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SAFE responds to IPAA: Accuses SAFE of Misleading the Public

On October 25th, in their publication “Energy in Depth” the Independent Petroleum Association of America singled out SAFE as an organization in Illinois that rejects science, overlooks the oil and gas industry’s “high standards” of safety regarding fracking, and refuses to acknowledge that the state of Illinois already regulates fracking effectively. The article entitled “Bans, Moratoria, and Safe Development” is written by the organizations Field Director for Illinois Kyna Legner.

It is also worthwhile to note this same individual wrote a similar piece for the Southern Illinoisan entitled, “Facts, not fear, needed in fracking debate” which was responded to by Outdoor writer for the Southern Illinoisan, Les Winkler

In our response to the Industry article,  SAFE refutes the notion that the industry has high standards when it comes to the health of the environment and people. It also refutes the preposterous statement that Illinois has strong regulations in place to govern fracking. Indeed there is not even mention of horizontal fracking in current regulations. The article is little more than propaganda published by the industry’s mouth piece to confuse local people and belittle those who seek answers to legitimate concerns regarding the dangers of fracking.

11/15/12 In the article Kyna also accuses SAFE of misleading the public about our true intentions as an organization. She says: “They’re looking for any avenue possible to ban hydraulic fracturing, even if it means claiming publicly that their goals are something more benign than their true intent.”

For Kyna, the IPAA and the public at large, let’s be clear about SAFE’s intentions. SAFE supports a permanent ban on horizontal fracking. We have done so since our first meeting at the beginning of this year. A ban is a permanent disallowance of horizontal fracking in Illinois. We don’t want it. We never will want fracking given the current industry techniques, standards and the state regulations that the IPAA touts so gushingly without producing a shred of evidence that they protect the public good.

Having said this, SAFE is simultaneously working with other people and groups who seek a moratorium on fracking. In essence, a moratorium is a ban with a time limit. Moratorium means to stop something until the problems can be resolved. A moratorium was proposed by the Speaker of the House during the last session because of the reluctance by the oil and gas industry to make meaningful changes in the Senate bill to protect local people or the environment. Therefore, SAFE, along with most environmental and health organizations in the state support further investigation into the dangers posed by the industry’s “high standards” as demonstrated in those states where horizontal fracking is currently in operation. It is here where the people are made sick, animals are mutated, and the air, water and land are poisoned. It is here where real science is being created.

The reason that we support a moratorium is that neither the federal government, nor the state of Illinois, has regulations in place to address the dangers of horizontal hydraulic fracking. The federal government has exempted fracking activities from all federal environmental laws and you will not find a single reference to horizontal fracking in current Illinois regulations. The dangers of fracking, especially horizontal fracking include, the release of high quantities of methane into the atmosphere from old and defective wells, the release of radioactive materials from the ground as a result of fracking operations, the flowback of injected toxic chemicals into the air (holding tanks) or land and water (injection wells) or through accidents and deliberate dumping of toxic waste into streams, on the land, and along roads. These are the current methods employed by oil and gas companies for getting rid of millions of gallons of toxic waste per each fracking incident.

There is also the fundamental problem of the loss of millions of gallons of water from the hydrological cycle that results from each fracking. A well can be fracked up to 18 times and there can be 16 wells per square mile. In the industry’s pseudo-science they compare the usage of water for fracking to the use of water by other industries like cooling plants etc. What they fail to say is that the water used to cool utility plants can and will be recycled back into the hydrological cycle, whereas the water used for fracking becomes toxic radioactive waste forever. It can never again be used for anything accept poisoning the environment.

Kyna cites another industry “scientific” fact to refute SAFE’s analysis when she quotes Lisa Jackson, current EPA Administrator, being interviewed by Fox News in April of 2012. Kyna has Lisa saying “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter ground water.”

If you notice the words hydraulic fracturing appears in brackets in Kyna’s quote. This means that Kyna is putting her own words into the EPA Administrators mouth. Why is this? If you look at the news video itself, Lisa actually says: “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter ground water.”

To understand why it was important for Kyna to make this subtle switch, you must understand something about the code words that the industry uses to shield itself from legal recriminations.

