AP’s Newest Non-Story About Dimock, PA

From time to time, the Associated Press will write a story about the gas drilling issue. Because a huge number of newspapers in the U.S. subscribe to the AP service, they run the story and overnight a single story, or various versions of the story, is run in hundreds of newspapers nationwide creating an echo chamber making it seem as if it’s new news. It’s happened again with another non-story about Dimock, PA. By now most MDN readers will know what Dimock is about—an attempt to create a link between hydraulic fracturing and chemical contamination of a water aquifer. If you need a background on the controversy, click here for MDN’s stories on Dimock.

The latest non-story story from the AP is an announcement that the EPA, that has been conducting water testing in the Dimock area, will release its first test results this week. That’s the sum total of the news in the story. But the AP story includes lots of background and fluff. One of the interesting backgrounder interviews is with a geologist from northeastern PA near Dimock:

Brian Oram, an independent geologist and water consultant from northeastern Pennsylvania, said he is puzzled by the agency’s rationale for being in Dimock, since the substances that EPA said it’s most concerned about are naturally occurring and commonly found in northeastern Pennsylvania groundwater. By that standard, EPA would have to deliver water to thousands of households, he said.

Nevertheless, Oram supports the EPA testing because it will provide water quality data the parties can trust, and against which future drilling can be measured.

"It would have been nice if they came out and said the real reason (for the testing) was to put this to bed, find out what’s going on … (and) create a baseline that would allow us to move forward," said Oram, who has looked at the data cited by EPA. "That makes more reasonable sense for why EPA walked into Dimock. If you base EPA’s decision on the presence of manganese and sodium and arsenic, it makes no sense."

The testing will give residents a snapshot of their water. What it won’t tell them is how any contaminants found in the water got there.*

A rather bald admission in that last line—that the EPA’s tests won’t tell us how what is in Dimock water wells actually got there. Which begs the question, then why is the EPA testing in the first place?

As an aside, to put Dimock into perspective, even if it were proven beyond a shadow of doubt that water wells in the Dimock area were contaminated by fracking, as tragic as that would be, it would be the first known case—out of millions of fracked wells—where an aquifer was contaminated from fracking. That is, Dimock doesn’t prove that fracking is unsafe, which is what anti-drillers are desperately trying to do.

But it’s all academic at this point. Let’s see what the meddling EPA has to say later this week.

*El Paso Times/AP (Mar 5, 2012) – EPA testing in Dimock, Pa., feeds drilling debate

  • Anonymous

      Dimock, PA will hardy be the first, but will join a growing list including Jackson WV, Pavillion WY, and Garfield CO.  What do these few have in common?  They were investigated by the federal EPA, which alone has the resources and interest.  There are hundreds of landowners with claims of polluted water wells which have not been comprehensively investigate by state agencies; agencies that are required by law to promote production of oil and gas — agencies such as PA DEP and NYS DEC.  The sweeping exemptions of the O&G industry from federal regulation has kept their record of pollution from investigation.
      That industry chestnut of one million wells fraced without pollution is grossly misleading and unsupported by any scientific data.  It is based on a survey by the IOGCC* in 2002.  First the million refers to vertical wells because 2002 is before HVHF became a common practice.  Second that lack of pollution was based on a one page survey that IOGCC sent to 37 state agencies, those same compromised agencies.  With no requirement for supporting evidence, the survey reduced the evaluation of HARM to YES or NO.
      If the industry was sure that gas extraction does not pollute water wells, they would have done scientific studies to support their claims.
                                                                             * Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

