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Secrecy of Fracking Chemicals Takes Beltway Spotlight

Elizabeth McGowan, Solve Climate
“It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”

Convincing the natural gas industry that a chemical disclosure protocol should be mandatory has proven to be much more formidable than blasting apart shale rock where the coveted hydrocarbons lurk underground.

And conservationists fear that the disclosure debate is slowing progress on resolving environmental impacts associated with natural gas drilling and its sister act of “fracking”—which is geological slang for hydraulic fracturing.

Those disparities became grist for a polite but enlivened exchange among three topic experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation. It was one of two fracking forums that unfolded in the nation’s capital Tuesday afternoon.

“The industry needs to deal with those issues rather than glibly keep saying they are America’s clean fuel source,” senior policy adviser Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund told those gathered for “The Promise and Perils of Hydraulic Fracturing: Best Answers to the Hardest Questions.”

“Nothing good is going to happen in the natural gas industry … until this disclosure issue is behind them,” Anderson continued. “It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”…
(1 December 2010)

Hydraulic Fracturing in the Spotlight

Tom Zeller JR., New York Times Green Blog
Hydraulic fracturing — that contentious part of the gas drilling process involving high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals deep underground — took center stage on Tuesday with two forums in Washington and a decision by the New York State Legislature to ban the practice until more is known about its health and environmental impacts…

Although the vast majority of fracking fluid is simply sand and water, drillers and their subcontractors have been notoriously guarded about the precise mixture of chemicals they include to help crack and prop open shale seams in an effort to more economically release the gas. Some companies provide lists of the sorts of chemicals they use, while others appear willing to provide more detailed data to state regulators — but citing trade secrets, not to the public.

Lee Fuller, the vice president of government relations with the I.P.A.A., even suggested that releasing the information to a populace unschooled in matters of science would only serve to scare them…

But Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund, said the natural gas industry stands by those arguments at its peril…

At a forum at the other end of the National Mall, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was mulling requiring companies to reveal their chemical cocktails…
(1 December 2010)

US natural gas drilling boom linked to pollution and social strife – with video

Jim Wickens, The Ecologist

Worth watching the video as it contains different information to the article. The video includes commentary from Lou Allstadt, former Senior Vice President at Mobil, and Prof. Tony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University.- SO

The gas stored in the Marcellus Shale formation is the subject of desperate drilling to secure US domestic energy supplies. But the process involved – hydraulic fracturing – is the focus of a bitter dispute over environmental damage and community rights

It is a timeless patchwork of small dairy farms and endless hills, emblazoned with the blood-red tints of an autumnal Pennsylvania forest. Set against this sleepy backdrop, however, the constant convoys of water trucks rumbling along the deserted country roads suggest something profound is taking place. This is ‘fracking’ country, the latest frontier in America’s desperate search for fossil fuels.

Pioneered by companies such as Halliburton, high-volume horizontal slickwater fracturing – otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, or simply fracking – involves the drilling of horizontal wells that are then injected with large volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to open up rock fractures and help propel rock-trapped gas back to the surface. For landowners, those in the gas industry and governments of cash-strapped US states that find themselves sitting on the gas-rich lines of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, this new technique has opened up lucrative opportunities and created a rush unseen for decades. Vast reserves of previously untappable natural gas, perhaps in excess of 50 trillion cubic feet of gas, can now be extracted on US soil, and the arguments used by advocates of fracking seem impressive.

‘It’s almost divine intervention. Right at the time oil prices are skyrocketing, we’re struggling with the economy, we’re concerned about global warming, and national security threats remain intense, we wake up and we’ve got this abundance of natural gas around us,’ said Aubrey McClendon in 2008, CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the leading gas companies drilling today.

Fracking is currently taking America by storm. In Pennsylvania alone, government estimates predict that 3,000-4,000 new wells will be drilled each year for the next 30 years. And America is not alone: test sites have already been set up over gas-holding shale formations in Poland, France, England and Germany. So where is the catch, and what can these European countries expect? The Ecologist visited Pennsylvania to find out…
(December 2010)

…and another view…

NY shale gas moratorium is a win-win

Sheila McNulty, FT Energy Source Blog
New York State’s decision this week to impose a moratorium on new drilling permits for shale gas wells until May 15, 2011, comes at a good time for the industry. The point of the moratorium is to give the state more time to investigate the environmental impact of the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling used to extract the gas from tight rock…
(2 December 2010)