Moratorium on fracking would be a reasonable step
Re: Letter to Editor “In support of fracking,” page 10 of the March 27 Mountain View Gazette.
With all due respect Mr. Naglis, with the information readily available today, it is not hard to refute your claim on behalf of the oil industry and in conjunction with the ERCB that there has never been a documented case of hydraulic fracturing activities contaminating groundwater in Alberta.
You suggested that while the public needs to get better informed it should be from technical professionals who understand geology, rock mechanics and physics of hydraulic fracture stimulation.
Karlis Muehlenbachs, a professor of geochemistry at the University of Alberta, is a government analyst and a leading authority on identifying the unique carbon fingerprint or isotopes of shale and conventional gases and has been fingerprinting leaking gases since 1994.
In an interview last year Carrie Sancartier, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Water stated, like you, that there have been no confirmed cases of gas drilling contaminating water wells in Alberta. Muehlenbachs said in response this is “simply false.” He’s analyzed thousands of cases of gas leaking up well bores and knows of at least a dozen cases of water contamination.
Jessica Ernst from Rosebud has had well contamination problems since 2005 which she said coincided with Encana’s fracking operations in the Rosebud area. Encana and the ERCB both denied this was possible stating the contamination was a naturally occurring event.
Jessica accessed Encana’s drilling records through FOIP and discovered that they had fracked directly into the aquifer that supplies her water well; this was corroborated by fingerprinting done by Muehlenbachs but curiously the government chose to ignore their own analyst’s report.
Whenever methane leaks from one well into a neighbouring well site, “industry says let’s fix the leaks,” says Muehlenbachs. “But as soon as the leaks enter groundwater, everyone abandons the same logic and technology and says it can’t happen and the denials come out. In Alberta, it’s almost a religious belief that gas leaks can’t contaminate groundwater.”
Although petroleum engineers now admit that companies routinely blast fluids and gas into other industry wells hundreds of metres away (B.C., Texas and North Dakota have all documented such cases), they still claim that “fracture communication incidents” can’t happen with groundwater.
There are thousands of abandoned wells scattered throughout the province with no documentation regarding their whereabouts or the integrity of their casing. Without proper due diligence done before fracking commences there is no possible way either the oil companies or the ERCB can give assurances as to the safety of our water.
Concerning the wells that we do know about Muehlenbachs says “The biggest problem is that half or more of the wells drilled leak due to improper cement jobs or industry is not following best practices.”
In the January 2012 edition of the science publication called Discover, the magazine ranked its top 100 stories of 2011. Coming in at #21 was an article on fracking in which a study done at Duke University and published last May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered a conclusive link between fracking and groundwater pollution.
It is difficult to have a meaningful discussion about this topic when the department put in place to regulate the industry and protect us - the ERCB - lies to us about existing cases of water contamination and has demonstrated nothing close to the impartiality required to regulate this industry for the protection of the citizens who supposedly own the resource.
A moratorium on fracking would be a reasonable step until regulatory protocols can be put in place to develop this resource with oversight that protects us all. The urgency to develop this resource is illogical, it isn’t going anywhere and with oil reserves diminishing, the price is only going to go up.
Mountain View County