Regulations on Natural Gas Drilling: An Analogy that we can all relate to

Let's face it, the majority of people involved with shales have no clue as to what is going on around them.  They don't know the history of drilling, they don't know the regulations, and they don't know the environmental protection advances the industry has made over the past 50 years since the start of hydraulic fracturing.  I'm not saying this in a negative way.  Why would people know anything about these new technologies?  If instead a "shale boom", let's imagine there was a "maplewood boom" and people wanted to rip the sides off of my log cabin.  What would I do?  I would likely become extremely protective of my pricey wood cabin, and would likely have a defensive stance.  It doesn't necessarily mean the loggers are wreckless, but that defensive mechanism is the natural human response.


The kneejerk response to this shale boom isn't much different.  Instead of your log cabin, you are protecting your land, your water, your environment.  It's new to people, and that is fine, but before we start pointing fingers at who is responsible for safe drilling we have to understand the specific roles of the people involved.  I feel as though the claims of "We have to stop these oil companies from steamrolling through our land!  Let's petition against them" are pointed in the wrong direction.  Energy companies follow strict laws and operate under the watchful eye of governing bodies.  They abide by their rules or they can't drill.  I feel as though an analogy everybody can relate to can clear this up.


Let's say Joe gets on a highway in Texas.  Joe sees the speed limit is listed as 70.  Joe knows this enforcing agency is extremely strict with violations, fines up to a million dollars, so Joe will never go over that limit.  This speed limit number has been revised over the past 50 years and it works.  It's safe. 


Joe then hears a brand new highway has opened up in the Appalachian basin and wants to test it out.  This highway is new to the Appalachian Basin residents who are used to their 25 mile per hour side roads.  A 70 mile per hour limit is unheard of, so the agencies tighten up and set it at 60.  As always, Joe abides by this limit set by the agencies.  In fact, Joe must present written documents for his speed across every mile he drives or he can not use it.  Still, this new highway is extremely new to current residents.  They see Joe on the road and they develop an anger towards Joe, even though he has been safely driving on these types of roads for the past 50 years.  The residents make a lot of noise to try and slow down the speed limit to 45 on the highway.  It passes.  The New York residents slow it down to ZERO.  Nobody is on that highway.  No tolls are paid.  Still, the anger is towards Joe. 


My question is, why would Joe be to blame for following the speed limit?   In the same sense, why would energy companies be to blame for following the set of laws in place?  These restrictions aren't new to the industry.  They were created and refined over the past 50 years.  You don't hear about the people using the Texas highways that safely abide by the speed limit - which include thousands of drivers everyday.  What you hear of are the 1 or 2 incidents per year where somebody drove over the limit, likely because of a mechanical problem,  and got in a fatal accident.  Those are the incidents that make the news.  This creates an overwhelmingly biased view of those Texas highways.


There are two points here:


1.  These restrictions and techniques may be new to the Appalachian basin, but they are far from a new technique and set of rules.  They have been refined for you already across the country.  Even though this speed limit is a lot higher than we're used to, they are still much stricter than the majority of the country.

2.  Even if you still have a problem with the "speed limit", why blame Joe?   Why is it the energy companies are responsible for making even stricter regulations?  If you drove on that highway, would you ever get out of your car and change the speed limit from "60" to "30"? .....  or even in the most drastic cases "0".    It's not the driver's job to change the limits.    People have anger towards the wrong group.  You want Joe to slow his speed down?  Then try and get the limits changed.   You don't ask Joe to do that, you ask the enforcing agency.  Joe really isn't such a bad guy you know.


The limits are there.  They're stricter than most of the country.  They are abided by, and these companies have a watchful eye on them at all times.  If we shut down these highways we'll have to resort to our horse and buggies like New York is doing right now.  Did I mention those buggy axels are imported from foreign countries? 


Let's let Joe drive.  Go Marcellus.

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you are correct, I can read the same lies on internet emails I get regarding politicall issues and HEALTH CARE.
I think Ronny Regan said it best when he was negotiating with the Commies
"TRUST BUT VERIFY" we need to be vigilant.
we formed a county ENERGY TASK FORCE to help get the truth out and weed out the BS.
Very good analogy...would you mind if i use this? I deal with explaining these issues daily.
Thanks for the list of references also...
mind if i add an industry related one?

Also, because you hear that DEP has fined an entity for a spill does not mean that any long term pollution of a water source or supply has occurred, industry is written violations for and fined for minor spills that never leave the drilling location all the time...(not saying I agree with this but it does happen).

