- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
Environmental activists clamor for our governing bodies to halt the use of coal as a fuel. They claim that the particulates, mercury and CO2 emissions are increasing health risks and causing an increase in atmospheric temperatures. Additionally, these groups are backing the use of natural gas as a cleaner alternative for everything from heating our home to fueling large trucks.
Natural gas is readily captured from a variety of sources. Maybe readily is the wrong term. Geologists have determined that the gases are abundantly available in certain formations around the country. The gases are trapped in rock formations. Just drilling down to the right depth will not recover much of it but they have developed a method called hydrofracking. Basically, the driller forces liquids into the strata at high pressure resulting in the formation fracturing. This releases the gases allowing them to easily be recovered.
In a New York Times article titled, Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers, the paper claims to have uncovered numerous documents and reports from the EPA, state regulators and drilling contractors detailing problems that appear to be a direct result of the increased drilling activities. Pennsylvania seems to be the most impacted. The drilling fluids are captured and regulators allow the liquids to be trucked to wastewater treatment facilities. However, the analytical requirements appear to be lax. The wastewater treatment plants and the facilities downstream from them are not required to sample and measure radioactivity in the waters. Radium and radon gas are known to exist in the strata being penetrated.
Science appears to have taken a back seat in this instance. Consider the plight of the residents in Wyoming. The sparsely populated state is well known for its clean air. However, authorities have found starting in 2009 that the air quality standards have been exceeded for benzene and toluene for the first time ever. The state has about 27,000 gas wells, most of which have been established in the last five years. The highest concentrations of benzene and toluene are in the areas of high concentrations of gas wells.
The EPA has been abundantly clear that they are seeking to become more transparent and that science will dictate their actions. One wonders why it appears that the EPA, with the backing of many environmental groups, is clamping down so hard on coal-burning facilities and mines as well as the oil companies while not mentioning the problems that are creeping up in the areas they appear to be championing such as natural gas. According to the Times report, some scientific papers have been withheld from publication. Are politics making the decisions for science? I don't know because I am not invited to the talks. But peering through the dirty windows from the outside, it does make me wonder.