I thought I would take time this week to discuss the red herrings that have been used to divert our attention from the important things going on in the Marcellus Shale and hydraulic fracturing in particular. As you know, the definition of "red herring" is something used to divert attention from a person or organization's actual goals.

The Gasland fiction that premiered last week was effectively debunked here and on a number of web sites YET I did not see this once in the mainstream media or significant electronic media outlets. I submitted a Letter to the Editor to the WSJ that I have yet to hear back on regarding these issues.

I will be the first to admit that the water issues related to natural gas development are ones that are complex and require professional attentional to ameliorate. But, the fact that the industry is deluged with a range of false accusations make it nearly impossible to get actual facts in front of the public and stakeholders. So in no particular order, my favorite Marcellus shale red herrings:

- My water well is contaminated with natural gas only after fraccing was done in our area.

Sorry but the PA DEP has studied this extensively and have noted that biogenic natural gas occurs in over 300 private wells throughout the state PRIOR to any Marcellus shale development. This is a non-issue but continues to gain credibility. The wells are thousands of feet below drinking water wells and the gas follows the path of least resistance which will be the well itself. Migration of the gas through the earth into shallow drinking water wells has not been documented in any Marcellus shale drillings.

- My water well is contaminated with frac chemicals.

Again, sorry but the chances of this route of exposure is nearly impossible. First of all, frac fluids are nearly 99.5% water and sand, so any chemicals are in low concentrations. Next the flowback is closely monitored and the water flows into lined pits or frac tanks. The water is then either shipped off-site for disposal OR reused in fracing. In PA and WV it is illegal to land apply frac water thus there can be no 'willful' contamination of drinking water. Accidents do happen but since drilling has begun in PA and WV, there have been only a handful of accounts of frac water accidents and NONE of those cases are currently showing water contamination in the local wells. Further, the contamination found in wells blamed for the frac water are typical industrial pollutants found in wells throughout the region PRIOR to hydraulic fracturing. Items like benzene, toluene, xylene and other organics are often found from leaking underground storage tanks (fuels) and from industrial degreasers.

- Drillers use over 800 chemicals in their frac fluid.

Okay this is where things start getting ridiculous. Over the last 10 years of work in both the Barnett Shale and Marcellus, we have seen no more than a handful of specific compounds in typical frac water, most of them available to anyone (items like salt, polymers and corrosion inhibitors are typically added at low concentrations). The PA DEP in their zeal for disclosure recently sent out an itemized list of compounds that COULD be in frac water but as it turns out this list was a list of any chemical that can be on a drilling site, not really the same. You have heard the saying before, "you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts." Due to the cost and volume, it actually behooves the driller to minimize chemical use.

- Drilling is using all of our fresh water... we are going to run out.

The last one is my favorite one, in that hydraulic fracturing as an industry type uses less water per day than most large coal fired power plants (for cooling). Further, a city with a population base of 50,000 people actually use more water per day and create more pollution per day than ALL of the drilling in all of the Marcellus states.

As I have stated many times in the past, there are serious water issues related to drilling but there exists a multi-billion dollar industry ready and capable of handling this challenge. Clear and fair regulations are important but the solutions will not come from "blue ribbon panels" or government officials, rather they will come from the industrial water treatment marketplace. It has served you for the last 100 years, and it will continue in the Marcellus Shale.

Until next time...

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Comment by Michael Havelka on July 18, 2010 at 9:07pm
@Tom... good info. Gas storage is a totally different subject.
@rfs - thanks for the information. This was good stuff.
Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on July 18, 2010 at 8:13pm
I agree totally, Tom.
The water issue and incorrect information about hydraulic fracturing is the most important topic right now. And in this thread.
Comment by Tom Copley on July 18, 2010 at 8:07pm
Shalers-- This discussion has gotten completely off track from Michael's original points. He was reacting to a few criticisms that have been made, some say unfairly, about the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracing)

Steckman Ridge
, to which Daniel's information refers, involves the development of an underground natural gas storage facility in Bedford County. PA. It is in an area little drilled so far for Marcellus shale. In fact, one of the issues that the locals had been upset about was that the development of the gas storage field there could deprive them of the opportunity of having Marcellus shale wells drilled on their property in the future.

