Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The GAO weighs in on fracking's rewards and risks

 shale gas deposits are being touted as the next economic tidal wave that will carry the country to prosperity. True?

  The Government Accountability Office examines the controversial issue and reports:

 “Oil and gas development, whether conventional or shale oil and gas, pose inherent environmental and public health risks, but the extent of these risks associated with shale oil and gas development is unknown, in part, because the studies GAO reviewed do not generally take into account the potential long-term, cumulative effects.” 
EnergyBiz reminds us that: 
When Duke University reviewed groundwater systems in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Utica Shale in New York, it found that methane was detected in all watersheds, regardless of whether fracking had occurred. However, those levels were “substantially higher” closer to the shale gas wells, although the analysts cautioned that the source of the contamination could not be determined and that they found no evidence of fracking fluids.
According to the GAO, 
“Regulatory officials we met with from eight states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas -- told us that, based on state investigations, the hydraulic fracturing process has not been identified as a cause of groundwater contamination within their states.”   
The problem, according to Ken Silverstein of EnergyBiz is that "the baseline info of where things started is missing, making it difficult to determine if such drilling is having a notable effect. Any degradation could be part of a natural occurrence, or it could be tied to fracking." 

It sounds like the debate will continue until more detailed and long-term studies are performed and evaluated. In the meanwhile, neither fracking's advocates nor opponents can lay claim to the whole truth on its risks.

See the full EnergyBiz story here.  

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