What Lisa was saying was that there is no legal proof that the fracking process i.e. the act of fracking has caused chemicals to pollute ground water. This statement is true for several shoddy reasons. First, because the industry does not have to reveal the toxic chemicals they use for fracking (its considered proprietary information). Therefore, if any chemicals do enter ground water, there is no way to legally prove that the frackers were responsible for the pollution. Second, if the pollution is egregious and obvious, the industry will make a settlement with the landowner but as part of the deal have a gag order placed on him/her so that he/she cannot speak about the settlement in public. Third, in cases where people go to doctors from post-fracking drinking water poisoning, if a doctor finds chemical poisoning, he cannot reveal this publicly because he will violate company proprietary information. In other words, doctors are put under gag orders as well. Fourth, Lisa is referring to the pollution of aquifers, not surface water, of which it is very difficult to prove. On the other hand, examples of complaints about poisoning of shallow wells, streams and ponds from fracking number in the thousands. Fifth, the industry’s misleading distinction that “fracking” itself does not contaminate groundwater, but rather mechanical failures or human errors at the well-sites caused the contamination. Landowners who have had their water polluted find little comfort in this clever distinction.

So getting back to Kyna’s slight of hand, why did she put words in Lisa’s mouth? By doing so, Kyna has the Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency exonerate the entire fracturing industry from causing harm to people’s water – not simply the actual step of fracturing by explosives, water, sand and chemicals. By putting words in the EPA director’s mouth as she did, she further obliterates the distinction between horizontal and vertical fracking when there is indeed a substantial difference. Vertical fracking is far less intrusive than horizontal fracking. It neither requires the 5,000 lbs of cancer causing chemical stew per frack, nor does it require the millions of gallons of water that is turned into toxic waste. Lack of this important distinction along with other tricks referred to above allows the industry to say they have been fracking for half a century without polluting water.

The oil and gas industry has been spouting pseudo-science based on half-truths and deceptions since Haliburton first invented horizontal fracturing in 1998. When Vice President Cheney, created his secret Energy Taskforce whose members were never revealed to the public, the Taskforce exonerated horizontal fracking from all federal environmental regulations. This situation still exists today. Further, there are NO regulations in Illinois that address horizontal fracturing as a means to protect people and property. And the sad truth is that even with the best regulations imaginable, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not have the money or the manpower to monitor and regulate the industry, thus leaving them to their own “high standards.” It is impossible to understand to what Kyna is referring when she speaks of strong regulations in Illinois.

So, if any confusion remains as to SAFE’s intentions, we stand for a permanent ban on fracking as the only means to protect the farms, environment and families of southern Illinois. Under current technology, we do not believe that the overuse of our limited fresh water supply and the disposal of huge quantities of toxic and radioactive waste water can be regulated away. Simultaneously, we will gladly work with our allies on a moratorium to allow more time for the people of Illinois to understand the true impact of horizontal fracking as it exists in practice.

Who is the IPAA?

According to their website, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) is the national association representing the crude oil and natural gas explorer/producers in the United States.

The Illinois Gas and Oil Association (you may remember Executive VP Brad Richards who testified at the Jackson County Land Use Committee Meeting) is a member of the IPAA.

The IPAA holds that independent producers are responsible for 95 percent of domestic oil and gas wells, producing 68 percent of domestic oil and 82 percent of domestic natural gas. In other words, this is the association representing the fracking industry in the United States.

At the federal level, the IPAA interacts with both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government to promote fracking.

As IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell stated in the National Journal:

“It is crucial that the Obama administration recognizes the truly amazing benefits of a healthy oil and natural gas industry to jobs, a vibrant manufacturing sector, and renewed economic growth. IPAA stands ready to work with the President on empowering the states to continue their responsible regulation of the industry. After all, without a vibrant American oil and natural gas industry – it’s impossible to have an ‘America built to last.’” (2/1/12)

“Empowering the states” is another industry code word that means the industry does not want any federal regulations imposed on it. Regulations should be left to the states to develop where there is less money, resources and experience to deal with the industry. Regarding the statement that fossil fuels will create an “America built to last,” SAFE believes that no comment is required.

