E.P.A. demands to know composition of fracking fluid

15 09 2010

A drill rig near the town of Pinedale, Wyo. (Credit: Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Apparently New Yorkers, West Virginians and Penn State residents are concerned enough about the effect of hydraulic fracking on their watertables that its got the Environmental Protection Agency touring those states, holding public hearings to discuss it. Now, there’s a thought.

N.Y. Senate has even instituted a ban on fracking until early next year while they examine the practice.

Now, in a even more radical step that appears to be in the public interest, the E.P.A. wants to know what’s in that darned fracking fluid.

I was directed to this article in the NYTimes by a blog calling itself ‘Horn River News’ – whose authors apparently wish to remain anonymous – about the E.P.A. having requested “detailed information about the chemicals contained in fluids used to crack open underground rock formations in the hunt for oil and natural gas.”

Like, could it have caused benzene to show up in water wells in Sublette County, Wyo.? The state with one of the biggest natural gas fields in the U.S.? That’s one of the questions posed by this ProPublica article. Benzene is believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia.

Wouldn’t you like to know if that’s being pumped into the groundwater near you? Canada? B.C.? Anyone?

And the E.P.A. sounds serious about what could happen if they don’t get the information in 30 days: ” ‘To the extent that E.P.A. does not receive sufficient data in response to this letter,’ the agency warned, ‘E.P.A. will be exploring legal alternatives to compel submission of the needed information.’ “(source NYTimes) The letters were sent to Halliburton, BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI Energy, RPC Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services and Weatherford International. Oh I hope they have teeth on this threat.

The E.P.A. probably don’t see the irony in the situation, but I do, in a sad-ironic kind of way. They already tested the practice back in 2004 and deemed hydraulic fracking “essentially safe”, exempting it from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The current Congress told them to re-do their homework and report back in 2012.

Would B.C.’s government be interested in the same information?

Should they?

When will it be too late to find out what’s already been released into the bedrock?

Your thoughts.

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*I like this post, asking the good ol’ average citizen to care: http://boatrocker.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/ignorance-isnt-the-problem/

“The people who know and care – but don’t drive public decisions – are the parents and grandparents of kids sickened by the chemicals; people who rely on truck-delivered water or expensive, energy-intense filtration machines because their wells are poisoned and their tap-water is flammable; and people who hear those stories and feel similar fear, anger and grief as our collective failure to stop fracking continues, and their private nightmare becomes our public one: the toxic industrialization, dewatering and death of our Pennsylvania home.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Boatrocker.

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Trouble in the Peace

4 09 2010

B.C. Peace River

I came up to BC’s beautiful Peace region last week with a plan to follow my trapper friend Carl on his Tumbler Ridger trapline, and get him talking about the confluence between natural habitat and industries like coal mining, oil and gas.

I filmed him last in November 2008. While he comes across excellently on screen, and he’s the most articulate conversationalist I could hope to find – ever – the footage was not as professional as I would like.

So I came up again with the idea of re-shooting… But Carl had other ideas in mind.

He got me talking to a few people in the local community about their battles with gas companies and the rampant disrespect with which they’ve been treated. From the first story, my mouth fell open and I listened, aghast, thinking, “how could this happen in CANADA?”

This is a battle for land of epic proportions, and it’s being fought over some of BC’s most fertile farmland, next to it’s most untouched wilderness. The stakes are huge. The health risks are unimaginable. And the oil and gas companies do not play fair.

I won’t go into details now because I’m still at the research stage and will need to consult with Charlotte as to whether we will go ahead with this as a possible. But suffice to say: I’m hooked.

This 1-minute trailer “Trouble in the Peace” sheds a bit of light on what I’ve been uncovering over the last few days. It’s for a documentary in the works about the area by Julian Pinder and Six Island Productions. Pinder is a little more sensationalist than I would be, but he gets the point across that there’s a battle in this region, and it ain’t pretty.

It also tells me I’m not the only one interested in this story. However, there’s more than enough drama and high stakes for seven documentaries to be made.

The Peace may never be quiet for me again.