NY Times Keeps Up the Vendetta Against Drilling in the Marcellus Shale with Another Article in the Series

vendettaThe New York Times continues its vendetta against drilling in the Marcellus Shale—it sells papers and God knows they sell far fewer today than they did even a year ago. MDN wonders what made-up quotes pulled from past public statements adorn this new article? The theme of the new article: “Yes, yes, drilling companies say they’re recycling more wastewater (some even approaching 100 percent), but not all of them do! And even recycling produces nasty stuff that pollutes water supplies anyway. So pay no attention to all that recycling talk.” And of course, Pennsylvania continues to be the whipping boy.

Here’s a few pickings from yesterday’s article:

In Pennsylvania, for example, natural-gas companies recycled less than half of the wastewater they produced during the 18 months that ended in December, according to state records.

Nor has recycling eliminated environmental and health risks. Some methods can leave behind salts or sludge highly concentrated with radioactive material and other contaminants that can be dangerous to people and aquatic life if they get into waterways.

Some well operators are also selling their waste rather than paying to dispose of it. Because it is so salty, they have found ready buyers in communities that spread it on roads for de-icing in the winter and for dust suppression in the summer. When ice melts or rain falls, the waste can run off roads and end up in the drinking supply.*

And this supposed quote from someone in the wastewater recycling industry in PA:

One executive at a drilling wastewater recycling company said that for all the benefits of recycling, it was not a cure-all.

“No one wants to admit it, but at some point, even with reuse of this water, you have to confront the disposal question,” said Brent Halldorson, chief operating officer of Aqua-Pure/Fountain Quail Water Management, adding that the wastewater contains barium, strontium and radioactive elements that need to be removed.

Mr. Halldorson emphasized that he had not seen high radioactivity readings at the plant he operates in Williamsport, Pa. He said he firmly believed in the benefits of recycling — to reduce the waste produced and water used and to help promote a shift toward natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal for producing electricity. “But there still needs to be a candid discussion, and there needs to be accountability about where even the recycled wastewater is going,” he added.*

The problem is, we don’t know for sure whether or not Mr. Halldorson actually uttered the above statements to the Times, given their rather low journalistic ethical standards (e.g. running quotes in a previous article from former PA DEP Secretary John Hanger when he says he was never interviewed by the NYT for the article).

Just to be sure readers don’t miss the point, we get this lovely imagery:

State [Pennsylvania] and company records show that in the year and a half that ended in December 2010, well operators reported recycling at least 320 million gallons. But at least 260 million gallons of wastewater were sent to plants that discharge their treated waste into rivers, out of a total of more than 680 million gallons of wastewater produced, according to state data posted Tuesday. Those 260 million gallons would fill more than 28,800 tanker trucks, a line of which would stretch from about New York City to Richmond, Va.*

Imagine that—28,800 tanker trucks filled with poison lined up and ready to dump it right into your drinking water supplies. And plenty more monsters in the closet in this article. Grab a cup of coffee (but watch out! it may be contaminated water from those nasty drillers), and read the article for yourself.

*New York Times (Mar 1) – Wastewater Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process

  • Rowagent46

    Who would ever listen to the NY Times, There not a real news paper!

  • Thanks for the comment. The reality is, a great many people do listen to them–something that those of us who support safe drilling cannot ignore.

  • Cometx

    I have learned over many decades that the NY Times is the gold standard in journalism. I am a landowner in Pennsylvania and not averse to getting money for my natural gas, but I’m appalled by the radioactive contamination that threatens my land and the health of millions of Americans whose only fault is to live downstream from the drilling. As for the new governor of my state, he will be a one term governor – I promise you; the anger about this toxic contamination is boiling over among my good neighbors. We are stewards of our lands, and we are sickened by what is being done to it.

  • Carol

    Who woulld listen to the NY Times? Get real. Every politician statewide and most college grads.

