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BIG OIL TELLS BIG LIES ABOUT FRACKING

In a recent guest column in the Southern Illinoisan, I argued that: Water for Oil is a Fool’s Trade.  Kyna Legner, identified as “field director for Illinois Energy in Depth (EID)” responded with a column calling for: “Facts not fear, needed in fracking debate”.

I agree.  That’s why I presented explicit facts in my column, showing that the industry will have to use up to a trillion gallons of fresh potable (“sweet”) water to frack the entire shale region of Southern Illinois.  Ms. Legner did not refute any of those facts – 3 million gallons of water per frack, 10 fracks per well, 16 wells per square mile, and more than 2000 square miles of shale in Southern Illinois.  That multiplies out to roughly 1 trillion gallons of water required.

Nor did Ms. Legner refute that this water will come back up as toxic waste, saturated with salts, volatile organic chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive materials (notably radium and radon) absorbed from the shale, as well as perhaps a billion gallons of proprietary toxic chemicals added by the industry.

Because Southern Illinois generally lacks underground aquifers of sweet water, the fracking industry will have to draw from the region’s surface water.  One trillion gallons will empty our largest lakes: Rend Lake 18 times, Crab Orchard 50 times, Lake of Egypt 80 times, Cedar Lake 140 times.

These facts raise two common sense questions. Where will we find one trillion gallons of sweet water in Southern Illinois?  And: How will we safely dispose of one trillion gallons of hazardous waste afterward, without poisoning our land and water?

We demand honest answers.  But the industry has none.  They propose to turn Southern Illinois into a vast laboratory for fracking, with us as the guinea pigs.

Ms. Legner says fracking is proven safe.  She is entitled to her opinion.   But, in calling for “facts”, she hides the one fact most essential to understanding her opinion — Who is Kyna Legner?

I am a mathematician and lawyer, living in Carbondale. I support responsible energy development and job growth.  But I oppose fracking because it is a reckless and dangerous new technology.  That is why I joined the legal team of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracking (“SAFE”).

I am not paid to express my opinion.  I simply speak the truth, as I understand it.

Ms. Legner is quite a different story. Her bio (at the bottom of her column) describes Energy in Depth as “a research, education, and public outreach campaign focusing on the responsible development of energy resources.”  That sounds as if EID is merely a public interest group seeking honest dialogue about fracking.

Not so!  EID’s website reveals that it was: “[l]aunched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in 2009” as a “public outreach campaign” to promote fracking and to “responsibly develop[ ]  America’s onshore energy resource[s].”  The website further shows that EID is based in Washington D.C., and even shares the same office address as IPAA.

In short, EID is a public advocacy and lobbying arm for the petroleum industry.  It publishes opinions all over the country, attempting to discredit those who oppose fracking.

Ms. Legner is one of 15 regional directors for EID.  Her expertise is in public relations, not fracking.  It is her job to persuade government officials, and the public, that fracking is safe.  Her “opinion” is bought and paid for by the petroleum industry.

So: when she tells you that hydraulic fracturing has been employed “for more than 60 years” in Illinois “without a single proven case of water contamination,” watch out.

It is true that vertical fracking in conventional oil wells has been done for 60 years.  But, as a practical matter, gas cannot be extracted from shale by vertical fracking.  That’s why it was not done 60 years ago.

New technology now enables the industry to drill horizontally through the shale layer in any direction.  But this horizontal fracking uses hundreds of times more water than vertical fracking, and now requires a toxic brew of chemicals to condition the water.  Of course, it also releases large quantities of methane.

Even small-scale vertical fracking has been proven to contaminate ground water.  In a detailed 1978 study, the Illinois EPA found that poisoned frack water had left more than 1000 acres of farmland sterile in Bond and White Counties.

However, the impact of large-scale horizontal fracking will dwarf old-style vertical fracking.  To my knowledge, the first commercial horizontal well was sunk in the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania in 2002.  Since then, contrary to Ms. Legner, a number of cases of water contamination have been fully documented.

In 2011, a Duke geology professor published a scientific study meticulously proving that certain wells in Pennsylvania had been contaminated by fracking. In 2012, the US EPA completed a multi-year study proving that the water supply for Pavillion, Wyoming, had been contaminated by fracking.

