They say that 82.3 percent of statistics are made up on the spot. Watching the video released by Gasland star Josh Fox this week – cleverly titled “The Sky is Pink” — one wonders whether that figure might be in need of a slight upward adjustment.
Set aside the distracting, out-of-focus camerawork and characteristically creepy, overwrought narration, and the argument that Josh and his team attempt to put forth goes something like this: No natural gas well is safe. All of them fail and leak. And most damning: Industry studies and memoranda – memos previously buried in industry “drawers” — prove it. Memos so confidential, it took us a full three minutes to find them online (more on those later).
In fairness, Fox doesn’t say that every well is destined for failure. In a column submitted to the USA Today last summer, Fox argued that five percent of wells experience “an immediate failure of the concrete casing.” Eight months later, in February, that figure had jumped eight-fold, with Fox telling DemocracyNow! that “casing that protects the groundwater cracks in 40 percent of the cases.” That same month, he suggested to Al Jazeera that the actual failure rate was closer to “50 percent” (20:16). In his new film (09:23), he settles on a new number: 16.7 percent. Hey, at least we’re improving, right?
Of course, not mentioned anywhere in the new 18-minute film is the Aug. 2011 report issued by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), a study that draws on real-world field data and case descriptions from regulators representing two of the most heavily drilled states in the country: Texas and Ohio. According to that study, more than 220,000 oil and natural gas wells were drilled and completed (fractured) in these two states over the past 25 years, 16,000 of them horizontal wells targeting deep shale formations.
Take your pick from any of the failure rates that Fox has cited over the past year: If he’s right – or even close to right – shouldn’t there be thousands of confirmed cases of water contamination from faulty wells and compromised casings? Unfortunately for Josh (but fortunately for everyone else), the GWPC report tells a very different story.