Monthly Archives: January 2012

Fracking Experiences from “Victory Field”, Wetzel County, WV

This report was contributed to and approved by: Al Blazevicius, Ann Brown, Ken Edwards, Jane Jacobs, Bruce Kuhre, Loraine McCosker, Michele Papai, Celia Wetzel

On Jan. 9, 2012, a group of Athens residents travelled to Wetzel County, WV to have an eyewitness view of hydraulic fracturing sites run by Chesapeake Energy, a company planning extensive fracking in our county.  We were hosted by the Wetzel County Action Group.  Northern Wetzel County is home to 33 Marcellus Shale gas wells and 3 compressor stations installed by Chesapeake in a 6 square mile area of the county since 2007.  Chesapeake has a total of 140 wells permitted in Wetzel, and many additional wells and permits exist with other companies.

Wetzel County, fracking site under construction

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An Open Letter to the Athens County Commissioners

We appreciate your attention to the extremely urgent matter of protecting our county’s air, water, infrastructure, health, and economic well being from likely impacts of widespread deep shale drilling and horizontal fracturing operations that may soon arrive in our beloved community.

We are concerned by your potential opposition to support of the BREATHE Act and regulation of wells in source water protection areas in the draft we presented and discussed with you on Jan. 24, 2012. We are concerned that these omissions will reduce the positive influence of this collaborative proposal. While we realize that you cannot make law or regulate these industrial facilities, your public statements could be a powerful influence on corporate practices and on state legislative and regulatory bodies, including Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is developing new rules on these industrial processes. Continue reading

Is leasing your oil rights a personal or community decision?

By Kevin Smyth

This piece that was originally published in the Athens News Reader’s Forum of Jan. 23, 2012

One of the more troubling things about the fracking controversy is the notion that the decision to frack is a private decision and not a community decision. If it’s going to affect community air, water, roads and quality of life, then it is a community issue, isn’t it? So what is going on here?

Ecologist Garrett Hardin’s famous 1968 article, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” describes a situation where a number of shepherds are sharing a large pasture. One of the shepherds reflects thusly: “this pasture is huge. I could put out a few more sheep, and no one would even notice. It wouldn’t make any difference at all. And I could sure use the income.” And so he adds a few sheep to the pasture. Continue reading

Reporting from the Fracking Zone

Presentation & Discussion on Fracking on Jan. 28, 2 P.M., Morton Hall (Ohio University)

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Production of Fracking Chemicals: A Cautionary Tale

By Bernhard Debatin

Many fracking fluids are dangerous, highly toxic, carcinogenic, —  and also highly flammable. On Oct. 3, 2011, a massive fire destroyed the central Magnablend chemical plant  in Waxahachie, TX, about 30 miles south of Dallas. The facility mostly produced fracking fluids. The fire broke out around 10:30 a.m. and burnt for hours, sending huge plumes of black smoke into the sky. Due to the lack of proper containment systems, the liquid chemicals, many of which were on fire, spread quickly throughout and beyond the premises of the plant. Several severe explosions indicated that propane tanks and other highly explosive chemicals blew up in the fire, too.

Due to the intensity of the fire and the smoke, about 1000 people were evacuated from a school and an apartment building. While only two workers suffered minor injuries, the fire destroyed a $1.5 million fire truck in addition to the plant. The fire was mostly contained by 7:30 p.m., but some smaller hot spots kept burning into the next day and the fire smoldered for several days. Continue reading

New Study: Severe Health Impact of Fracking

By Bernhard Debatin

A new study on the Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health (*) shows that fracking fluids, methane gas exposure, and other gas-drilling related contamination can have a serious impact on the health of both humans and animals. The study, conducted by private practice veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald of the Department of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University, investigated 24 different sites with gas wells, 18 of which were horizontal hydro-fractured wells. The researchers observed and documented severe changes in health of both humans and animals living close to these sites. The majority of the observed animals were cows; other animals included horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, and koi.

Bamberger and Oswald interviewed animal owners affected by gas drilling in six different states (Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas). In addition, they obtained lab test results and data from drilling companies and state regulatory agencies. The most striking finding of the study is the death of over 100 cows, caused by their exposure to fracking fluids or drinking of fracking wastewater that was dumped or leaked into freshwater sources. Continue reading

Concerned About Fracking? — Part 3: Community Disruption — Who Pays the Bill?

By Bernhard Debatin

The fracking frenzy comes, as we have seen, in waves. First, there’s the leasing frenzy with landmen going from door to door, and lawyers and gas companies trying to make their leases palatable to the landowners. Second, the drilling operation with an invasion of workers and the installation of drilling pads and rigs, freshwater reservoirs, waste-water impoundments, and other construction. Third, the actual fracking and the ensuing gas or oil production, which can stretch over some years. Another wave, running parallel to the fracking activities and literally creating its own shockwave, is the disposal of the fracking fluids into injection wells, or — by way of the surface application loophole (see also ORC 1509.226) — as dust and ice control on public roads.

Whose Benefits and whose Costs?

While fracking obviously has some economic benefits for involved individuals, companies, and communities, critics have pointed out that the expected benefits are vastly overstated by the industry and the Ohio government. Continue reading