Sherman Says: Valid information regarding hydrofracking emerges on the Internet
Instead of bringing picks, shovels and dynamite to the site, crews were armed with tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride, methanol, sodium persulfate and hydrochloric acid. According to the details on its material safety data sheet, “Liquid is corrosive to skin and eyes and may cause permanent eye damage, including blindness. Mist may cause irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Avoid contact with skin, eyes or clothing,” the notice said. “This product is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.”
This chemical acts as a biocide similar to chlorine, which is added to swimming pools. Sodium persulfate may become unstable in the presence of heat or moisture. Contact with combustible material may cause fire.
Work on this well in Pennsylvania required almost 3.5 million gallons of fresh and recycled water.
All of this information is available through FracFocus, a joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
The website has been praised by some members of Congress, some industrial groups and some environmentalists for “taking the lead in disclosing the chemicals used in hydrofracking,” according to the news source Politico.
Some states have written FracFocus into their “fracking” regulations by name, providing further legitimacy. The interior department is also considering using the site, as it develops fracking disclosure rules for wells on federal land.
FracFocus gives the average American a first step in understanding this issue. It is voluntary to post information on the site, so some firms will linger in the shadows, but information from March shows that 212 companies had signed up for the service and that information was available for 13,000 wells in 20 states. Approximately 150 companies were participating at that point.
The University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute recently issued a report that offers a review of Pennsylvania’s regulation of hydrofracking of natural gas. It examined 2,988 violations from nearly 4,000 natural gas wells from January 2008 – August 2011. Researchers found that 62 percent of the violations were administrative and preventive in nature. The remaining 38 percent were environmental in nature. The environmental violations were the result of 845 events, with 25 classified as “major” environmental events.
A press release from UB said that the report suggests that Pennsylvania’s regulatory approach has been effective at maintaining “a low probability of serious environmental events and in reducing the frequency of environmental violations.” The study found that the proposed regulatory framework in New York could help avoid the 25 events identified in Pennsylvania.
Another sign that Western New Yorkers are taking an avid interest in this hot issue was Saturday’s “People’s Hearing on Fracking” at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Organizers said, “Fracking has been cited as a threat to surface and ground water throughout the region and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local streams, the air and soil. Collateral damage includes lost property value and drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers.”
The framework for Saturday’s gathering was provided by a collection of artists and activists familiar with the Elmwood Village. Brad Wales, an associate professor at UB, said the goal was to “create a synergy that will draw as many people as possible, to engage in clean water issues.”
There’s nothing like folk guitars and face painting to get people motivated about saving the planet. I’ll stick with more traditional forms of research.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com.