  • Thanks for commenting. Rather than tit and tat over whether the Times is a good news source or not, and how long Corbett will be in office, I ask the question: Where’s the evidence? Let’s let the science dictate whether or not there’s a threat. How about soil analysis, fish analysis, etc. Prove that there is indeed increased levels of radioactivity (or chemical contamination, take your pick). So far, I’ve not seen any such evidence–only allegations. If you’re aware of such scientific evidence, please bring it forward.

  • I would have to agree with you on that count Carol.

  • Anonymous

    All I have read here is an attack the source, which is a tactic not an analysis, and frankly kind of a leftie thing to do. I hate the NYT and am not a tree hugger. I though have some problems with a lot of this based on having taught technology to the oil patch for more than two decades, and being a former Amoco Fellow. The NYT came out with numbers and appear to understand the mass balance reality of recycle, which is more up front than the 1/2 of the story I often see from the PR side of the business.

    The halide and isotope issue is a straight forward chemical engineering 100 level mass balance problem. Please calculate [annual waste volume * average halide level]. Do this regionally (e.g. Mon River basis) and statewide. Sticking to a one year basis, the background halide and isotopes in a receiving body such as the Mon can be calculated based on the product of average volumetric flow rate and analyte concentration using predrilling USGS and other baselines such as TDS data. The two numbers can be compared and equivalents generated. I have and btw Bromide is elevated in the Mon (i.e. DATA), but of course that is due to abandoned coal mines and because the NYT hates everybody that does not live on tofu.

    As chemical engineers learn their freshman year, any recycle process accumulates and thus there is generally a purge so the system remains sustainable and operable on a continuous basis. Recycling saves diesel fuel use for de novo water trucking and generates lower total volumes of more concentrated waste. If disposal requires a fixed dilution factor, recycling saves operators money on hauling while also reducing the total tip fee, which is based on the gallons disposed. However, the mass loadings sent to the plant = conc (hi) * volume (low) to receiving bodies are still pretty up there. So basically, operators spend less $/gal while the waste mass loading is not changed much. If a reverse osmosis or similar process was used in the field, then the dynamic changes. Clean water could be regenerated for reuse or local disposal thereby reducing trucking. However, an even more concentrated brine and hot isotopes would have to be disposed of somehow and somewhere. Well injection might work well here and cut out the tip fee and passing through a munip plant. So the RO scenario represents another level of recycling, and if one does not inform on what is meant by “recycling” then there is what we scientists and engineers call the “sin of omission.”

    Mass balance reality, not politics or a hit piece my friends.

  • Cometx

    I’m disappointed by chemeng’s comments. Clearly, he is an intelligent, educated person and has much to contribute to this critical debate, but what are we to make of a person who begins his comments with the announcement that he hates the NY Times and describes something he doesn’t agree with as a “leftie” thing and further writes that “the NYT hates everybody that does not live on tofu”. Enough of such verbal flatulence; it demeans the author and brings his objectivity into question. Surely there are other places on the web where he can rant against what he hates.

    My problem is that I’m a landowner with a drilling rig less than two miles from my farm. I don’t want to find myself living in a polluted industrial park. I’ve seen videos on YouTube that are just plain scary, shot by folks just like me, some of whom now regret having leased their land. I welcome drilling if it can be done safely, but that is a big “if”. It needs to be studied, analyzed and quantified in a scientific, objective manner. It’s not about jobs, its not about Tom Ridge – who is completely unqualified to discuss the issues. It’s about toxic gases, pollution, cancer and radioactivity. It’s about the health and safety of our families. Prove to me that drilling is safe and I will welcome you onto my land.

  • Ekelley

    With something as important as the safety of our drinking water and our air at stake, why should anyone have to prove to you that drilling is unsafe, rather than drilling advocates proving to the public, using scientific fact, that it is safe? Your logic is screwed up, plus it’s impossible to do what you are asking if no one but the companies knows exactly what chemicals the fracking uses. In any event, no drilling should be done at all until there is enough time for adequate scientific testing to be carried out. It is not something to be rushed and inconclusive.