While issues of social justice and the imbalance of power in legal proceedings between large corporate entities and private landowners are interesting, discussions about them probably best fit a forum or blog dedicated to legal and political issues, and not one focused on Marcellus shale.

It's my two cents, so feel free to disagree. --Tom
Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on July 18, 2010 at 7:18pm
True, Daniel, but no different than dealing with big banks, big drug companies, big wall street, big anything.

As landowners who have suddenly found ourselves in the marcellus shale, we have had to quickly get up to speed on those matters of importance to protect ourselves. Many of us have spent the last few years doing this, and addressing the issues via lease language before agreeing to sign.

We have also been talking with our legislators to make sure we are protected by necessary laws and if they don't already exist, we try to get them created.

Since most of us plan to live here for the rest of our lives, we care very much what happens while drilling is underway. But there is a fine line between being prudent and being naive. It would be naive, for instance, to think that no accidents will ever happen. We already know humans make errors and therefore we have to be sure the accidents are few and dealt with properly.

My land is my most valued possession. I plan to live here for the rest of my life, and drink the water, and eat the fruits of the earth. If I believed drilling to be so unreasonably hazardous there is no chance I would ever consider allowing it to happen.
Comment by daniel cohen on July 18, 2010 at 5:32pm
Dear rfs,
Thanks for the web reference. I reviewed the entire record, as you recommended. Let me share with you my impressions:
1) If you're going up against big oil, you'd better have a really sharp lawyer on your side. Time & again the area's of dispute were deemed inadequately referenced or filed incorrectly, or determined to be outside the scope of the hearing.
2) Specifics of the various situations, when accepted by the hearing, seemed to lean quite heavily on the side of the oil/gas company.
3) Without knowing the lease specifics, a number of issues being complained about apparently were addressed in the initial lease(s) and the hearing felt that the company was in compliance with the agreement(s). Clearly the landowners were not aware of the implications, and the hearing held that they should have been.
4) Negative impacts on the environment and the aquifer were acknowledged, but the hearing held that it was beyond their scope to address them, and referred the complaint to other offices.

Bottom line- the landowners got screwed over badly, and were not able to get judicial relief for their plight.

As you have indicated in many previous posts, this is a business, not a neighbor or friend we're talking about. We are all responsible for what we do or don't do- and one needs to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Very instructive, but equally sad.
Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on July 18, 2010 at 2:10pm
You are only getting and giving PART of a story with your post. The letter you show is one person's opinion and actually has nothing to do with drilling at all. Please read the entire record and you will see that these people were not correct in their accusations.
Comment by daniel cohen on July 18, 2010 at 1:36pm
Dear Mike,rfs,Brian & Denny,
I have a very hard time reading your responses, which fail to take into account the real life situations occurring on the ground to ordinary folk. Have you seen this post?
Reply by daniel cohen on May 26, 2010 at 1:49pm

Dear Shalers,
With special thanks to Angel, here's the kind of thing that happened to Joe A. & Sandra K. McDaniel which we all need to be aware of and to seek to avoid:

Docket CP08-15

Property Owners Complaint
Joe A & Sandra K McDaniel
2727 Jay Road
Clearville, PA 15535

Monday, November 16, 2009


Naturally gas drilling activities using drilling chemicals other than air, mud and water, polluted our water! See the prewater tests and post water tests. See changes which occurred after drilling commenced?
Other lab tests also confirm chemistry changes took place with visible suds known as MBAS. The pond also has an algae bloom from fracking chemicals which are exempt from water testing.

FERC should not approve any future natural gas storage wells closer than 1,000 feet on ridge tops above ponds and other water supplies.
Toxic drilling chemicals which can be hazardous to humans, wildlife and aquatic life should be included in all pre and post water testing.
Chemical brews, trade secrets of Halliburton and Schlumberger, should be tested for in pre or post water tests.

For the public record at FERC Elibrary, as a result of this gas storage project which FERC approved for Steckman Ridge LP; our spring fed fish pond is polluted from natural gas drilling chemicals and activities performed at those two gas storage wells located on the two ridge tops! We are certain pollution is not naturally occurring as was stated by many times by Steckman Ridge landsman, Kevin McCrary.

