PA DEP Splits Hairs, Drags Heels Over Duke Water Study

Duke University scientists published “The Duke Water Study” on May 9, 2011 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found “systematic evidence” that fracking increases methane contamination at least 17 times in wells near gas drilling sites in 68 wells tested in NY and PA. Much as industry groups, such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition, would like to detract from Duke’s conclusions, the science is there. The “good” kind.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection, however, where the commitment to working with gas drillers on compliance is more overtly robust than ever, requires further peer review before they will stop issuing new drilling permits at the fastest pace in PA history. PA DEP spokesperson Kathy Gresh says DEP scientists are evaluating the study and “would like to see all of the authors’ backup data to review their methodology.” SOURCE: CitizensVoice.com

The Marcellus Shale Coalition disputes the study, saying methane gas migration is an existing and naturally occurring problem in Pennsylvania, and that it was there before fracking began. They gleefully point to one of the study’s conclusions, that no fracture fluids were found in the wells tested. Okay,so fracking may not be directly to blame. It is safe to say, however, that while methane migration may have been occurred occassionally in Pennsylvania, industrial gas drilling activities have certainly precipitated far more instances of this type of well water pollution, like 17 times more. Gas Drillers may be only indirectly to blame, but they are no less guilty of causing the increased instances of methane migration. The mini-earthquakes required to frack fissures into solid bedrock, and the massive pressure at which water, sand and chemicals are blasted into the earth, are clearly stimulating other gas pockets nearby.

Fracking has become an explosive issue in Pennsylvania. Literally. After all the accidents we’ve seen so far – the Chesapeake Blowout in Bradford County, the neighborhood explosion in Allentown, the Talisman Energy “well control incident” and spill in Tioga State Forest, and the 8,000 gallon Cabot Oil Gas spill near Dimmock – just to name a few, the issue of pollution from Industrial Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale has moved up to the front burner. In that sense, the Duke study is a complete success.

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