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Confirmed: Fracking can pollute

Sarah Laskow, Salon
One of the key arguments in the case for fracking rests on an appeal to common sense. The hydraulic fracturing process — pushing gallons upon gallons of chemical-laden water into shale rock in order to bubble up natural gas — takes place deep in the ground, thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and thousands of feet below the shallow aquifers that provide drinking water. Given the distance between the water and the fracking fluid, there’s just no way fracking could contaminate aquifers, the gas industry and its allies argue. So many layers of rock lie between noxious fracking fluid and water that the risks of chemical-laced drinking water don’t compute…

But a new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, upends that common-sense argument. It shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren’t products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too.

“The fact that it’s a mile or two miles apart doesn’t mean that there’s separation,” says Prof. Avner Vengosh, the Duke University geochemist whose research group conducted the study…

Link to report
Link to press release
(9 July 2012)

Shale gas drilling declines in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region

Robert Magyar, The Examiner
Shale gas industry operations have been declining over the last year in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region according to recent records released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP). The PDEP’s data reveals shale gas drilling permitting and wells drilled, along with environmental violations all trending down significantly. According to Matt Kelso, of the non-profit independent shale gas research group,, “While there is obviously significant fluctuation on a month to month basis, the negative slope of the trend lines show that these three indicators of activity for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania are all well down over a one year period.”

What this means to the aggressive claims of massive state job creation, tax revenues and land owner leasing royalty checks is unknown. But it has people beginning to wonder if the shale gas industry is just another oil and gas quick boom to bust cycle. With the industry now claiming the real action lies in wet oil infused shale gas instead of the dry gas which dominates Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region, this resulted in a steady migration of drilling from the Marcellus in PA to the Utica Shale formation in Ohio…
(1 July 2012)

Drilling trucks have caused an estimated $2 billion in damage to Texas roads

Barry Shlachter, Star Telegram
The new wave of oil and gas production, which has created thousands of jobs and plowed big money into the Texas economy in recent years, has also taken a huge toll on the state’s roads.

The Texas Department of Transportation told industry representatives and elected officials Monday that repairing roads damaged by drilling activity to bring them up to standard would “conservatively” cost $1 billion for farm-to-market roads and another $1 billion for local roads. And that doesn’t include the costs of maintaining interstate and state highways.

“Right now there’s not a dedicated revenue source,” John Barton, the department’s deputy executive director, told the Star-Telegram after a task force meeting about the problem. “We need $2 billion, and the shortfall is $2 billion.”…
(2 July 2012)