We requested FERC not to place gas storage wells on both ridge tops less than 1,000 away from our spring fed fish pond. FERC told us our pond would be safe because this company would use air, mud and water to drill the wells and this is environmentally friendly but the man made chemicals were not factored for the location. We know casings around wellbores have been known to fail in the past and likely failed at this site since pre and post water tests show chemicals escaped and found their way into the spring fed fish pond which was protected by silt fencing and other erosion controls. There was no other path than subsurface entry for man made surfactants!

Click here for our website to see some pictures of chemicals: http://clearville.wordpress.com/
See a few of the bags, gallon jugs and drums of chemicals along with five frac tanks were located at the drilling sites. Trailer loads of chemicals were trucked in for Halliburton. The water boy was on site with tankers of water daily. Residual wastes were trucked off. The water boy "Dively's Trucking" also helped load or unload frac tanks and proved to be very handy loading the tanker with water, fluids and pit water.
(More videos in upcoming posts will show coiled tubing operations with the liquid nitrogen bulk tanker units and other operations consisting of high pressure techniques).

Steckman Ridge did a prewater test on water quality prior to natural gas drilling. There were zero man made surfactants and pollution in the water. The pond was healthy, had a good water level and had no algae or chemicals in the muds.

Steckman Ridge did a postwater test which showed there is man made suds or a surfactant known as MBAS in our spring fed fish pond. Steckman Ridge did not test our water for the other chemicals used in drilling fluids but we know the other chemicals they used are linked to the algae growth in our pond. Those drilling fluids are harmful to aquatic life with long term chronic disease affects which could show up next summer as the water warms or the water table rises again if ever. The low depth of the water is a perfect breeding area for algae blended with chemicals in the muds.

Suds were seen and reported to Kevin McCrary, landsman April 2009, May, 2009, June 2009 and July 2009. Kevin McCrary assured us they were naturally occurring in the county. Steckman's post water report in August 2009 proved the suds are not naturally occurring. We were misinformed. We have studied and now worry about the effects MBAS detergent will have on the fish as it is known to remove the protective layer from the fish then they will eventually become diseased and die. We want the algae gone in the pond forever, it will come back year after year now that it is in the pond; we want the muds in the bottom of the pond cleaned as perfect as they were prior to natural gas drilling, this would mean draining the pond and losing everything but everything is already polluted; we don't want to lose our fish but now we would be afraid to let anyone eat them since they have been exposed to chemicals not tested for lurking in the muds; if a new pond were built and restocked we yet face the factor of those subsurface chemicals which yet will work their way out into the spring which fed the pond. The pond has been polluted by natural gas drilling activities and chemicals, there is no solution for this catrastrophe.

Kevin McCrary knew in April 2009 that white foam was seen outside the waste pit at the drilling site so did PADep but they weren't there to catch them in the act but the video got it.
Kevin McCrary was informed in May 2009 about foam outside the pit and again we were assured it would be o.k. that the foam is harmless but he left the factor out about the effect of soap on fish and the other chemicals which accompanied the surfactant into the pond via subsurface release.
Kevin McCrary had acted to show he was doing his part which would take care of the foam. Mr. McCrary had a silt fence put up along the pond to stop any runoff from the pad so the foam couldn't get into the pond or streams outside the pond.
McCrary made us believe he had taken appropriate action but we kept seeing suds and he kept saying they were naturally occurring, now we know what we saw is harmful to aquatic life.
The suds are a man made chemical surfactant known as MBAS. After studies of these chemicals we saw being used, we now know the algae bloom which appeared after drilling commenced are linked to the drilling chemicals.
We now know those chemicals did not roll off of the pad into the pond because there was a silt fence and sandbags along with other erosion control devices next to the pond and this leaves nothing left except subsurface pollution which surfaced into the spring fed fish pond. Something went wrong around the wellbore casing.