  • Anonymous

    Again BinFranklin, “YOUR” slanted view of the situation is opinion not fact. Those agencies you mentioned PA DEP, an NY DEC do not “promote” or have any special interest in the” production” of oil and gas. They are there to regulate and enforce the rules and regulations of the process, not profit. Where did you drum up that one. Also the one million wells is very accurate, vertical drilling also was ” fracked” under high pressure before they discovered drilling horizontally produced better results, do your homework before you speak. So again your one way of view of this drilling procedure is incorrect.You also failed to note that the wells in all those states that you mentioned were tested prior to drilling, all tested positive for contaminates.Many already had, Methane migration along with arsenic, heavy amounts of sulfur and other naturally found metals .Geology 101, the earth is made up of many layers, there is constant decomposition occurring, movement and gases that migrate out of the ground at times.There are also many different rock formations and many different metals will be found down there too. Lesson over, read some!! These few individuals that are trying to blame drilling companies after the fact are people trying to get something for nothing. I’m sure that the DEP or DEC take no sides, and all they were formed to do was to protect our environment with oversight and law. When they find offenders, they are swift to act and impose the proper fines and sanctions(Ex. Cabot spill, for improper casing) They don’t need the EPA to monday night quarter back the situation, who are always a day late and rarely educated enough on each situation placed before them. The EPA usually comes back with a knee jerk reaction from the school of liberal public opinion to a situation that has already been handled.

  • Anonymous

       NYS Environmental Conservation Law Article 23 (Mineral
    Resources) Section 301 (General Policy):  “It is hereby declared to be in
    the public interest to regulate the development, production and utilization of natural
    resources of oil and gas in the state in such a manner as will prevent waste;
    to authorize and to provide for the
    operation and development of oil and gas properties in such manner that a
    greater ultimate recovery of oil and gas may be had, and that the
    correlative rights of all owners [of leases] and the rights of all persons including
    land owners and the general public may be fully protected …”  Note that nothing in the General Policy charges the Division of Mineral Resources with protecting people or the environment.  Do your homework.
       Vertical and horizontal fracking are not comparable or else the 4 years and 1,500+ pages would not have been necessary for the SGEIS to cover the new HVHF.  Again, do your homework.
       The contamination documented is not merely methane but chemicals that could come from drilling and fracking.  For example in Pavillion WY, EPA has found ispropanol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and tert-butyl alcohol.  You really should do your homework.

  • Anonymous

     Bin Franklin, Thank you for the clarification of my answer to you. The big words you need to focus on is ” Regulate” ( Websters Dictionary meaning: Govern, Manage,Rule).(” Prevent waste”—  leakage), “Authorize”—( Permitting process),” Operation and Development”  means to make sure the construction, drilling ,piping , casing, extraction, storage, trucking and lastly to protect Landowners , but more so in my opinion to make sure NY State gets there fair share of taxes. Its amazes me how someone can read the same thing and come up with a completely different view of what it says.The general ” Job” of  DEC officers is to protect and defend our Natural Resources, being the wildlife, the land, the water sources,etc.  They ” Will” be policing these drilling companies and I hope and pray that they do there jobs with the utmost integrity to protect OUR environment.  The SGEIS you mention 1500+ pages,  Have you looked at the previous SGEIS? It also was approximately 1500+ pages, they added language to address ” Horizontal Fracking”, that’s all. Maybe 5% of the language, changed and/or was added. Just like the automobile, automation, better ideas, better product, the world keeps marching on Bin, so regulation has to keep up with modernization. This too will happen with Fracking. I’m sure there will be better, more efficient ways in 5 years then there is now to extract the gas. I know of one already the use of LPG instead of using water. Now,lets talk a little about all those contamination cases your alleging,  for argument sake let us say that these wells were contaminated by drilling. What percentage of wells would that be in comparison to how many wells that are in operation around the country? I would say less than 1%. Of those wells that are contaminated what was the cause? Was it a spill, or casing breach? Was it chemical migration as the Anti’s always allude to? The reality is that there will be accidents Bin, there will never be 100% safety record. Human error will cause some spills. Those numbers can not and will not negate the industry and extraction process has a whole. NG is the future of this country, it will bring us out from this near depression,it will give hope to thousands of families that are on the brink of foreclosure, it will eventually, when everyone gets on board get us off the OPEC nipple. The stars are aligned for this to happen, the perfect storm is brewing in the middle east. The time is now to seize the opportunities given to us.