Fossil Fuels

Published on June 29th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Study Finds Methane-Contaminated Wells Near Fracking Sites

June 29th, 2013 by  

This article first appeared on ClimateProgress
by Matt Kasper and Patrick Maloney,

Ray Kemble pumps water from a truck into his neighbor's tank in Dimock, Pa.  Image Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Ray Kemble pumps water from a truck into his neighbor’s tank in Dimock, Pa.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Wells used for drinking water near the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania have methane concentrations six times higher than wells farther away. That is the finding of a Duke University study published on June 24th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells (combining data from a previous study of 60 sampled wells in 2011) from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven aquifers and a few drinking water wells from the Genesee Formation in Otsego County of New York. Methane was detected in 82 percent of drinking water samples for homes within a kilometer (0.62 miles or 1,093 yards) of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells.

Robert Jackson from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment wrote the report and confirmed that, “the methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water.”

The natural gas boom is happening all across the country. Gas constitutes about 25 percent of total energy consumption. Pennsylvania saw natural gas production increase by 69 percent in 2012.

But this boom has also created many issues: earthquakeswater contamination and scarcity, and leakage. 65 percent of Americans already say more regulations of fracking are needed, despite only a few studies having been conducted on the topic of possible water contamination. This makes the recent Duke study a significant contribution to the ongoing fracking debate.

The study states “the two simplest explanations” for the contamination in drinking water are faulty or inadequate steel casings and imperfections in cement sealings.

Natural gas companies will hopefully work to develop ways to fix the problem of well integrity, but the Duke study shows just how much additional research and investigation into the fracking process is needed, especially by the federal government.

Unfortunately the EPA has decided to drop their investigation of probable water contamination due to fracking in Pavilion, Wyoming. Instead, the agency will support the state’s own investigation into water quality in the area even though EPA originally concluded that “the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing.” Wyoming’s version of the report is set to be released by September 30, 2014.

Even worse, the Bureau of Land Management’s draft rules released in May fail to protect people from harm and instead protect the oil and gas industry from having to follow strong environmental standards. DeSmogBlog also notes that BLM adopted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil.

Even if the engineering problems were fixed, fracking will still allow greenhouse gases to pump into our atmosphere, which is bad for public health and drives global warming.

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  • Ivor O’Connor

    With the allegations from the movie Gasland Part II,, that methane is 106x more dangerous to our atmosphere than CO2 these studies are very important. It only takes a little methane leakage to negate all the benefits of gas over coal. According to the movie we are already damaging the environment faster than we were with coal.

    The president though wants the support of the nuclear and gas industries. So he has basically told the EPA to step down. So these studies are even more important now.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think you’re reading PBO incorrectly. He doesn’t want their support as much as he doesn’t want them as (additional) enemies, IMO. I can’t see that he’s done anything to help either. His efforts have been aimed at renewables.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        I wish I could agree with you here Bob. I see Obama as Cheney on steroids. Saying to the populace the popular things while implementing what Cheney could only dream of doing.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Like what?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Hey Bob. It’s really confusing on these forums where you can’t really tell who is replying to whom. I’ll assume the “Like what?” is directed to me.

            First off don’t get me wrong. I initially liked Obama but by the time he was nominated the Democratic candidate I was already having suspicions about his words and deeds being different. I still get a laugh at all the hatred the Republicans throw at him. Then again I get a laugh at what all the Democrats think he is actually saying.

            Cheney would have loved to legally be able to wire tap all American citizens but there is no way he could have pushed that through. See

            We aren’t talking about all the money he diverted to wall street. Or the money he is spending on the military. If you watch his words and compare them to what he actually does he’d make Cheney proud. Well, Cheney wouldn’t be proud of the lying to the masses. The end results though is what Cheney is happy with.

            Now in this talk Obama just gave. He sounded very much like candidate Obama. However:
            1) He brought up that for the first time in 30 years a few new nuclear planets are possibly going to be built. As if it were a good thing to help prevent more CO2. He doesn’t mention he is bankrolling everything including security and risk from lawsuits. He quickly moves on leaving it as a high note like we’ve done something positive here! No way could Cheney slip that over.

