Fracking

EPA's New Fracking Report and Regulatory Science

The new report appears to be a parting gift to anti-fracking activists from the Obama administration.

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NoFrackingJudithBickingDreamstime
Judith Bicking/Dreamstime

The Environmental Protection Agency just released its final report, Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States. The New York Times' headline on the article about the new report declared that EPA says that "fracking can contaminate drinking water." Similarly, the Washington Post ran its article about the report with a headline saying that the EPA had changed its stand on fracking and that the agency now "says it can harm drinking water in 'some circumstances.'" Well, yes. Mistakes can and will be made in the pursuit of any industrial activity. But the new report provides precious little evidence that fracking has actually caused much harm to drinking water supplies in the United States.

As the Post notes, the new EPA report does change the agency's stand with regard to the overall safety of hydraulic fracking to obtain natural gas and oil from its preliminary 2015 report that "did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources." Howls of protest by anti-fracking activists greeted this benign conclusion and they urged the agency to change its findings. Agencies rarely make findings that go against the aims of their constituencies, and so one can be forgiven for suspecting that the new report stresses uncertainties as a way to mollify activists who need to keep the public alarmed about the alleged dangers of fracking.

So delving into the report, what does the EPA find with regard to fracking? First, most of the instances and speculations cited in the EPA report are applicable to all oil and gas wells, not just to wells created by means of fracking. These include harms caused by spills, leaks due to faulty well casings, and inadequate treatment and disposal of fluids and water that flow from wells.

Focusing chiefly on the process of fracking itself—creating cracks by injecting pressurized fluids into shale rocks as a way to release trapped oil and natural gas—the EPA report looks at four pathways by which fracking specifically could contaminate drinking water supplies. Most of the agency's findings are couched in conditional language. They include the possibility that fluids and natural gas could migrate via fracked cracks that might extend directly into drinking water aquifers; because well casings for horizontal drilling might be less able to withstand the high fracking pressures they may be more likely to leak allowing contaminants to migrate; migration might occur when a fracked well "communicates" with a nearby previously drilled well that is not able to withstand the additional pressures from newly released natural gas; and fracked cracks might intersect with natural faults allowing contaminants to migrate into drinking water supplies.

The EPA cites the results of lots of computer models that find that migration of fluids and natural gas by these four pathways is possible. However, given the fact that by some estimates as many as 35,000 fracked oil and gas wells are drilled each year in the United States, it is astonishing how few examples of actual contamination and other harms are identified in the EPA report. Nevertheless, the report limply observes:

The limited amount of available information also hinders our ability to evaluate how frequently drinking water impacts are occurring, the probability that these impacts occur, or to what extent they are tied to specific well construction, operation, and maintenance practices. This also significantly limits our ability to evaluate the aggregate potential for hydraulic fracturing operations to affect drinking water resources or to identify the potential cause of drinking water contamination in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. The absence of this information greatly limits the ability to make quantitative statements about the frequency or severity of these impacts.

Given even the limited quantitative findings in the EPA's final report, the agency should have reaffirmed its original more qualitative statement that there is little "evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources." Sadly, the new report appears to be a parting gift to anti-fracking activists from the Obama administration.

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  1. Good lookin’ folks in the pic.

    1. And the left’s points are always bumper-sticker-ready.

    2. Yes, proggies tend to be homely at best to downright ugly at worst. Years of constant scowling and crying will do that to you.

      1. that and the vegan diets

    3. the marxists and the marxist media and the marxist bureaucrats don’t even try to fool us anymore.

      They just have gotten to the point of sociopathy where they believe every word they have convinced themselves of.

      I will like trump if he shuts down the department of energy, education, and EPA. He will have eliminated massive amounts of waste for us all.

  2. Remember, federal government reports are still gospel truth. It’s only after January 20th that all federal government reports become lies.

    1. I suspect the outgoing administration has a buttload of gift-wrapped turds to drop in GOP punchbowls before the middle of January.

      Having weaponized the executive branch, they’ll be trying their best to spike cannon barrels and bend firing pins over the next two months.