The IPAA also provides an education role through the IPAA Energy Center. Their motto is “Educating America’s Next Generation of Energy Professionals”. You will find Halliburton, Chesapeake Energy, Varco as participating companies.

“Energy in Depth”, is the mouthpiece of the IPAA. If you peruse back issues of “Energy in Depth”, one thing becomes discouragingly clear. Its purpose is to discredit local governments, independent researchers and people’s organizations who have legitimate concerns about horizontal fracking. Food and Water Watch for example has also been attacked by the IPAA for conducting fund raising campaigns. Imagine that, they have to get their money from the people instead of corporations!

Another interesting fact about “Energy in Depth” is that there are no articles that directly address the concerns of local people about the dangers of fracking. Nothing about toxic chemicals, destruction of water used for agriculture and human consumption, nothing about methane explosions, chemical poisoning of people and animals, nothing about spills and dumps of toxic waste along highways and streams, nothing about exploitive mineral leases, in short, nothing about anything that matters to the local people who find themselves surrounded by the oil and gas industry fracking operations.

Nonetheless, as the researchers and attorneys at SAFE continue our research and our conversation with people who have firsthand experience with the effects of hydraulic fracturing, we develop real science. This is quite different from the verbal tricks and advertising by the industry to convince us of their legitimacy.

The final charge leveled against SAFE by the IPAA is that we are ideologically driven — not scientific in our approach. Ideological is a term used by the right wing for decades against anyone that doesn’t follow the capitalist ideology, i.e. communists and socialists. SAFE is neither communist nor socialist, whatever that means today, but we do have principles and we will take a stand against those who lie to us, insult us, and exploit us. Here is our ideology in brief: SAFE believes in protecting our land, air, water, animals and people from those that would cause us harm. If fracking is so good for the people and environment of Illinois, let the industry address the legitimate issues that we raise. At SAFE we know, for example, that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has documented a history of ground, water and air contamination in Illinois just from the industry’s disposal of waste water from vertical oil fracking. We also know that there have been decades of insufficient state funds to monitor and repair existing wells, including over six thousand abandoned wells (known migration channels for toxic frack fluids). We also know that the Illinois New Albany Shale is situated among three seismic zones and has a naturally higher radioactivity than other shale plays, leaving us to deal with unprecedented volumes of radioactive waste water.

In the materials listed below, local people will find ample evidence to support a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing. At least, we are hopeful that by expanding your knowledge of fracking, you will move with great caution when the oil and gas corporations come knocking to offer you jobs and money without any personal, community or environmental consequences.

Water Use and Contamination

1. Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.

Fracking Whitepaper 2011 Final

The first peer-reviewed study to measure well-water contamination from shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking.

2. Pacific Institute

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources

Interviews people from across the country on their concerns about fracking and water supplies

The Promise of Jobs

3. Food and Water Watch

False Jobs Promise

Challenges the industry’s claims about job creation from fracking. Meticulously researched.

Lies About Strong Government Regulations

4. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Illinois Oil Field Brine Disposal Assessment

Investigates the environmental impact of vertical fracking in Illinois after complaints by citizens

5. Common Cause

Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets

Investigates the campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania

6. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Allows Hazardous Fluids to be Injected into Ground Water

An engineer with the EPA exposes the lies and cover up by the EPA regarding the dangers of fracking

Lies about Industry High Standards

7. Environment America Research and Policy Center

The Costs of Fracking

Examines fracking’s negative impacts on our environment and health and the costs that will likely be borne by the local citizens rather than the oil and gas industry, costs that will last for decades to come.

Lies about Big Royalties

8. TXSharon Drilling Reform

So, you thought fracking royalties would make you rich.

A collection of articles debunking industry claims about big royalties for small landowners

Why We Want to Ban Fracking

9. Food and Water Watch

The Case for a Ban on Gas Fracking

Documents environmental problems of fracking

10. Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment

Report on Hydrofracturing: A Southern Illinois Perspective

Looks at the issues of  job creation and economic benefits to the community; water pollution; earthquakes; water usage; air pollution; noise/light pollution; forced “pooling” of underground mineral rights; damage to local roads and infrastructure; lease abuse of landowners’ rights; and communities overburdened by sudden influx of gas/oil crews.


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