            2) He strongly comes out and says we will stop subsidizing foreign coal plants! And then slips in almost invisibly the qualification, unless they use “carbon sequestration”. Huh? So they capture a bit of carbon and we’ll pay for that sequestration equipment and the coal plant? So we can continue to sell record amounts of coal? Cheney would be so proud. President I want would not subsidize foreign energy so we could profit from selling coal to them. It goes into our atmosphere.

            3) Around 25 minutes in he talks about how clean gas is. And we need to tighten the methane leaks a bit while we ramp up fracking. Huh? The president I want would close down fracking.
            4) What’s he doing for solar and wind? He wants to double it will double even if he tries to prevent it. The president I would like would quit subsidizing fossil fuel and nuclear and subsidize solar and wind. But he’s doing just the opposite and yet people don’t see it.

            This is why he would make Cheney so proud.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Cheney would have loved to legally be able to wire tap all American citizens but there is no way he could have pushed that through”

            Sorry, the “wire tap” program you refer to started under Bush/Cheney.

            It’s not wire tapping in that government agents are allowed to listen into conversations or read emails without getting a court order. That’s how it has been for along time.

            The government is being allowed to store records of “who called whom and when”. If they want to look at that data it takes permission from a judge.

            That may bother you, it bothers some. It bother me when I have to take my shoes off at the airport. But we’ve got a bit of a problem with people trying to whack us. I’m willing to let the government be a bit intrusive as opposed to giving the bad guys free rein.

            I’d have to go back and review the changes in loan guarantees for nuclear but IIRC the corporations who use the fed loan guarantee program now have to put more of their capital at risk.

            I don’t think things have gotten a bit easier for the nuclear industry at the federal level. It’s mostly the State of Georgia and a couple other states that are helping nuclear.

            I see “carbon sequestering” as a coal-killer. We don’t have a way to sequester carbon effectively and at an affordable price. Stick that requirement on and you prevent new coal capacity.

            NG is about 50% less carbon intensive than using coal.

            The choice right now is 100 ‘units’ of coal production or a renewable/NG mix (~40% wind, 20% solar and 40% NG – different proportions in different places.

            100 units of coal CO2 or 20 units of NG CO2.

            We have to control methane leaks. Otherwise we can’t get to the “20 units”.

            “What is Obama doing for solar and wind?”

            Well, he’s made it very much easier to install both on federal lands, greatly reduced the permitting process.

            He’s installed lots of both on military bases.

            If you need for me to look up more for you I will. Ask.

            The president does not subsidize fossil fuels or under-subsidize renewables. Congress controls those funds.

            If you know as little about what is going on as you seem to be then I can see how you could be unhappy with PBO. But you have some bad info on board and need to catch up on some things.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Actually it doesn’t take any action from a judge. The best summary to quickly come up-to-speed is here

            I think basically if we go around throwing stones at beehives we’ll somehow manage to get a lot of bees wanting to whack us. I’d rather be the kid in the school yard who stands up against throwing stones.

            Sure sequestration does not work. However on the street people feel it does. Obama will simply put something up and call it sequestration and we will fund it. So we can then sell coal to them.

            As for what the president can do? Instead of prance around with stage props he can be honest and blunt. I suppose I’m much more into looking at peoples actions rather than their drama…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, I don’t see anything germane to the discussion on that page.

            “Obama will simply put something up and call it sequestration and we will fund it. So we can then sell coal to them.”

            Sorry, that’s tinfoil hat territory. I’m not going there with you.

            ” I suppose I’m much more into looking at peoples actions rather than their drama…”

            I take if from that statement that you didn’t bother reading the links I supplied.

            Either that, or you don’t understand how legislation becomes law and how federal money is appropriated.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            You need to listen to that episode Bob.

            Tinfoil hat territory to say it has to be total sequestration or nothing?

            You are right Bob; I haven’t looked at the information you supplied. I should have told you that. I won’t get a chance until tomorrow morning. I will though.

            I don’t fully understand how legislation becomes law and how federal money is appropriated. Though I probably understand it better than most. I’ll take it as an insult that I deserve for not reading your references you supplied last time. I owe you quite a bit for past great references.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I read your page. I don’t want to listen to someone rant about Snowden or whatever they’re going on about.