    As for Rowagent46, he’s probably too illiterate to read the NY Times, as his spelling indicates. Go ahead commenters, call me names as an excuse not to educate yourselves and face the facts.

    “Pro-landowner” is just a euphemism for “pro-greed.” There is no such thing as safe drilling for the general public. What it’s safe for are the bank accounts of Halliburton and its ilk, landowners who are suckered in by them, and campaign contributions for politicians who shill for them.

  • A few misconceptions in your statement. First, drilling companies do make known what is in their fracking fluids. Go to any drilling site and the MSDS cards are there for public review. And at least some of them are now publishing the data online as well. This technology has been around for decades, contrary to popular myth. The only thing that is different is the volume of fluid used (99.5% water & sand). The volume, instead of being <80,000 gallons is upward of 3-4 million gallons per well. So to say this is an unsafe practice…how does one respond? Hasn't 60 years and literally tens of thousands of wells proven it's safe?

    And I do take offense that hard-working, salt of the earth people that would benefit…"landowners"…are somehow being greedy in their desire to try and hold on to land that's just about been taxed out of their families from welfare state, confiscatory tax rates. No sir, I utterly reject that notion. It is NOT greedy.

    Do we need to be vigilant? You bet. I don't give the energy companies carte blanche to do whatever they want. They should be watched carefully–subjected to scrutiny–and held accountable for any actions that violate the public trust. But the simple fact is, the vast majority of them are doing a good job and not only delivering the cleanest of the fossil fuels for American use, but also providing billions in local taxes and jobs to boot–unless you believe it's greedy to want more tax revenues for our communities and more jobs for our neighbors?

  • Ekelley

    You area wrong. Thanks to Dick Cheney, in 2005 the gas and oil companies got exempted from the Safe Water Drinking Act. They do not disclose all of the chemicals used because they claim their formulas are proprietary. The EPA was set up to protect citizens from money-hungry corporations who spread disinformation and now their hands are tied.

    I urge all landowners to view this interview with a man in Pennsylvania who knew something was suspicious when the gas company offered him $4,500 an acre to drill on his land. He went and looked at other states where fracking has taken off at breakneck speeds. All landowners in the marcellas shale region, the ‘Saudi Arabia of natural gas,’ should view the link below before it’s too late for us and our children. Once the poisoning starts, it will be impossible to stop. And the gas companies will be long gone and will not have to pay for the damage they will inflict. But all the money in the world cannot compensate citizens who have to sacrifice their safe air and water.


    Jim, you’re denial of the facts are the equivalent of what the tobacco companies did when they denied that smoking was harmful. They covered up the scientific facts. Gas drilling is taking away our safe water and air and you can not deny it and mislead people.

  • Cathyfb

    I’m sure you know they had a major accident yesterday and waste water is pouring into the Susquehana via streams. Why isn’t the news covering this?

  • I’ve just posted a story today Cathy. Sorry, but sometimes news happens when I can’t get it covered! I was in the midst of traveling at the time.

  • Dad

    Stumbled on this while Googling “28,800 tanker trucks”. When Urbina’s terribly misleading series of articles came out, I wrote the NYT pointing out that the 260 million gallons was roughly equivalent to a 1/2″ rainfall on the Bronx. I asked whether the residents of Richmond would rather receive the frac water or the Bronx runoff. Of course, the august bastion of credibility sans agenda never responded to what was a rhetorical question anyway. It’s easy to scare a public that can’t comprehend scales that consider a few million barrels as relatively insignificant or believe that a few decades of skewed data can be interpreted to forecast and ascribe causality to a single variable in processes over timescales of hundreds of millions of years involving likely hundreds of variables. But if a gullible public can be persuaded that a consensus of an ill-defined scientific elite exists, then you can shape public policy and SPENDING to fit your “nonexistent” agenda.