Anti-drilling Crowd Calls for “Balance” Between Energy and Environment

Poughkeepsie Journal (Oct 8):
Outdoors: Balance must be struck between energy, environment

More misinformation from the anti-drilling crowd. The “reporter” for this article, Bill Conners, starts with general information that is of interest for everyone in New York:

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, there have been more than 75,000 oil and gas wells drilled here since the late 1800s; some 14,000 remain active.

He then briefly describes hydrofracturing, and moves on to cite the Dunkard Creek problem of fish dying along the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As previously noted in MDN, the problem is about an overgrowth of algae, of a strain of algae not normally found in the creek. There may or may not be a tie with gas drilling. The link that is being made is “perhaps” the algae somehow got onto drilling equipment and trucks used in drilling and hitchhiked to the Dunkard Creek. This is highly speculative at best. More science please!

But the anti-drilling crowd is in a rush to tie Dunkard Creek to the thought in readers’ minds that “drilling causes fish to die where ever it’s used.” Mr. Conners, in this article, does not detail the issue of Dunkard Creek, he merely mentions lots of fish dying and that it is somehow tied to drilling–leaving the impression that chemicals are the cause. Here is the sum total, in context, of what he says on the matter:

Unfortunately, there are risks associated with using the [hydrofacturing drilling] technique. The various fluids used can, and sometimes do, damage aquifers and nearby water bodies. In early September in Blacksville, W.Va., residents started noticing dead fish along Dunkard Creek, just below the border of Pennsylvania. It wasn’t long before the entire fish population was wiped out along 35 miles of the previously fertile stream. It is virtually impossible to know how long it will take for the damage to be mitigated, whether by remediation or by Mother Nature.

There are charges flying back and forth, and there is an ongoing investigation as to whether or not the damage to Dunkard Creek came as the result of a spill from a drilling operation along the creek. Nationwide, it is estimated that 90 percent of the wells are drilled using fracking. It is not hard for things to go wrong, and when they do, property is damaged and lives turned on end.

Here is the story as told in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from last week:

An invasive toxic algae, blamed for contributing to the massive Dunkard Creek fish kill along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border, may have hitchhiked to the region aboard equipment used in Marcellus shale drilling.

And this:

But the West Virginia agency [Department of Environmental Protection] doesn’t know how the algae got into the creek.

“We might never know how it got there,” said spokewoman Kathy Cosco. “We are trying to determine if it’s present already in other water bodies or has spread.”

Investigators also are looking at the possibility that someone illegally dumped drilling wastewater into the creek.

Yes, wastewater from drilling is one of the possible scenarios being looked at, but that, as well as “hitchhiking algae” are pure speculation right now. There is no science, no proof, no direct tie-in with drilling. But you won’t find that in this story because it doesn’t fit the template of the anti-drilling crowd. Read your news carefully.