            Snowden, as far as I can determine, was unable to read people’s emails or listen to their telephone calls. At this point there’s a lot we don’t know about what he uncovered and there’s some misinformation about what he found.

            It’s going to take a while to get everything sorted out.

            Tinfoil hat territory to believe that PBO is conspiring to build more coal plants in other countries. To finance their construction/whatever so we can sell coal abroad.

            To become a law legislation has to be written. Generally that legislation is written by members of the US House or Senate. Sometimes legislation is written by lobbyists or by the administration, but it still has to be presented to either the House or Senate by a member, as if they wrote it.

            Legislation has to be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president (or the president’s veto overridden) and then the legislation becomes law.

            There’s absolutely no way PBO could write a good climate/energy bill and get it passed by the current US Congress. It would simply not pass the Republican controlled House.

            The budget also come from Congress. The president can request a budget, present a budget, but like legislation it has to pass both houses of Congress before the money is available.

            In the 2009 stimulus bill (created when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate) there was a nice big hunk of money that the President had some discretion in the way it was spent.

            If you’ll read the links I gave you then you will be able to see that a lot of that stimulus money was purposed to aid wind, solar, EV batteries and other cleantech endeavors.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I’ve read the links you have supplied. They did not have the impact you probably hoped to convey. Anybody in any organization does a lot which can be picked through to find things supporting ones position. Obama has an all inclusive approach that makes it easy for people to find supporting data.

            I hope you continue to post good references and understand that some people, like myself who watch actions rather than platitudes, are highly upset with Obama.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What I hoped to do was to show you what PBO has done for cleantech and combating climate change.

            You’re disappointed that he hasn’t done more. So am I.

            The difference between us might be that you believe that there was some way for him to circumvent Congress and operate outside the law. I recognize that had he done so he would have been impeached.

            Perhaps you believe that there is some superior individual who could have pulled us out of a very deep recession, out of two foreign wars, given us major health care changes, torn down legal discrimination against gays, rebuilt America’s reputation abroad and solved climate change. I can’t identify that person.

            Perhaps you believe that PBO should have put climate change first and pushed everything else to the background. I can understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I understand that different people have different priorities.

            My disappointment that PBO hasn’t done more doesn’t get laid at his feet. I blame Republicans and I blame left of center voters from not doing enough to keep Republicans from grabbing control of our House of Representatives. We haven’t even supported PBO in his accomplishments. I have yet to hear a cheer from the left when he does something for which they approve.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Yes. I believe there is a far far superior option for president. Gary Johnson is that far superior option. He has a track record proving he can get things done by continuously refusing to work with others by vetoing everything.

            I think that though we agree on energy we will never agree on politics.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “… he can get things done by continuously refusing to work with others by vetoing everything.”

            I’m glad you told me that about Johnson. I was sort of interested in him. Now, not.

            Actually I just now read up on him. No, I’m not interested in a “cut spending over everything else” Republican.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            He is certainly not your type of politician. Though I suppose after he cut everything and forced wind and solar to compete on a fair playing field you’d change your story. (Unless you don’t really believe in solar and wind. You are starting to come off like a give me everything for free type of person.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, he certainly isn’t my type of politician.

            I’m not able to get behind a failed Republican whose main objective is to cut government spending. I can believe that he might cut subsidies for all, but I don’t even slightly believe that he’d start making fossil fuels pay for the damage they cause.

            He’s just another Republican who is calling for legalization of weed so they call themselves libertarians.

            Now, can we get back to clean tech?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Whatever. I’d very much appreciate getting back to clean tech where I can actually appreciate your perspectives.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s some “What has PBO done for renewable energy and climate change” stuff for you…


            Check the Energy categories here-


            Starting at #165


        • Wayne Williamson

          holy crap…you can’t compare Obama to Cheney…I fact there is no one that can compare to Cheney…he stands on a pillar all by his self that anyone would run from…In case you can’t tell I really do not like the guy….

        • I don’t agree with everything Obama does, but comparing him to Cheney is waaaaaaaaaaaaay off.

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