FERC can ask this company if they used a frac tank for diesel; or light, medium, heavy brines; or bara defoam 300 (kerosene); aldecide; ucaracide; aqua gel; clay seal plus; duo squeeze; bara carb 150; denise soda ash, dextrid LD, baro seal; diamond seal polymer for lost circulation; EZmud; corrosive inhibiters; methanol; formaldehyde, Glutaraldehyde, etc...etc... in drilling fluid brews with common proppants...etc.
Ask if Halliburton came into the well sites after the fluids were injected and used coiled tubing and liquid nitrogen tankers to finish off the wells. We only care about the pond which they destroyed.

If FERC has a biologist in the agency, they will know aquatic toxicity levels for chemicals mentioned herein to see what they do to aquatic life which are known as chronic showing up as time goes by!
Check for any water tests for the chemicals used in the drilling process which went in the wrong place via subsurface transport, there are none but they were used and got into the pond.

Ask Steckman Ridge if the second pit turned black and ask them why it turned black?
Tell them it is o.k. to answer these questions, they are safe and protected, we only care about the pond which they polluted which was the central heart of all activities on our property.

The last time we read the law, Spectra Energy along with other drilling companies are totally exempt from water tests for fracking chemicals and hydraulic fracturing!

Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—
‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
‘‘(B) excludes—
‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’.

Section 502 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1362) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(24) OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION.—The term ‘oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities’ means all field activities or operations associated with exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities, including activities necessary to prepare a site for drilling and for the movement and placement of drilling equipment, whether or not such field activities or operations may be considered to be construction activities.’’.

Others are exempt and reap profits while the environment will never recover from the damages.
Landowners are not exempt from humiliation and stressful pollution factors which affect human health and enjoyment of life.

We wish FERC could put our pond water back to the way it was before natural gas drilling took place.
We wish FERC could ensure us we will not experience terror and fears in the future, from toxic chemicals trapped in the subsurface formation, which may creep into and onto our property?

We remain fearful of chemicals used in the drilling fluids, injected into the subsurface which lurk in the subsurface and may work their way out. We will never again enjoy the polluted property which was once pure and a clean sanctuary of peace and tranquility.

We have learned not to ask Steckman Ridge for a solution: "Kevin McCrary, landsman may tell us again it is "Naturally Occurring."

"Others now enjoy what they have destroyed on earth".

Joe A. & Sandra K. McDaniel
Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on July 17, 2010 at 11:52pm
Thank you, very good list and you are right about water issues being one of the major "misunderstandings" in the drill or no drill controversy.

The misinformation coming out of certain camps (the worst of which I refer to as enviro-cults) is designed to instill fear but is based on absolutely no fact whatsoever. No dialog is allowed, nor is science employed, and the goal is to create enough of a frenzy to stop all drilling. For a short time the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) fell under the spell of the enviro-cults but has since come to its senses.

Luckily most people use better sense eventually and start to question the craziness coming from unreliable sources (and many times the media, unfortunately) which is a good thing. Then it is most important to have realistic information available to help answer their questions.

Certainly there have been too many disaster scenarios shoved at people lately, from Gasland to the Gulf (apples and oranges) and the ever present Dimock methane. Most people can't be expected to spot the red herrings being thrown at them without help from people with relevant education and experience. But we have to keep trying.
Comment by Brian Oram, PG on July 17, 2010 at 10:56pm
I would tend to agree - we need to look at using partially degraded water, maximizing reuse, and other technologies - At full production in the region - water and water treatment/residual disposal will be a major issue, but hopefully by this point will have new technologies in place and using degraded water sources.

I would agree with have water quality problems in the region, but we also need to have private well construction standards. In my area - no drilling background levels of methane in relatively shallow freshwater wells (500 feet) - over 6 ppm (Yes I said ppm)
Comment by Michael Havelka on July 14, 2010 at 11:27am
@Chris D - thanks to Denny, I do not have to say much about your post other than I would suggest that you read the entirety of my posts and note that in NO case have I advocated for ignoring the potential problems. In fact, I have taken great pains to attempt to provide "just the facts" whenever possible. Analyzing your well water should have been done LONG before the shale started. You have uncovered however one of the key problems with the claims of those who say frac water contaminated their well. PSU's longitudinal study of well water in PA ostensibly proves that the methane in over 300 wells to be shallow, biogenic methane. Good science and checking advocacy at the door yields much more light than heat.

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