Most fines for spills are minor issues that are reported and cleaned up as the companies are self reporting the issue. Also, a lot of violations are minor erosion and sedimentation issues with the locations and access roads during the drilling phase.

our motto could be : 'LETS DO IT AND DO IT RIGHT".
Read an editoral in local paper - very good.
Please consider our 16-County Energy Expo in June 2010
In part the industry needs to take some blame, the industies answers to question initially were not the best and fracking has been around, but how to handle disclosures related to service companies violating MOA with the Federal Govt. A company agrees to not use a product and then continues to use for years.

The industry should identify pass problems, show how these problems were identified and resolved, and be open about chemicals uses/storage etc. The industry is not believed, because of the industries history, and in PA the legacy of Coal. We also need to be a little forward thinking on how we do reach if a contamination of one or more private wells or water supplies occur. This should include an action plan that shows how and who will respond and when actions will be taken and these actions will be in a timely manner. I believe this is one of the proposed changes in the PA Oil&Gas Regulations.
Brian all of this information is available. Water disposal plans are presented for every well, as are the chemicals in use. Comments like this make people believe the industry is hiding something. They're not, you just aren't willing to look. This is a press release put out yesterday by the Marcellus shale coalition addressing this misconception people have.
Hi Roy
The information is available - I agree, but when asked it takes some Companies months to give out the information. This is the problem - the industry needs to be involved with the education and step up. When asked a question - the answer should be here is the information. Here is the listing of chemicals - here is the quantity - here is a copy of our health and safety plan, here is the MSDS, here is all the other stuff that is already in my permit that has been approved and submitted. Also - he is a copy of our monitoring plan and he is a copy of our response plan if a truck tips over, well gets contaminated, etc. The information is their - but not at the local township where the people can see it. My not being proactive - the industry opens the door to these questions and problems. Lets be honest - the industry initially created these misconceptions by not getting out the information. Also, the proposed regulations in PA - provide significantly more isolation between the freshwater and saline water aquifer. Please remember the EPA regulations require the Oil & Gas to protect all water with a total dissolved solids of < 10,000 mg/L - not just freshwater.
The horse and buggy Isn’t from foreign countries But right here you have the Texans that laugh all the way to bank and then you have these type people who work harder than most people and risk there pocket money and reputation. Then they get a winner out of one. It is drill vs. recycle your energy
Here is the biggest of all finds Algae oil there is a major break in this oil just ask your U.S. Air Force and Origin Oil before any of use see any true benefit to this insanity we will be using the extraction process invented by Origin Oil and be fueling up with a recyclable fuel along with heating our home now how much more natural can you get
Ck it out
There is no need to drill anymore if this is true one year hold will not be that long until the Air Force is done testing this out Exxon Mobile and so forth
These are dudes that where formed by the federal government when Sputnik rocketed into space
With special thanks to Angel, we all ought to be getting behind some of the recommendations that this senator is making.

Senator Casey asks federal agency to investigate drilling contamination
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
by Laura Legere
Scranton Times-Tribune
Senator Bob Casey is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate cases of water contamination related to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania after a gas company operating in Susquehanna County failed to stop methane from leaking into residents' drinking water.
In a letter Monday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Mr. Casey said he wants greater EPA involvement in the state because contamination incidents, including methane migration in Dimock Twp., "raise the question of whether the necessary steps have been taken to protect Pennsylvania families and communities against the detrimental side effects of drilling."
The oil and gas industry is largely exempt from federal environmental oversight and is instead regulated by state agencies. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection regulates the industry.
But in a press conference Monday, Mr. Casey said several layers of government oversight may be necessary to ensure drilling is done safely. And he believes the federal environmental agency already has some power to regulate the industry in general - and to investigate the Dimock incident specifically - through the Superfund program and emergency powers outlined in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
He wants the EPA to determine its authority under those laws. If the agency finds that it does not have sufficient authority to protect against the hazards of drilling, it should ask Congress for more, he said.
"I have a concern that there isn't enough of a federal responsibility here," he said, "or even if there is the statutory authority, that the federal government hasn't done enough in terms of investigation or action in this area."
Last year, Mr. Casey introduced legislation, called the FRAC Act, that would require the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells to be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would also require that drilling companies disclose the chemical composition of the fluids they mix with sand and water to break apart - or hydraulically fracture - the gas-bearing rock.
The gas industry maintains that hydraulic fracturing has never been the confirmed cause of drinking water contamination and argues that federal oversight would be an unnecessary burden.
Mr. Casey said Monday that it is possible for gas drilling to be done safely. "We don't have to choose between jobs and the environment, or choose between economic opportunity and protecting families' drinking water," he said.
Victoria Switzer, a Dimock resident whose drinking water has been contaminated with methane, said she and 13 neighbors have had to live with that choice because oversight of the industry was not stringent enough to protect them.
"We've lost our drinking water; there's lots of gas there. That's not a choice people should have to make," she said.
They say we are global world and need to change to more like they are. Hog wash they have short sight if we did not existed those countries would not be here today. The more you rely on the government the closer you get to one person rule. You lose when you become all the same. They need to change to be like us protecting the individual rights of all the people to give each person the opportunity to live the way they want. In order to do this we create the law based on this right (freedom). There is no reason why this can not be. If you are so sure that what you want to do is right then, do it but you must not destroy the other person right to live their way or you pay the price. This price maybe money but in most cases includes more than that. By protecting this right we all win and we never lose.
Perhaps the following will be of some value in understanding how best to protect ourselves and the environment. With special thanks to Angel, the following is from an interview with the Mayor of Dish, Texas on his perceptions and what the community ultimately did:

