For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. – 1 Timothy 6:10
By definition, it is cynical to say that money corrupts, but even the Bible must be said to be cynical if that is so in all cases. What delivers those who make such assertions is evidence of money’s corrupting influence, and the controversy over fracking is rife with evidence. The supporters of fracking are fond of pointing out the debunking of the hundreds of claims that fracking has harmed them, but base it on inconclusive and even fraudulent information from the worst sort of charlatans—those who put personal financial gain ahead of the welfare of others.
The controversy over the claims by those who say their water was degraded by fracking in Dimock, Pennsylvania, is one such example. This he said/she said debate between Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP], the US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and research done by a team from Duke University, a peer reviewed study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on one side, and Cabot Oil’s “hired guns,” Lisa J. Molofsky, John A. Connor (no relation to the fictional character from the Terminator movies) and Shahla K. Farhat.
This controversy was reported in Bloomberg, but the article, “Cabot’s Methodology Links Tainted Water Wells to Gas Fracking,” was a bit ambiguous, and inconclusive in its assessment of the argument presented by Molofsky et al. In the end, the concluding remarks fell upon Fred Baldassare’s statement,“It’s doing more damage than good to keep denying” that connection, he said: “Let’s get past that.”
The Bloomberg article had fallen short of revealing that statements in the report by Molofsky et al had twice admitted that some of the methane fit the isotropic profile of fracked gas. In one instance, the report admits that “Two of the nine wells exhibited an isotopic signature consistent with biogenic gas that may have undergone oxidation or potentially mixed with small amounts of thermogenic gas,”, and later that the “Pennsylvania DEP also analyzed groundwater samples . . . which were determined to be consistent with either Upper/Middle Devonian gasses.” These are precisely the points that the report also goes to significant length to refute.
These points could not be entirely ignored in this Cabot Oil sponsored report, because EPA documentation and Duke study had brought the facts into the open. In the end, the report by Molofsky et al rests on the declaration that there is of “no statistically significant difference” in the gases tested. In their assessment, neither the increased incidence of well water contamination since fracking began, nor the evidence of that contamination by frack gas they had conceded was statistically relevant to their conclusion that fracking had anything to do with it.
Simple logic suggests that the only sound approach to the issue of fracking is to err on the side of caution, and “get past that,” as Fred Baldassare said. Logic would also consider a statement made by Radisav D. Vidic, PhD, PE, Professor of Environmental Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, when he declared there was “no way” fracking was not penetrating strata other than the 150′ to 200′ deep Marcellus shale.
If methane is getting into the water table, and up to 70 percent of the toxin laced water used in the fracking process remains in the wells, it will be just a matter of time before that danger is finally recognized. Between the fact that only those who live in close proximity to fracking operations have discovered lethal levels of toxins in their water, and the enormous effort made by the oil and gas industry to conceal and obfuscate the issue, taking a sane approach to the threats has also been delayed by the many others who deny the potential danger for financial considerations.
Many of these charlatans can readily be seen making baseless denials of the evidence and resorting to ad hominem attack when their arguments are debunked in the FrackNation Facebook page. In example, the administrators of the page challenged a post that listed 884 victims, demanding that “fairness” dictated the need to list those who benefited from fracking. Aside from some unsubstantiated denials of the incidents on the list, one launched into an attack on hemp cultivation as a counterpoint to the post.
The fact is that gas wells leak, and the myriad threats fracking poses increased exponentially with the volume of toxic fracking solution needed to employ the technique in exploiting shale beds with the added feature of horizontal drilling since 2004. The exponential threat is not just related to the technique though. It is also because the shale deposits being fracked, like the Marcellus shale in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, are are in more densely settled areas.
Is the love of money the root of all evil? Do corporations deliberately endanger the public for the sake of profit? Incidents of illegal dumping suggest that there is the temptation. Did Ford Motor Company deliberately calculate the cost of litigation when their Pinto was discovered to be a Molotov cocktail on wheels, and continue to sell them without any design modification that may have made them safer? Of course they did. Did the tobacco industry fight science that had found cigarettes to be harmful, and even manipulated the nicotine content to make the product more addictive? Of course they did, and still do!
Considering the money involved, can the industry be trusted? It would help make their trustworthiness believable if they revealed what their fracking compounds contained. It would help more if they released those with whom they settled form their nondisclosure agreements.