Jane Van Ryan
Posted October 5, 2010
Pennsylvania's chief environmental regulator says he's seen no evidence that hydraulic fracturing contaminates underground water supplies. As reported by Reuters, John Hanger, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says, "It's our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground have returned to contaminate ground water."
He adds that the "perceived health risks were generally exaggerated."
Rather than focus on the exaggerated risks, here are the facts:
- The United States has about a 100-year supply of natural gas largely due to the combined technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
- To date, there has not been a confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these 60-year-old natural gas and oilfield techniques used to coax energy from hard rock formations.
- Producing domestic energy creates jobs. A recent study conducted on the impact of developing the Marcellus Shale formation indicates that more than 280,000 jobs could be generated in 2020.
- Hydraulic fracturing has been used in about 1 million wells.
There have been a handful of environmental problems in Pennsylvania associated with the state's natural-gas drilling boom. Hanger says one company drilled faulty wells that led to methane migration into private water wells. The wells' owners are getting a municipal water supply. Also, surface spills have caused some water contamination, but none of the problems has been caused by the underground fracturing process.
Hanger told Reuters, "There's a lot of focus in the media and the public on the problems that we have not had."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.