  3. So we have this and the SG’s report the other day about e-cigs. What is the point of releasing these so close to a change in administration to one that is not likely to give a shit? I can see doing it if Her Highness was president-elect… wait! hmmmm, maybe they know something about the upcoming EC vote that the rest of us don’t (sort of joking here)

    1. So we have this and the SG’s report the other day about e-cigs. What is the point of releasing these so close to a change in administration to one that is not likely to give a shit?

      Midnight regulations that get passed in an avalanche. People very much do give a shit.

      1. I meant the Trump administration will not give a shit, and they will be the ones who can choose whether or not to enforce the regulations, like how Obama chose not to enforce drug laws against pot.

        1. like how Obama chose not to enforce drug laws against pot

          He did?

          1. I think NoVaNick was being sarcastic.

            1. Ah. I may need more coffee.

      2. see Obama is rushing to Trump-proof the White House

        ? Appointed people to a slew of boards and commissions, including the American Battle Monuments Commission, United States Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors, the Pacific Salmon Commission and National Council on Disability. Some are new appointments, some are renewals.

        ? Awarded the Presidential Medals of Freedom to 21 more recipients, which pushed him to a record number for his tenure, to “folks who have helped make me who I am.”

        ? Finalized rules to determine whether schools were succeeding or failing under the sweeping the Every Student Succeeds Act; released the next five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing, which blocks drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic; and denied a permit for a pipeline to run through North Dakota, a victory for local Native Americans.

        “It’s his job,” said Carmel Martin, a former Obama appointee who is now executive vice president of policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “I think it’s … not just appropriate but necessary for the current president to keep moving forward. President Obama is trying to leave the house in good working order.”

        1. The Medal of Freedom recipients

          Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elouise Cobell, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Richard Garwin, Bill and Melinda Gates, Frank Gehry, Margaret H. Hamilton, Tom Hanks, Grace Hopper, Michael Jordan, Maya Lin, Lorne Michaels, Newt Minow, Eduardo Pard?n, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bruce Springsteen and Cicely Tyson

          1. Jesus Christ, so many actors and athletes.

            1. I find it funny that Richard Garwin is buried in there.

              1. Where is Richard Simmons then? If anyone deserves a Medal of Freedom!

            2. He’s the President who desperately wanted to be a celebrity first and politician second, of course it’s filled with his kind.

            3. Why do actors and athletes get medals of freedom?

              Oh right, because we follow their twitter feeds with rabid desire.

              1. Same trend as knighthoods in Europeland.

          2. Frank Gehry? The guy who design buildings that look like crumpled up tin foil?

            Ellen Degeneres? Robert Redford? What the fuck did they do for freedom? Christ, what next, give the Medal of Honor all his bodyguards?

          3. I’m sure hoping the medal of freedom comes with a high value based tax. Since there are so few medals, they must be worth an incredible amount.

          4. Hasn’t Grace Hopper been dead for over 20 years?

        2. It’s magic. Trump cant undo any of that.

          1. Just because these people serve at the pleasure of the President doesn’t mean… oh, wait.

          2. Sure he can. He can announce that Obama has so diluted the currency of the PMoF that it is worthless, which is true, and inaugurate some new bullshit medal.

            1. “A new medal – its classy, its yuuuge. The best medal around”

        3. Awarded the Presidential Medals of Freedom to 21 more recipients, which pushed him to a record number for his tenure, to “folks who have helped make me who I am.”

          Assuming that’s a direct quote at the end, the narcissism is staggering. Pretty sure the criteria for that award is not for “people who personally inspired me”.

          1. Apparently that includes the inventor of the H-Bomb.

  4. The Environmental Protection Agency just released its final report

    If only. Ron, you saucy minx, quit teasing us so.

    1. Nice catch.

      *imagines what that would be like…*

      1. Imagine there’s no EPA
        It’s easy if you try
        Spoiled aquifers below us
        And all the CO2 in the sky

        1. CO2 on the sky with diamonds?

  5. Like the Left who routinely demonstrate in NYC give a flying fuck about the drinking water in rural PA or (hypothetically) NY rather than just lowering everybody’s standard of living.

