After a Wyoming community complained to the E.P.A. a while back that their well water “reeked of chemicals” the agency analyzed the water and found hydrocarbons. So the residents have been advised not to drink the water. And today a draft report was published that I’m sure made neither the residents nor the oil and gas industry happy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.
The agency was careful to emphasize that these draft findings are applicable only to the Wyoming site, but opposition to fracking is growing all over.
If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, this is how the E.P.A. describes the process of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking or HF) which is being used to extract oil and gas around the world.
Fluids, commonly made up of water and chemical additives, are pumped into a geologic formation at high pressure during hydraulic fracturing. When the pressure exceeds the rock strength, the fluids open or enlarge fractures that can extend several hundred feet away from the well. After the fractures are created, a propping agent is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing when the pumping pressure is released. After fracturing is completed, the internal pressure of the geologic formation cause the injected fracturing fluids to rise to the surface where it may be stored in tanks or pits prior to disposal or recycling. Recovered fracturing fluids are referred to as flowback. Disposal options for flowback include discharge into surface water or underground injection.
The oil and gas industry considers the composition of the fluids used to be trade secrets but maintains that fracking is completely safe. To date, only two states have even considered requiring full disclosure of what “chemical additives” are being used.
The latest weird, in not entirely unexpected, twist in the hugely contentious debate about expanding fracking in Pennsylvania and New York: According to tapes obtained by CNBC, recorded by a member of Earthworks, one natural gas industry insider promoting fracking in the Marcellus and Utica Shale suggested that anti-fracking activists constitute an “insurgency”, with another one proposing hiring former military psy ops personnel to combat it.