Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
There is new fractivist surge underway aimed at Pennsylvania. The gentry class funders may be laying groundwork for an attack on Keystone State natural gas.
Suddenly, after having put the water quality issue to bed years ago, the natural gas industry is facing a fractivist surge with several junk science studies aimed at suggesting there still just might be issues. The giveaway is the fact the studies are of the shallow self-contradicting sort always employed to generate quick headlines. The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, has run two editorials recently, here and here, raising water quality issues regarding natural gas and a recent study published in Science tries to make the case surface water pollution from fracking is a maybe, sort of, possibly an issue in Pennsylvania. It’s all nonsense and just a little too convenient. Is the foundation being laid for an attempt at a future fracking ban in the Susquehanna River Basin?
Fortunately, Energy In Depth did a review of the Science study (“Large-sample evidence on the impact of unconventional oil and gas development on surface waters“) and found the following as to this element of the fractivist surge:
A new study published in the journal Science examined links between fracking in the United States and possible impacts on surface water, and a close look at the findings shows the authors did not make a such substantial connection and repeatedly acknowledged they had limited evidence to back up any claims of contamination.
The researchers – from University of Navarra in Spain, University of Chicago, and University of Bristol in the United Kingdom – even acknowledged to the media that since their study was completed, fracking technology has continued to improve leading to even better outcomes.
Still, the study was picked up by several media outlets that gave credence to possibilities of contamination, without any deeper examination, and some of which used sensational headlines that in no way reflects what’s actually shown in the study…
The authors begin their study by recalling a previous study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that found no strong evidence linking fracking and water impacts.
“The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviewed and synthetized scientific evidence concerning the impact of [hydraulic fracturing] on US water resources. The final report concluded that HF activities can affect drinking water resources under some circumstances (17), but the report did not identify widespread evidence of contamination.” (emphasis added)
The authors then state that their own research more specifically looked at surface water and had an even weaker connection between fracking and contamination:
“For surface water, the evidence is more limited.”
In fact, the study even says issues with water quality could be attributed to factors completely outside of oil and natural gas production:
“The authors of this study suggest that both insufficient wastewater treatment and building infrastructure for unconventional O&G extraction could explain the results. Evidence also exists for barium concentrations in Pennsylvania being higher in areas with unconventional wells than in areas without them, but the authors of this study point out that this evidence cannot be solely ascribed to unconventional wells, as it could also reflect the presence of basin brines or a sulfate decrease in acid rains.”
If the authors, or the media, are looking to claim that fracking impacts surface water, this study did not provide sufficient data to support that claim. The authors write:
“As wells can be far from the closest monitor (in our sample, average = 10.3 km and median = 8.2 km), we examined whether the associations between HF wells and ion concentrations are more pronounced when wells and monitors are closer together. However, the sparsity of water measurements makes such distance gradient analyses challenging.” (emphasis added)
Even when the authors do claim to find some evidence, they find minimal impacts:
“We acknowledge that the long-run impact estimates we documented using all watershed monitors are very small in magnitude.”
The study, in other words, found virtually nothing but generated a “Surface Water Vulnerable to Widespread Pollution From Fracking, a New Study Finds” headline at the Rockefeller public relations outlet Inside Climate News. That’s hardly surprising given the fact the publisher of Science (the American Association for the Advancement of Science) is also funded by the Rockefeller Family Fund.
Also interesting about this fractivist study is that it quotes earlier fractivist contributors such as John Adgate who we covered here and Lisa McKensie, whose name frequently pops up in fractivist literature. And, curiously, though the study cites another speculative analysis from 2017 regarding the Susquehanna River Basin and talks about Pennsylvania a lot, it never addresses the SRBC’s ongoing extensive surface stream studies. I wrote about them three years ago, noting the following:
What I’m talking about, of course, is this Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) conclusion, after thousands of fracked gas wells and nearly a decade of water quality monitoring by that agency (which is essentially the same people as the DRBC):
“…the Commission’s remote water quality monitoring network has not detected discernible impacts on the quality of the Basin’s water resources as a result of natural gas development…”
This statement is so blunt, so definitive and so straightforward, it cannot be acknowledged by its sister agency, the DRBC, if it has any hope of legally justifying its scandalous fracking ban.
The DRBC, of course, continued to ignore the hard data from the its sister agency and enacted a ban now under challenge, so now there is a fractivist surge that may well be intended to create the future circumstances where a similar SRBC ban (or some other ban) becomes politically feasible. How else is one to explain the Science article and the lack of any consideration of the largest test case imaginable?
How else, also, does one explain those two recent Philadelphia Inquirer opinion pieces, one breathlessly describing Physicians for Social Responsibility propaganda as a “bombshell report.” The only bombshell is that the Philadelphia Inquirer would stoop so slow as to award credibility such shallow and obvious agitprop that relies upon some of the same “experts” as the Science piece (e.g. serial fractivist Lisa McKensie), the Environmental Working Group and, incredibly, the hilariously stupid “Amity and Prosperity” book. The book, of course, builds on hype financed by the Heinz Endowments, which also funds Physicians for Social Responsibility, along with the PennFuture, the Delaware PovertyKeeper, Clean Air Council and StateImpactPA, fractivist surge types all.
It’s highly unlikely all this is just a coincidence. There appears to be a fractivist surge underway to create the circumstances where a statewide fracking ban movement that started with the DRBC, will inevitably move onto the SRBC and, eventually, what’s left of the Commonwealth, will be entertained. That’s what the gentry class wants and what it’s begun building toward. This is is why the DRBC ban is and must be continued to be fought.
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This post appeared first on Natural Gas Now.