    1. They don’t want to lower THEIR standard of living…

      1. They just don’t want anyone to have more than they do. It wouldn’t be fair, because they are the smartest people in the country.

      1. He’s a serious actor doing important roles now.

    2. No, they mainly care about the quality of the water that they’re taking from upstate. The funny part of it all is that while NYC has some of the best water in the country, the areas where it’s taken from have pretty crappy local water (as all of the good water is going to NYC). To me, it puts a little bit of important color on the demands that people upstate forego having jobs to protect water quality.

      1. No, they mainly care about the quality of the water that they’re taking from upstate.

        I doubt most of them have any idea where their water is coming from.

      2. (as all of the good water is going to NYC)

        That is not necessarily true. Well water is pretty shitty, but the Hudson Valley towns that can afford to do it buy reservoir water.

        1. Point taken. It just strikes me as insane that towns in the Hudson Valley would have to pay NYC for the use of their own water, don’t you think?

          1. Of course. But NYC stole that water a long time ago.

            1. NYC owns most of the land that water comes from.

              1. Now. How much land did they have to flood to create the reservoirs? They flooded out whole towns.

      3. They’ve made the Esopus Creek pretty brown. I drive over it every day on the way to work, and the water looks horrible.

  6. This is just litigation fodder for when the Trump EPA doesn’t regulate this. The best thing to do is have Congress take away the EPA’s jurisdiction to regulate fracking at all.

  7. The EPA cites the results of lots of computer models

    Can a consensus be far behind?

    1. I’m 99% sure there will be a consensus!

      1. I’m only 97% sure.

  8. “…The EPA cites the results of lots of computer models…”

    Where have we heard this before? /finger to lips.

  9. Serious question: I have friends who rely on some TV show showing flaming water from kitchen taps as proof that fracking is evil. I read something about it years ago which concluded it was all akin to GM’s exploding pickup trucks, but I promptly forgot it because it was so benign, and now I have nothing to say when these friends bring up the flaming tap water. Google shows so many panicky sites that I quit looking.

    Could someone refresh my memory?

    1. Here you go

      Fox’ documentary Gasland, claims that fracking, a way of drilling for natural gas, has polluted water and endangered lives. One of the most alarming scenes is when he lights water that residents claim has been polluted by fracking. It is dramatic and at first glance seems like a slam dunk. I mean they can light their water ? it is polluted and there is gas drilling nearby. It must be responsible.

      But then a little digging reveals a few inconvenient facts. A 1976 study by the Colorado Division of Water found that this area was plagued with gas in the water problems back then. And it was naturally occurring.

      1. Yeah, I would not have dared to light the nasty water coming into my parent’s country trailer. Though they said it was sulfur; but who knows what else was in there.

        1. Water pipes ran right under the septic tank.

      2. The guy who made Fracknation rebutted Josh Fox on several points.

        1. …including that it’s fracking causing methane to leak through water pipes.

      3. Dang, that’s a good link — should have thought of whatsupwiththat. It’s not the rebuttal I remember, it’s better!

        Thanks.

    2. How would fracking cause flaming water? Fracking removes the flammable gases, it doesn’t inject them.

      1. Because TEH EVIL FOSSUL FEULS, John.

        1. They can do anything. Maybe these people should hire an exorcist.

      2. It’s dihydrogen monoxide and we all know how flammable hydrogen is.

        1. Not to mention oxygen! It’s a recipe for catastrophe, right there.

          1. You’ve heard of the Hindenberg, right? What did they have? Lots of hydrogen and lots of oxygen. Do you really want more hydrogen and oxygen coming through your pipes?! Oh, the humanity.

            1. The chief byproduct of the Hindenburg disaster was dihydrogen monoxide.

              1. I thought it was disaster movies?

          2. AND WE’RE PROBABLY BREATHING THE STUFF RIGHT NOW!

      3. Flaming water is a natural phenomena that has been around for as long as earth has had water and methane. My great aunt had inflammable water from her taps long before any oil wells were drilled in Catahoula parish. Methane escaping from oil deposits seeps up into aquifers naturally.

        The anti-frackers lighting people’s taps on fire is nothing more than a sensational parlor trick.

