Friday, July 26, 2013

The DOE "Fracking is Safe for Water" Study: Don't Jump on the Bandwagon Yet!

As I noted in the previous blog post, newspapers, media sites across the nation are spreading the news (mainly in editorials) that AHA! Now we can exhale deeply and drink our water safely because, HEY! The Feds at the Dept. of Energy found out it's " safe!" Not so fast!

In many ways, this smells the same as the effort to torpedo the initial acoustic findings in the Kennedy assassination (which led the House Select Committee on Assassinations - HSCA-  to conclude a 96% probability of conspiracy), when government scientists under a team from the National Academy Of Sciences-  led by Dr. Norman Ramsey-  attempted to refute the findings using their own analysis.   But their efforts were basically all  for naught. Key impediments to accepting their analysis were: a) the team was not comprised of actual acoustic experts like the Barger and Weiss group from MIT that did the original, and b) their conclusions could not be confirmed, nor did they offer any basis by which the results might be replicated - a necessary condition of good science. 

Researcher W. Antony Marsh, in an email to me during the writing of a FAQ for one newsgoup, noted:

"The NAS did not allow any dialogue with critics to review and challenge such a study. They worked in total secrecy. In fact, they did not even make their raw materials available so that other researchers could try to duplicate their work."

They also made loads of basic statistical errors, mostly to do with the nature of a Poisson distribution. It was only relatively recently (2001)  that a paper by D.B. Thomas  (in the journal Science and Justice) went over all the original acoustic data using a much more refined analysis and arrived at the conclusion that the Barger-Weiss team was correct, and there were at least 4 shots as indicated by the telltale impulses, two of which were spaced 1.66 seconds apart . (The recycling time for the 6.5mm bolt action Mannlicher -Carcano allegedly used by Oswald was 2.33 secs.)

The takeaway here? It is always best to look askance when - after a previous study finds for a conclusion not popular with embedded, reactionary interests in the government- a subsequent study arrives to try to refute it. Basically, that is exactly what this new DOE study is all about, trying to refute or neutralize previous adverse fracked water assays taken in PA, and at Pavilion, WY. It is also highly suspicious (the na├»ve might say "coincidental") that it arrives at thousands of major newspapers mere days after Josh Fox's Gasland II premiers.

As I said, I smell a rat, but then I am a suspicious person by nature, and trust very little of what putative authorities say unless what they say can be independently confirmed.

Rob Jackson, a scientist at Duke University, has warned that a single study should not serve as evidence that fracking is safe, especially since the geology and fracking practices vary across the US. He told the AP that the drilling company might have been unusually meticulous at their research site, knowing that the procedure was being closely monitored. (Hmmmm.......might they have in some way influenced the outcome deploying measures we may not know? Unless the full paper -report is made publicly available the adoption of a suspicious mindset is the only reasonable one, given the government's previous history)

Jackson also explained that other aspects of the drilling process can contaminate groundwater, including poor well construction, accidental surface spills of chemicals and chemical-laced fluids, and wastewater.  What I'd also like to know is whether this DOE study investigated any of the hundreds of wells that have already been deemed leaking, or compromised.

We also need to be aware that the depth of the well might also have an impact on the potential effect on groundwater. Drilling at the well in western Pennsylvania occurred at 8,000 feet below ground, with groundwater in the Marcellus Shale usually found at a depth of 300 feet.  This fact itself is extremely suspicious, since these types of statistical, methodology shenanigans have been seen before in other areas.

A classic example is a spurious climate science paper, a joint 2003 effort by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. Baliunas and Soon's misuse of statistics may be found at:

 Standing out in the paper was  their choice of using 50-year data periods or  increments when the IPCC scientists had already disclosed anthropogenic warming appears at 30 -year levels.  In other words, the duo specifically ignored the threshold or resolution of data at which the climate effects would be most significant. In effect, Baliunas and Soon employed what we call a 'selective effects filter' to cull the data they preferred not to have to deal with.

In like manner, it seems that with their choice of 8,000 feet below ground for monitoring, the DOE scientists played a similar game. Especially as any fool purporting to do frack water research should know that  groundwater in the Marcellus Shale is usually found at a depth of 300 feet. Hence, the DOE scientists deliberately plumbed to much deeper layers than the contamination would be found, in the same way Soon and Baliunas extended increments to much longer extents than climate effects would be found.

All of which shows the "scientific" game can be rigged to yield the results one wants, and try to pass these over on people who are either gullible, ignorant, stupid or all three.

We also need to note that drilling at a fracking site in Pavillion, Wyoming, on the other hand, occurred at a depth of 1,200 feet. Groundwater in that region is acquired from depths of 800 feet, which means that the fracking site is in close proximity to drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 released a report concluding that chemical-laced fracking fluids contaminated the groundwater in Pavillion, and I listed those nasties, including saturation levels of methane (at 19 mg/L ) in the last two blog posts and benzene etc. at 50 times safe levels.

Yes, the EPA last month dropped its plans to further investigate the preliminary findings, and instead allowed state officials – many of whom are strong drilling advocates – to take over the study. A number of rationales can be surmised for this, none of them good. One is that strong pro-frack voices in the Obama administration have overridden all others. Another is that these voices or other embedded interests knew Josh Fox's incendiary documentary was soon to come out, so tossed the hot potato over to the state hyper-drilling interests to deal with it. In this way they could at once: a) appear to abdicate on their earlier (2011) water test findings by virtue of not pursuing further tests, and b) appease the gas-oil industry interests that obviously have them by the (political) balls.

A third is that the Obama-ites had little choice, given they had already stuck their necks out as gung ho over natural gas development (check out Obama's State of the Union speech). So by doing further tests on the Pavilion water and coming up with confirmation, they'd be in a position we call between the devil (gas-oil interests and PR flacks) and the deep blue sea, i.e. having to back away from the strong stance on natural gas as a transitional fuel on account of its wreaking toxic havoc on water.

As Josh Fox's Gasland II showed, though the EPA shied away from its Pavilion investigation, its initial results caused alarm and convinced environmental activists that fracking can contaminate drinking water – especially at drilling sites close to the surface. Most of us haven't budged from that earlier finding,  DOE study or not, just as most of us (JFK assassination researchers) haven't budged from the original acoustic test results no matter what Norman Ramsey's government pod people had to say or do.

 Readers also need to be aware that a more recent study conducted by researchers at Duke University examined fracking sites across northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York, where drilling usually occurs at greater depths. The researchers found that household drinking water that comes from any of the 141 wells near fracking sites has higher concentrations of methane, which is the main component of natural gas.  Researchers found that 82 percent of the 141 water wells had elevated levels of methane, and that ethane concentrations were 23 times higher in drinking water at nearby homes.

The main author of the study, Jackson, noted:

“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,”

This again, brings up the issue of awareness. We the public on whose minds (and bodies!)  these findings impinge, need to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to accept the studies, analyses of REAL scientists who adhere to objective measures and don't play statistical games.....or if we are going to allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by blatant sellouts and tools working for the same interests who fund their bogus science investigations - albeit under a "federal government"  patina.

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