Friday, May 9, 2014

Now Fracking Pollutes the Soil As Well As Water

The news in the Sunday Denver Post (1B) that 200 gallons of toxic effluent spills per day on Colorado soil from fracking, should not have blown anyone’s mind. Indeed, we already knew the multifold ways in which fracking contaminates the air and water. But that it is allowed to flow into fertile soil, thereby leaching into ground water too is an added abomination.

Although some PR guys claim it is “safe” – most of us don’t buy it. According to Matt Lepore, head of the “Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission” (basically a PR cover for the oil industry):

"The whole point is that it is safe, that the harm to the environment has been minimized.”

 He was referring to the industry’s latest cleanup method of using mixing machinery and microbes on the affected soil.  But as the Post observes: “It is not proven”.

 In other words we have only the industry’s-  excuse me, their front organization’s – words to go by. But given they are mainly devoted to the articulation of PR can we trust them?

 The Post expose found that 716,982 gallons of the petroleum chemicals spilled during the past decade have stayed in the ground after the initial cleanup. This has contaminated soil, sometimes spreading into groundwater- based on a Denver Post analysis of COGOC data. Incredibly, their maestro had the never to say the cleanup method was “safe” despite the Post finding the stuff is invading the soil, groundwater.  According to the Post (ibid.):

There’s about one gallon of toxic liquid penetrating soil every eight minutes.”

In addition, the Post notes: “drillers churn up 135 to 500 tons of dirt with every new well, some of it soaked with hydrocarbons and laced with potentially toxic minerals and salts.”

Given this, is it any wonder adults – kids living near frack sites often have severe health complaints, ranging from horrific rashes to bleeding orifices to breathing problems? According to Eugene Kelly, chief of soil and crop science at Colorado State University – quoted in the piece:

The overall impact of the oil and gas boom is like a death sentence for soil. It could be the next limiting component when we talk about feeding the planet and having a sustainable lifestyle- - because all the good stuff is gone and the soil is being degraded.”

Most citizens, including here in Colorado, have no remote idea how fast, far and wide the fracking craze is expanding.  According to the Post (p. 2B):

3,000 new wells are drilled each year, adding to the nearly 52,000 active wells statewide.”

Most of this is done in agricultural areas northeast of Denver. In other words, we are sacrificing our 'bread basket'  for oil, natural gas. I’d say we’re sacrificing our water and health for oil –natural gas too.   No wonder groceries are already 50-70% more expensive than they were last year. Between the frackers' consumption of limited water in drought conditions, and their fouling of fertile soil, what would you expect?

Yet every time I turn on the tube now I hear and see one political whore or other insisting we “must become energy independent”.  The question I’d like to pose these poltroons is:

Look, you want to be energy independent, or you do want to live? You can't have both! If we become energy independent so much carbon will be removed from the Earth and injected into the atmosphere that the runaway greenhouse effect will be triggered and we're all gone in 200 years.....or less.”

 Meanwhile, the Post’s examination of data found that the number of spills reached an all time record last year at 578 (according to the COGOC data).  In addition:

“State data also show that 12.3 percent of the past 1,000 spills (since June 24, 2012) already had contaminated groundwater before companies began cleanups.”

Beyond the contamination of soil and groundwater, the Post's data analysis showed that drilling of new wells unearthed an estimated 652,000 tons a year of sludge-like drill cuttings. These are supposed to be taken to special landfills but more often than not  spread them instead on “leased fields”.

 Naturally, the industry would rather look for short cuts given the costs to haul and bury ruined soil, which can require hundreds of truck to carry away – not to mention labor and landfill fees. The Post then cited just the volume created after the March, 2013 Parachute Creek spill in western Colorado.  It notes:

The Williams and Bargath companies recovered 11,800 gallons of liquid hydrocarbons. They’ve excavated 2, 275 tons of contaminated soil, hauling it for burial at the ECDC facility in Utah.”

Process the dimensions and scale of this filth, polluting our landscape and the need to haul ever more away as the existing landfills grow into mountains.  It seems that Jared Polis’ idea of brining a ballot measure in for November – to allow communities to decide whether to allow fracking and how to regulate it- is more needed than ever.

Another urgent reason to allow this is the recent news (Denver Post, May 8, 1A) that scientists have found that Colorado's front Range oil and gas boom has been emitting three times more methane than previously thought. The rate, at 19.3 tons an HOUR. This is serious given the EPA has determined methane is 20 time more potent (i.e. higher forcing component) than CO2.   This study was done at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's Cooperative Institute for Research on the Environment.

The NOAA scientists also measured industry emissions of cancer -causing benzene and smog forming organic compounds at levels seven times higher than government agencies originally estimated.
Polis, like many of us, understands that if something isn’t done soon, the entire country will be turned into one giant, diseased shit pile.  Oh, excuse me, except for the rarefied and isolated one percent – ensconced in their high mountain redoubts far from the stink, fiery drinking water and cancers that the rest of us “little guys” will have to bear.

All for energy independence!

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