State authorities in Pennsylvania found that hydraulic pressure from fracking operations performed by Cabot Oil and Gas had caused a number of Cabot’s well-casings to leak, contaminating water supplies in both Dimock and Springville Townships. As a result, the State ordered Cabot to provide drinking water indefinitely to the residents, and to fix its wells.  A year later, the State found that Cabot’s well-casings were still leaking.

Independent scientific studies show that more than 6% of well-casings are defective from the start.  They will leak as soon as fracking pressure is applied.  A much larger percentage of well-casings fail in the first few years of operation, allowing gas and frack fluid to escape uncontrolled.

That means, if the industry sinks 15,000 wells in Southern Illinois, as is likely, one can expect 900 wells to leak immediately, and another 2000 to leak in the first few years of operation. Is this an acceptable cost?

In Bainbridge, Ohio, a house exploded after methane gas from a fracking operation entered the home through its water pipes.  Nineteen nearby homes also had to be evacuated because of methane in their water.

Hundreds of studies show correlations between fracking and contamination.  One study tracked a massive die-off of cattle in the frack zones of Pennsylvania.  Another tracked the steady increase of breast cancers in the frack zones of Texas, which it contrasted to a steady decrease throughout the rest of the state.

To date, no less than 562 residents of Pennsylvania have complained of harm due to fracking operations near their homes.

But no matter how many such incidents are documented, EID will still say there is no conclusive proof – because they are paid to say this.

In 2009, the petroleum industry hired an advertising firm, Hill and Knowlton, to defuse growing public opposition to fracking.  EID was created soon thereafter to spread sophisticated dis-information, posing as fact.

For example, Ms. Legner used an oft-repeated industry talking point, claiming that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) “concluded the water required for hydraulic fracturing would be about .8% of the total water demand in a given area.”

DOE made no such finding.

In April 2009, an industry-hired firm named ALL Consulting prepared a report entitled “Methane Gas Development in the United States, a Primer.”  The title page of this report makes clear that it was prepared for the DOE, and not by the DOE.  The Acknowledgements state that the study was “directed by the Ground Water Protection Council with ALL Consulting serving as lead researcher.” The authors then proceed to thank a long list of major fracking companies for their support.

The report itself begins with a “Disclaimer” that: “Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees . . . assumes . . . responsibility for the accuracy . . . of any information . . . disclosed,”  It further states: “The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.”

In other words, what EID has been trumpeting as the authoritative “2009 DOE report” does not represent the opinions or findings of the DOE at all.

It is the report of a consulting company, ALL, which claims that: in most regions of the country, less than .8% of the total available water will be used for fracking.

Anybody can make up a number.  ALL does not identify which watershed regions of the country it examined, how it estimated the amount of water to be required for fracking, and how it calculated the total water available in each region.

It is absurd to think, for example, that Pennsylvania, which has one of the most abundant watersheds in the country and Texas, which has one of the least, will both use the same .8% of the available water supply.

But there is no indication that either ALL consulting or Kyna Legner has ever examined the fragile water supply in Southern Illinois.  Their so-called estimate that fracking will only require .8% of our water supply is a made-up “fact.”  And EID’s claim that the DOE has validated this made-up fact is a bald-faced lie, designed to persuade us that the impact of fracking on our water supply has already been evaluated by experts, and found to be minimal.

To my knowledge, no one (except me) has ever attempted to make a calculation of the likely extra demand on the water supply in Southern Illinois caused by fracking.  It certainly will not be minimal.  The fact that the industry proposes to frack without first evaluating the water supply is grossly reckless and dangerous.

Yet, EID tells us not to worry.  And Hill and Knowlton puts out pretty advertisements suggesting that fracking companies are clean and green.

Curiously, Hill and Knowlton is the same advertising firm that, in 1954, launched the campaign to assure the public that smoking cigarettes was safe.  For 40 years, they argued: There is no conclusive proof that cigarettes cause cancer.  After all: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”  Now they argue: There is no conclusive proof that fracking contaminates groundwater.

It is up to you.  You can choose to believe that EID is telling you the whole truth about fracking.  Or, you can join with SAFE in calling for a moratorium, until the industry demonstrates fracking can be done safely, without endangering our water supply or causing serious harm to public health.

Richard Fedder 144 Pineview Rd Carbondale, IL. 62901 618-201-5834

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