Subject: The Big Deception

When I first decided that we needed to have some biological testing accomplished here in DISH, TX, I was cautioned against getting our state health department involved. Most figured that they would run up here and began covering the back side of the oil and gas industry like they have done so many times before. However, I also have some very smart and nationally recognized people who help me in these decisions and we decided that if they would take our input on the testing, we might be OK. So we asked the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to test the air and a tentatively identified compound test in conjunction with the tests they were running. But they ignored the request from a nationally recognized scientist, who has more scientific recognition in her little toe, than anyone who works for the DSHS will ever have. Therefore, their report subsequently has turned out more political than scientific.

As one well known citizen who lives in the barnett shale has stated, "everything you hear from the natural gas industry in either a lie, or half truth". Here in DISH, we are used to the paid liars from this industry coming in and feeding us the normal lines like what good neighbors they want to be. However, when you get this from your state agencies that are sworn to protect you, it does not set as well. Many people believe everything these people say, and they are never held accountable when they are wrong...or deceitful. The DSHS showed up just like many of the other paid liars, thinking that they would blow smoke up the rear ends of a bunch of country bumpkins that didn't know any better, and just like the other paid liars, they left with their tails between their legs. Country bumpkins typically recognize the smell of BS pretty quickly.

After thinking about this, and doing some research into the matter, it was clear that no matter what was detected, the DSHS would have found a way to say there is nothing wrong. They have a history of doing just that, please see the following link, where they failed to protect the public interest in Texas once again.

In this "investigation" the community was worried about water run-off from a former refinery (hmm same industry), and subsequent surface water contamination. However, the same characters who came to DISH, decided the surface water didn't need testing. The soil and sediment were tested and both exceeded the Health Based Assessment Comparison for aluminum, arsenic, BaP TEQ (benzene derivative), and vandium. Conclusion - "no apparent public health hazard". In my line of business we call people like this "hacks".

In our case, they were looking hard for criticisms from us before the meeting, so that they could prepare to answer them. I made some comment to the media about the number of folks who had toluene and xylene in their systems, and oddly enough they came up with statistics that show we are actually lower than the rest of the United States, this was not in the report, just the presentation. At this point I started getting that familiar smell that we have grown accustomed to here in DISH... and not the natural gas smell. I then asked for the source of the statistics they used to determine this and they sent me to NHANES, said "just google it". Maybe that was their joke, because me and others searched for hours with no success finding this data. I did find a statement that said VOCs are present in most everyone at some level, but it would not be in detectable levels in everyone, so that may have been one of those "half truths".

During my several hours of research, I did find that the 95th percentile used in the DISH study appears to be a hand picked by the "hacks", and likely hand picked for a purpose. Apparently, you do not need a percentile reference number, but when one is used the 90th percentile seems to be the number used by real scientists. If 50% of the households in DISH were above the 95th percentile for chemical exposure, I wonder how many are over the 90th percentile. However, if they would have figured that, it is likely that they would have that trend they were looking for, and we damn sure wouldn't want that, now would we? I think similar lying with statistics was accomplished in Flower Mound as well. If they start finding problems, the boys and girls in Austin would not get those critical campaign contributions they have grown accustom to. In my business we look for trends, and I am starting to see a trend with these "hacks".

If the above blatant failures were not enough to show what a joke this was, you must hear the rest of the story. Dr. Bradford admitted when questioned that the study was not a scientific study. However, they came to a very solid conclusion, with this non-scientific study. The conclusion goes something like...we see exposure but have no idea where the exposure is coming from, but it damn sure aint coming from that compressor station that we smelled those horrible odors from.