        1. My great aunt had inflammable water from her taps long before any oil wells were drilled

          So you’re John Podesta’s IT guy.

          1. Oddly enough, inflammable and flammable are synonyms, largely because the former is a much older word and means “able to be inflamed” whereas the latter is an invention of people who didn’t know what the former meant.

              1. “onfireable”

                *Squints inadequately*

        2. My great aunt had inflammable water from her taps long before any oil wells were drilled in Catahoula parish.

          We had this from our well growing up too. Every tap on the farm would cough and then discharge normal running water. Given the right conditions, the cough would turn into a fireball. Cool if you were showing off, very uncool if you were in the well house trying to keep the well from freezing and the power came back on.

          This was true across several nearby farms, probably half-a-dozen aqueous wells drilled in the time period. All tested fine with regard to potability. I strongly suspect that a nice layer of organics on top of well water would do a decent job of leaching pesticides out of the water. Either way, the nearest petroleum pump head was at least 1,000 miles away and fracking wouldn’t become a word for at least two decades.

      4. Sometimes the well goes through small upper level gas pockets on its way to hetting to the targeted deep pocket. That may be where some issues could possibly come from (I remember this from a seminar on the engineering of the wells).

    3. Pennsylvana’s very rich hydrocarbon geology guarantees that someone’s well is gonna pour out gas. It’s been happening in the state since before Drake drilled his first oil well. Fracking has nothing to do with it.

      –PA resident

      1. Its almost like Pennsylvania had seep wells full of naptha long before anyone thought to drill down in the ground.

        1. ^ This.

          A lot of environmentalists seem to have this picture of pristine English countryside that is then despoiled by bringing “the black death” up from the Depth like some Balrog.

          But back before oil and gas were drilled, it’s not that the stuff wasn’t around. There were just places in the world where the water was “foul,” “noxious gases” emerged from mysterious pits, and you didn’t try to grow or build things there because digging would result in this nasty black, vaguely poisonous goopy stuff that wasn’t good for anything but sealing ships if you could manage to refine it without getting yourself killed.

          1. Fun fact: a good bit of the English countryside was once swampland which was drained to make it usable.

            1. King of Swamp Castle: When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Son, the strongest castle in all of England.

    4. Generally, the only real complaint I have about fracking is the environmental control at the surface and that varies widely. It’s also quite controllable and since it is visible, easy to regulate.

      The beneath the ground scare stories are purposefully chosen by the left because it becomes the unseen boogeyman. You cannot reassure them because it’s not visible, much like the overblown scares concerning nuclear.

      1. environmental control at the surface and that varies widely.

        IOW, just like conventional drilling.

      2. +1 radiation, “toxins”, and anything else the anti-science left tries to use to scare people into more regulation and a lower standard of living

  10. With the incoming ‘skeptic’ chief set to take over, what impact can this report have on future decisions particularly where the new administration is concerned?

  11. The development of fracking is one of the greatest things ever to happen to this country. Thanks to fracking, the US is now sitting on trillions of dollars in energy wealth it didn’t even know it had. Beyond that, thanks to fracking our economy is no longer held hostage to stability in the middle east. Oil prices basically have a ceiling of whatever price fracking becomes profitable. And that price goes down all the time. And even when oil prices do go up, it just reshuffles the winners and losers within the economy instead of harming it by sending billions of dollars in wealth to the middle east.

    it is very telling that Progs are doing everything they possibly can to get rid of fracking and utterly loath it. That is because they loath us. Progressives really do hate the rest of us and want to do us harm.

    1. Greens hate fracking because it delays the alternative fuels utopia they so fervently desire. Every fracked well is another year that Green Paradise is forced on us all.

      1. They hate us because they hate our freedom and hate our prosperity. The alternative fuels utopia is just their name for poverty and mankind finally being punished for his sinful ways. If alternative fuels actually worked and were cheaper than fossil fuels, the greens would hate those as well.

        1. If alternative fuels actually worked and were cheaper than fossil fuels, the greens would hate those as well.

          Case in point: Nuclear power.

