What a rare and wonderful event to have a nationally known and highly regarded scientist come to Longmont to speak to a group of concerned citizens! The day-long conference sponsored by Our Longmont began with a keynote address by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, the Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University and a highly regarded expert of the history of hydraulic fracturing and its present practices. In 2011, TIME Magazine named him one of its “People Who Mattered.” His widely published research on computer simulation and physical testing of complex fracturing processes provides the very latest information on the controversial process of fracking.
In a very engaging lecture with numerous slides, Dr. Ingraffea showed that the deleterious effects of the process of fracking are not in fact controversial. Only someone ignorant of the widely published research could hold that view, and that includes data made public and researched by oil companies, themselves, as well as independent research scientists. Among the more disturbing disclosures he offered was the very latest on fracturing technology’s saturation approach to drilling. Gone are days of drilling single wells that are miles apart, or even drilling just a single well pad. Dr. Ingraffea showed how the most economical and profitable drilling is now done on wells so closely spaced that the lateral drill shafts are only 500 feet apart. Companies lease miles of land and then drill literally everywhere within it. This means there would be explosions of shale every 500 feet. It’s easy to see that no urban area could maintain its residences or general habitat if it was subjected to saturation drilling. Why, then, are public officials in Colorado saying that only a few more regulations should make everything ok? That is absurd.
Dr. Ingraffea also provided a perspective on the real economic data about fracking. Far from being a great boon to the economy, most wells are played out within 5 years. Most will also eventually leak, causing environmental damage, even if they are not actively drilled again. Dr. Ingraffea showed that the Niobrara formation, which is underneath Longmont and most of the Front Range, is nowhere near the size of the Bakken Field in North Dakota. It is only about one-tenth the size of the Bakken, possibly even less than that. Why should we destroy the place where we live for this small amount of oil? It will not significantly benefit the Longmont economy, but it will wreak havoc with our way of life and our health and safety.