The gas industry’s hot air


The gas industry’s hot air

  • Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa. Natural gas is abundant and cheap these days. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson, file) Photo: Ralph Wilson
    Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa. Natural gas is abundant and cheap these days. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson, file)



After years of saying gas drilling is safe, the industry now concedes that wasn’t entirely the case.


What will the next admission be?

The spin from the natural gas drilling industry has been so rosy for so long that an energy executive’s recent acknowledgement that things have not been as good as the ads suggest must seem like refreshing candor.

Unfortunately, it only affirms what many New Yorkers have suspected all along: that there is every reason to question the industry’s claims about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Nor is there any reason to believe that the industry’s seeming frankness is anything but the latest spin.

Let’s review the record.

First the gas industry sought to dismiss concerns about the new fracking process. It distorted the truth by declaring that fracking has been around for decades. The full story is that high volume, horizontal hydrofracking is a new and dramatically different version of the low-volume, vertical method that had long been used. It covers a vastly larger area, and pumps millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the earth to fracture rock and release gas. To suggest the new process is the same as the old is like saying there’s no difference between a bamboo fishing pole and a mile-long commercial net.

The industry initially told New Yorkers that the chemicals it wanted to pump into the ground were a secret, proprietary mix. When it became clear that answer was unacceptable, industry leaders offered that there was nothing worse in the recipe than what’s in a typical kitchen cabinet. When people pointed out that there’s a lot under our sinks no human ought to drink, they were told it was only a tiny percentage of the fracking fluid. Then, when the millions of gallons that tiny percentage represented became apparent, we were assured it was too far underground to worry about the stuff getting into drinking water.

Except when it did. Then the industry blamed poor well construction, not the drilling, as if those are unrelated. And it only happened once, after all. Then twice. Well, more times, really.

Now the gas industry seems to have a new line: Mistakes were made. The early work in Pennsylvania, which had opened its doors to fracking, “was not the industry’s finest hour,” in the words of Mark Bolling, an executive with Southwestern Energy Co. So much for a process New Yorkers were assured was perfectly safe.

We would like to see clean, safe natural gas extraction in New York. But given its track record, we simply don’t trust a gas industry that time and again has given us the sense that it’s pulling one over on us.

All the more reason that New York needs a moratorium on drilling, so that the health and environmental concerns about it can be studied without the constant pressure of gas industry lobbyists and other advocates who keep assuring us that all is well, if we’ll just take their word for it.



Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Frank Brouwer

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 


~ by FSVSF Admin on 5 June, 2013.

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