      2. Early on the Greens were big fans of fracking. They only opposed it when it became widespread and profitable.

      3. Which is kinda bizarre, since fracking allows for lower carcon emitting energy production.

        Anyone genuinely concerned about global warming should be a big fan of both nuclear energy and fracking.

        1. ^ This.

          Fracking may not be the #1 cause of reduction in CO2 emissions over the last three decades, but it’s way up there.

        2. Forget it, the AGW crowd is basically a death cult.

          Predict the end of the world – attract followers – when nothing happens at the predicted time, revise models and push out date – repeat – profit.

          Some of them have started warming up to the idea nuclear power, but only the ones who actually understand science and why most alternative energies will never meet our needs. Many more just hunker down with their heads between their knees. Check out the documentary “Pandora’s Promise” on Netflix.

    2. it is very telling that Progs are doing everything they possibly can to get rid of fracking and utterly loath it. That is because they loath us. Progressives really do hate the rest of us and want to do us harm.

      As the wry one hints at above, why would the progs be concerned about the effects of fracking on well water? You know who gets their water out of wells? Rednecks, yokels and hayseeds in flyover country. Decent folks get their water from the municipal water authority which gets their water out of rivers and lakes. Fracking injection wells causing earthquakes in Oklahoma? Oh boo-hoo, like anybody at the NYT could find Oklahoma on a map if you gave them 3 tries and circled it with a red crayon. Nobody at the NYT gives a shit about Oklahoma and the inbred racist moron Trumpistas that inhabit that barbaric swamp. Or desert….Artic tundra….whatever the hell they got in Oklahoma, who knows, but I’m sure it’s a terrible place since nobody I know has ever actually been there.

      1. But they care so much Jerry. Sort of like how they care about wildlife and birds except when windmills kill birds including endangered ones by the thousands. Then it is just well too bad.

      2. I remember telling a hipster Bernie-loving friend my sister lives in Oklahoma. He said immediately, “oh, I’m sorry, why?”. Of course she’s in an upper class suburb in a college town. Your rant was on point.

    3. The development of fracking is one of the greatest things ever to happen to this country.

      And it’s the luckiest thing ever to happen to Obama though it’s clear he’s either too stupid to understand it or insanely evil.

      Seriously, fracking has done more for the real US economy than a dozen stimulus packages and quantitative easings.

      1. Without fracking we would be in a depression right now. I honestly think Obama is too stupid to understand that. He really thought “green energy” was the way to prosperity. He is that stupid.

        1. I’ve thought for a long time that O’s whole plan for his presidency was to blow up a massive greentech bubble that would make him look good and discredit opponents of environmentalism, then hand it off as a ticking time bomb to his R successor, then when it inevitably imploded the media then would be able to endlessly harp on how the successor destroyed the economy thru anti-green zealotry. Of course reality intervened and put the kibosh on that whole scheme, but he at least was lucky enough to ride the fracking boom to a second term he likely wouldn’t have gotten if the economy had been mired in < 1% growth.

        2. Here is a little synopsis of just how big fracking has become. Despite Obama.

          Consider the math.

          Oil: 4.6 MMb/d * 365 d/y * $60/bbl = $101 billion/year
          Gas: 40.1 Bcf/d * 365 d/y * 900 Btu/d * $1.5/MMBtu /1000000 Btu/MMBtu = $20 billion/year

          Now put the old Keynesian multiplier on this because the creation of real wealth (as opposed to the redistribution of wealth) creates real jobs and incomes. You’re looking around $400-$500 billion/year to the GDP, or about 2% – 2.5% of US GDP. During Obama’s reign, real GDP growth has been at about that rate.

  12. Related:
    “Watching king tides in SF: Embarcadero waves could become norm”
    http://www.sfchronicle.com/bay…..794305.php
    We get this scare-story every year, but this year the King Tides were more like Prince Tides; not much to look at.
    The woman interviewed says ‘They’re hard to predict’.
    Well, yeah.

  13. SPOILER ALERT: My land has been FRACKED. They know what I did a year ago last summer, and that was to let the natural gas be taken out from under me. Drank up like a milkshake. And there was an oily substance that bubbled up in several areas of my property around that time. Now, I may be just an old country doctor/lawyer, but I can tell you that I have no idea if the two things are related. I have many springs that pop up around my land when it rains any significant amount, despite being on the very top of my own hill. My drinking water is relatively unchanged, in that it’s still as undrinkable as it was ten years ago. So, in conclusion, who knows.

