Balance needed

U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-3630

Oil Seepage in Pond (Foreground), Olin-Mathieson Plant in Background 1972

Most of us take a pretty one sided view of many issues.  A balanced view should be better.

Where is the balance with respect to hydraulic fracking.?  On the one hand we as a nation (and world) are a consumer of fossil fuels and will continue to be until alternate energy sources combined with greater efficiency meets our needs.  On the other hand there are risks associated with this process.  The risks are largely encountered by one group of people while very significant profits are realized by a much smaller group.

Drilling and production of oil and gas has increased dramatically over the last few years.  Currently we both import oil and export refined products.  There are advantages to not importing oil, especially from countries with limited stability.

What are the facts?  The oil and gas representatives that support hydraulic fracking appear to have either avoided some information or intentionally been misleading.

Claims that there has not been a single case of ground water contamination from hydraulic fracking are misleading.  There are several examples where groundwater has been contaminated from the necessary activities that are always associated with the process.  Where groundwater has been contaminated, the distinction is not important.

It is often stated that fracking chemicals are only 0.5 percent of the injected fluid.  This appears to be deliberately misleading.  The risk is a product of the inherent toxicity and concentration of the compound, and exposure (for example amount of water consumed over what period of time).   A concentration of 0.5 percent is 5,000 parts per million (ppm) or 5,000,000 parts per billions (ppb).  The maximum concentration limit (MCL) for benzene in groundwater set by the US EPA is 5 ppb.  We do not know the toxicity of many of the fracking chemicals, or even what they are and it may be that toxicity has not been determined for many of them.  Furthermore, the risk of a mixture may be even greater.

An article in the Times-Call claimed there was no problem because benzene and propane were well below the levels for a 10 hour exposure.  While propane has low toxicity it is ludicrous to talk about a 10 hour exposure rather than a longer term exposure.

Benzene, is a carcinogen as might be other compounds in the fracking fluid.  There is no threshold limit for carcinogens.

The proponents of hydraulic fracking have not in my experience acknowledged the disruption of the lives of families living close to the drilling sites – or the impact on schools for that matter.  Decreased home values are another problem.

It is difficult for most of us to believe what we are being told when so many obviously misleading statements have been made.

The argument has been made that the fracking industry would be challenged to operate under a different set of rules in each community and thus the need for state control.  Of course many housing contractors do operate in a number of communities with differences in construction code.  But if you do allow for some benefit for uniformity, that does not negate the need for communities to protect their own citizens, real-estate values, and schools when state organizations do not.

The state group controlling fracking (Colorado Oil and Gas Commission) has historically been largely controlled by oil and gas interests.  As a result, it is hard to see how that group will not focus on profits over other considerations.  It does not appear to me and many others that  the need for energy sources and profits has been fairly balanced with the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the communities being impacted.

We are now producing more refined fuels than we need and are exporting record amounts helping the balance of trade.  Concern has been raised that the US is likely to have insufficient storage capacity for natural gas by the end of the year.  Then why the need for drilling close to homes and schools?  Why not limit fracking to less hazardous locations including those with minimal potential for groundwater impact?

Why indeed!  Oil companies realized profits in the tens of millions of dollars. The “realized” pay for the CEO of Exxon/Mobile for 2011 was 24.6 million dollars or three times that in 2009 and four times that in 2006.  By how much has your pay increased over this time? By what factor is his pay greater than yours?   CEO pay should be higher than that for most people, but by how much?  Where is the balance?

Bob Norris
Longmont

Bob has lived in Longmont since 2000 and has been active in community issues including having served on the Longmont Board of Environmental Affairs.

  1 comment for “Balance needed

  1. FRED BATES
    May 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I saw this in the local paper. It just might be the finest piece of amateur journalism I have ever seen. Brilliant, and right on. Thanks, Mr. Norris.

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