Posts Tagged ‘Fracking’

by Tom Shepstone

We have done three previous posts on this blog pointing out the gargantuan flaws in Marvin Resnikoff’s work.  You can read them herehere and here.  We have noted his work is not only seriously blemished with numerous defects, but his testimony has been rejected again and again in courts of scientific research as well as law, qualifying him as the perfect “anti-expert.”  Well, it turns out the scientific community, may have had it with him, too.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has just released a report that all but him accuses him of being an eccentric crank.  Here’s how what they said in their cover letter distributing the report:

In response to concerns over human exposure to radon in natural gas supplies from the Appalachian Basin, the USGS has released a preliminary dataset providing radon-222 concentrations in natural gas samples derived from the Marcellus Shale and Upper Devonian sandstone reservoirs.  This preliminary dataset has been summarized in a short report authored by my colleagues Liz Rowan and Tom Kraemer, which can be downloaded from the USGS Publications Warehouse:

And, here’s what they say in the report itself (emphasis added):

A recent report by Resnikoff (2012) has led to increased interest in possible human exposure to radon as a component of natural gas in household settings.  The report, however, relied on theoretical calculations utilizing limited data from geologic analogs.  A decision was made to release our small and preliminary dataset because, to the authors’ knowledge, measurements of radon in natural gas at the wellhead have not previously been published for the Appalachian Basin.

This is polite agency talk for “we’re not going to let this guy keep getting away with distorting our previous work based on bunch of hokey speculations.”  Their report effectively confirms the criticisms of Resnikoff’s work by Ralph Johnson and Lynn R. Anspaugh, Ph.D, the relevant details of which have been shared here, but there’s more.

Radon is no simple subject, but both Johnson and Anspaugh have noted Resnikoff’s numbers are wildly unrealistic, starting with his most basic assumptions, which rely upon bad arithmetic and speculation to extrapolate old data into new doomsday threats of radon entering metro area homes in high concentrations.  Readers of Resnikoff’s hyperbolic report will recall he said this about radon concentrations in the Marcellus Shale (emphasis added):



From the New York Times:


Published: June 13, 2012

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

The plan, described by a senior official at the State Department of Environmental Conservation and others with knowledge of the administration’s strategy, would limit drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Even within that southwest New York region — primarilyBroome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties — drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations in the administration are still continuing.

 To read more CLICK HERE

Ethics Meeting

Thursday, July 19

Oil Spills, Ethics and Society:
How they intersect and where the responsibilities reside
Dr. W.C. ‘Rusty’ Riese,
AAPG Distinguised Speaker

From Energy In Depth

1) Why the huge difference between what EPA found in its monitoring wells and what was detected in private wells from which people actually get their water?

  • Contrary to what was reported yesterday, the compounds of greatest concern detected by EPA in Pavillion weren’t found in water wells that actually supply residents their water – they were detected by two “monitoring wells” drilled by EPA outside of town.
  • After several rounds of EPA testing of domestic drinking water wells in town, only one organic compound (bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) was found to exceed state or federal drinking water standards – an additive in plastics and one of the most commonly detected organic compounds in water. According to EPA: “Detections in drinking water wells are generally below established health and safety standards.”
  • Bruce Hinchey, president of Petroleum Association of Wyoming: “Let me be clear, the EPA’s findings indicate that there is no connection between oil and natural gas operations and impacts to domestic water wells.” (PAW press release, Dec. 8, 2011)
  • In contrast, EPA found “a wide variety of organic chemicals” in its two monitoring wells, with greater concentrations found in the deeper of the two. The only problem? EPA drilled its monitoring wells into a hydrocarbon-bearing formation. Think it’s possible that could explain the presence of hydrocarbons?
  • According to governor of Wyoming: “The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of the working group until a month ago.” (Gov. Mead press release, issued Dec. 8, 2011)

2) After reviewing the data collected by Region 8, why did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson tell a reporter that, specific to Pavillion, “we have absolutely no indication now that drinking water is at risk”? (video available here)

  • Of note, Administrator Jackson offered those comments to a reporter from energyNOW! a full week after Region 8 publicly released its final batch of Pavillion data. In that interview, Jackson indicates that she personally analyzed the findings of the report, and was personally involved in conversations and consultations with staff, local officials, environmental groups, the state and the operator.
  • After reviewing all that information, and conducting all those interviews, if the administrator believed that test results from EPA’s monitoring wells posed a danger to the community, why would she say the opposite of that on television?
  • And if she believed that the state of Wyoming had failed to do its job, why would she – in that same interview – tell energyNOW! that “you can’t start to talk about a federal role [in regulating fracturing] without acknowledging the very strong state role.” (2:46) A week later, why did she choose to double-down on those comments in an interview with Rachel Maddow, telling the cable host that “states are stepping up and doing a good job”? (9:01, aired Nov. 21, 2011)

3) Did all those chemicals that EPA used to drill its monitoring wells affect the results?