They then admitted that they did not know how close any of the citizens lived to the compressor sites, nor did they know the number of males vs females that were tested, and did not even know the age range of those who were tested. You would think they would have known the answers to the easy stuff if they wanted to appear believable. The data that they used for comparison in DISH was seven years old. Outdated data is something they also used in Flower Mound to help them reach their objective. I guess they figured they had this one in the bag like all the others before, too bad the country bumpkin's weren't buying.

Children were not tested as part of this "investigation". There apparently was no data to compare the results; however, in my wild goose chase that Dr. Bradford sent me on, I found several studies that referenced children. The one mentioned above showed how these chemicals affect children differently than adults...and yea it is much worse. She avoided the question during the meeting when asked about how children are affected differently than adults. Frankly, I believe that they were sent here to not find anything and they would likely find exposure in our children. If they find toluene and xylene in kids they would not be able to blame it on smoking. Even us country bumpkins don't let our five year olds smoke. They would not have been able to give us the "half truths" that they did, and people don't play when it come to their kids. If us nice country folk knew our kids have BTEX chemical exposure, we may not be so nice any more. I am hopeful that the light will shine on some of the roaches who are responsible for these illusions, and I think there is another facility I would rather see them at, and it is located in Huntsville, Texas.

The house of cards they built came down very quickly. I am extremely disappointed that these folks did not take their oaths seriously, and are allowing the public to continue being put at risk. I had originally felt sorry for those who were likely on the puppets for the higher ups, but it is all too apparent that this is not there first deception, so they should have moved on to something else if they weren't committed to covering things like this up. They have actually offered to come back for another round of testing. I think I would rather see if the Chesapeake or Devon environmental department is available, they are much better liars.

In closing I would like to say that this "investigation" brings more questions than answers, and it is time for us to demand a stop to the social injustices that these state agencies are allowed to impose. Many people have no other options than to take their word for it, and no recourse when they are wrong. We apparently have not only been sacrificed for the good of the shale by these companies, but also the State of Texas. It is time for us to hold these paid liars accountable for their actions. Please let me know if you have any skills to help me investigate similar injustices.

Fortunately, the last state agency that left the DISH town hall with their tails between their legs was shamed into installing a permanent air monitor. Frankly, I am delightfully surprised by the improvements in our air quality over the last month. I am certainly not calling all clear, but it may be that we don't even need more testing, but I know that another community will face the same situation if there is not something done. If this industry would just do it right, we would not have many of these problems. The Gulf would not be becoming the dead sea and our children would not be exposed to cancer causing toxins. Please post on your blogs and websites.

See report here:

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"
Made a video about my thoughts on horizontal hydrofracking in New York. Several people have focused on my comparison of horizontal hydrofracking to a "bomb". The full paper is on Otsego 2000 website.

I was addressing the extreme pressures involved - and the difficulties in containing those pressures. Horizontal hydrofracking of shale involves a series of explosions. The first being the perforation of the casing with explosives. Then a series of explosions to break up the rock. The only difference between these explosions and a "bomb" is time, not motive force.

Dr Ingraffea does an excellent job of explaining the process in his videos. See for instance ;

The pressures of these shale fracks are extreme - considerably more than the pressure that blew out out the BP Gulf well. Such pressures are difficult to contain - and they are not being sufficiently contained, as evidence by the blow-outs on the Cabot wells.

The second challenge with horizontal hydrofracking are the volumes of the fluids used.
Frack flowback is polluted with frack chemicals and whatever it picks up in the formation - which can include Radium 226, as shown in NYS DEP tests, and as reported in Scientific American.

There is no safe way to dispose of the expected quantities of waste water in New York state. Not any time soon. New York only has 4 permitted disposal wells in seismically questionable geology. Texas has almost 12,000 permitted disposal wells in seismically stable formations.

Until New York is adequately prepared to dispose of the expected volume of flowback, horizontal hydrofracking of shale should not proceed.

The NYS DEC draft dsGEIS was grossly flawed. It did not have to be - but it was. The DEC could have addressed the particular risks of horizontal hydrofracking of shale more effectively from the outset. But they didn't.

Please take a minute and read our comments at

When the DEC has adequately addressed the issues of horizontal hydrofracking in NY, then the exploitation of the Marcellusa and Utica in NYS can begin safely.

Many of the advocates for proceeding without those safeguards in place - and disposal facilities ready to handle the waste water - are, IMO, acting irresponsibly. They have made economic bets - before the regulatory rules of the game have been established. Their objectivity on what the rules should be is questionable.

The rules and regulations in NYS should be tied to NY's geology, surface conditions, and disposal facilities - and on empirical data for this region. Not to what worked in the Fort Worth Basin. Getting those regulations in place may take some time, because they need to be right.


James "Chip" Northrup


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