fracking/report-says-new-york-set-to-allow-fracking-after-labor-day/40298