  • Diethanolamine? Anionic polyacrylamide? Trydymite? Bentonite? Contrary to conventional wisdom, chemicals are needed to drill wells, not just fracture them – even when the purpose of those wells has nothing to do with oil or natural gas development.
  • In this case, however, EPA’s decision to use “dense soda ash” as part of the process for drilling its monitoring wells could have proved a bad one.
  • One of the main justifications EPA uses to implicate hydraulic fracturing as a source of potential contamination is the high pH readings it says it found in its monitoring wells. But dense soda ash has a recorded pH (11.5) very similar to the level found in the deep wells, creating the possibility that the high pH recorded by EPA could have been caused by the very chemicals it used to drill its own wells.
  • According to Tom Doll, supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: “More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning results.” (as quoted in governor’s press release, Dec. 8, 2011)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.

The draft finding could have significant implications while states try to determine how to regulate the process. Environmentalists characterized the report as a significant development though it met immediate criticism from the oil and gas industry and a U.S. senator.

The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.

The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.

To Read More Click Here 


FORT WORTH — Preliminary findings from a study of hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas development show no direct link between the controversial process and groundwater contamination, the University of Texas professor who led the study said Wednesday.

Problems in shale fields appear to be related to issues such as poor casing or cementing of wells, rather than fracking, UT geology professor Charles “Chip” Groat told about 150 people at the City Club in downtown Fort Worth. The audience included oil and gas industry representatives and city officials who regulate drilling in North Texas’ Barnett Shale.

The $300,000 study is being funded by UT’s Energy Institute. Groat said a final report is expected to be issued in the next two months. The institute looked at reports of groundwater contamination in the Barnett Shale, the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana and East Texas, and the Marcellus Shale in the Northeastern U.S.

Groat said a major goal of the study is to “separate fact from fiction” and produce accurate information that will help government policymakers adopt wise policies and regulations that “are grounded in science.”

He said the institute also plans an in-depth “case study” of the Barnett Shale, which would include water-related issues and other environmental concerns.

To Read More Click Here:

The Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists met on November 7, 2011 to consider Advisory Opinion #7.  This Advisory Opinion was in response to the reaction to the Proposed Rules published in the September 30th edition of the Texas Register.  These proposed rules dealt with the practice of Oil & Gas.  There were two sections to this proposed rule.  Section 33 dealt with “Permissive Practice” (Voluntary Practice by someone who is licensed) and Section 34 which dealt with unlicensed Practice.  These proposed rules were the result of months of work by an Oil& Gas advisory committee.  The intent was to publish them to gather greater input not to implement the proposed rules.  Yet that was not how the proposed rules were received by the public.

The resulting public fire storm lead the TBPG to initiate Advisory Opinion #7.  At the November 7th Meeting , there were about 30 people in attendance.  Some of the notable people were Dave Rensink, Richard How, Henry Wise, Peter Rose, John Mikels, Scott Daniels and Bruce Darling.  Chairman Kitchens opened the meeting by explaining the process and history of how the proposed rules came about and reassured that this was not a power grab by the Board.  He stated that the Governors office was aware of the activities of the Board.   After his statement the Board proceeded to withdraw the proposed rules.  The Board voted 8-0 to withdraw the rules.  Also as a result, the Oil and Gas workgroup was disbanded.  The Board then laid out the Advisory Opinion.  The Board voted 8-0 to adopt the proposal.  After that the floor was opened for public comments.  Very few people got up to speak.  Two of the people who did speak call for the Board to resign.  Talking to people afterwards they seemed satisfied with how things went.

Below is part of the Advisory Opinion from which the TBPG Chairman read:

The Board has had questions for many years concerning the intent of the word “exclusively” and the phrase “for the benefit of private industry” that is included in the above cited section of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act (Act).  The Board has attempted to determine if this word and this phrase were included in the statute with the intent that some oil and gas activities would not be exempt from the requirements of the Act.  For example, is geoscientific interpretation presented for the sole purpose of securing financing from the public exclusively part of the exploration and development process?  Could the fact that the benefits of oil and gas exploration are not exclusively for the benefit of private industry since the public also benefits in the form of severance tax paid to the state be a cause to require a license?  These are the types of questions that have been posed to the Board in the form of inquiries and complaints over the years.

The Board has had an ad-hoc Legal Interpretation Committee explore the question and this activity did not conclusively resolve the issue.  The Board also encouraged the development of an advisory workgroup to involve the oil and gas community to assist with answering the issue.  Attempts were made to secure wide participation in the workgroup, and included liaison representatives with involvement in the Houston Geological Society, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists.  Over a period of more than a year, the workgroup met and finally petitioned the Board with a rule proposal that would define that certain activities involving oil and gas exploration and development would not be exempt.  All members of the workgroup had ample and equal opportunity to provide input to the rule proposal.  The workgroup members felt that the issue should be made available to a broader audience for further review. 

The Board finally agreed to publish the rule proposal for the purpose of receiving more widespread public input to help with the determination of exemption applicability but only if certified by legal counsel that the proposal was within the Board’s authority to adopt.  Based on the subsequent overwhelming public opinion against adoption of the proposal, and legislative intent brought to the attention of the Board, the Board has withdrawn the proposed rulemaking.