    1. How long until you load up the makeshift jalopy and head west to Californey?

  14. Next up: their report on Rearden Steel.

    The real reason proggies hate Rand so much is because she called out 90+% of their bullshit 60 years ago.

    1. The real reason proggies hate Rand so much is because she called out 90+% of their bullshit 60 years ago.

      Speaking of which, apparently Donald Trump is spearheading a secret Objectivisit cabal to take over the government (and leave you alone, but that goes without saying).

      http://thefederalist.com/2016/…..onspiracy/

      1. Yeah, I’d heard that; probably why I thought of Rand.

        The progs are so ignorant and/or dishonest at this point, the might as well have a ‘talking points’ magic eight ball and spew out the first result they get.

        1. Great idea, BP, get on that. Magic 8-Ball, with prog answers. The outside? The Shepard Fairey painting of Obama.

          1. Yeah, ProL – I like the painting idea. Just need to get 20 ‘answers’. Since it’s for lefties, we could change 10 answers to noncommittal ones, then only have to come up with 10 talking points.

            ‘Climate change’
            ‘Republican obstructionism’
            ‘Unfettered capitalism’
            ‘Racism’
            ‘Racism’
            ‘Racism’
            ‘Racism’
            ‘Racism’
            ‘Sexism’
            ‘Homophobia’

            Done.

            1. LEFT OUT ISLAMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA I SEE!!!!!!

              /prog

            2. ‘Climate change’
              ‘Republican obstructionism’
              ‘Unfettered capitalism’
              ‘Trump’
              ‘Rednecks’
              ‘Fracking’
              ‘Slavery’
              ‘CEO salaries’
              ‘Sexism’
              ‘Homophobia’
              ‘Transphobia’
              ‘White males’
              ‘Russia’
              ‘Libertarians’
              ‘Ayn Rand’
              ‘Islamophobia’
              ‘Bill Cosby’
              ‘Christianity’
              ‘Confederate flag’

              1. Okay, we’ll go with yours, although my inner prog tells me that you’re downplaying racism.

                1. I have no inner-prog, so edit as you see fit.

              2. You left out ‘WHITE PRIVILEGE’

                But, of course, that’s to be expected of a white-privileged, racist, misogynistic, cis-gendered shitlord.

  15. Interesting trivia for both audio-engineers and movie goers

    The origin of the THX “Deep Note” you hear in movie theaters = its actually an excerpt (slightly edited) from late 60s experimental electronica album.

    I always thought it was something engineers had thought up ex-nihilo as a means to test the performance of hardware

    1. You want another piece of trivia? According to Richie Blackmore, he got the iconic opening riff to Smoke On The Water by playing the iconic opening riff to Beethoven’s Fifth backward.

  16. the new report provides precious little evidence that fracking has actually caused much harm to drinking water supplies in the United States.

    B-b-but… MATT DAMON did a movie about it! Are you saying MATT DAMON is a liar?! MAAAAATTTTT DAAAAAAMMMMOOONNN

  17. It’s not about what some government report says about a small period of time. Rather, it’s about the regulatory agencies having taken away the litigation rights of property owners long ago. We’ve seen time and again how ‘responsible’ corporations are in doing their best that accidents won’t happen: the vast majority of damaging events are due to cost-cutting and negligence. Without protection from the courts, the environmentalists can whip up a frenzy of hyperbole and evoke empathy amongst the public.

    I’m all for giving industry first dibs on moving mankind forward. However, over the years, the responsibility piece has faded into almost nothing. For example, the EPA fought Dow Chemical for ten years regarding the latter’s water contamination practices and in the end, Dow ‘settled’ for a mere pittance. Had property owners been given the right to sue, however, things would’ve been different.

    The only way to pull the plug on regulations is to trade them for severe penalties for corporate malfeasance, including stiff jail sentences. Go ahead and frack, but if you screw up my property, you’re going down…hard.

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