LINDA TRAVIS: Fracking not as beneficial as suggested

To the editor,

Please accept this FRACKING letter as my partial response to the August 5 letter from Mr. John Simaz, Energy in Depth Representative for the oil and gas industry.

I suggest the Pioneer consider reprinting Abrahm Lustgarten’s thorough and clear ProPublica article “Natural gas drilling …” which you printed Aug. 27, 2010. However, I will comment on several of Mr. Simaz’s statements and cite concerns which readers might research.

First, capitalizing FRACKING allows differentiating the newer “horizontal hydraulic fracturing” from Michigan’s 12,000 vertically drilled and fractured wells. “… Hydraulic fracturing of wells for extraction of hydrocarbons has been used (nationally) for more than sixty years, newer methods involving high volumes of fluids and horizontal drilling have been introduced recently (2010 in Michigan) and represent a massive increase in the environmental footprint.

First introduced into less populated areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and Alberta, Canada, these newer techniques raised poorly publicized environmental and health concerns.” (Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Policy Institute, 2011)

Second, a short letter can never discuss thousands of available news and research pages and videos. Consequently, my first 500-words primarily cited concern with toxic FRACKING chemical contamination of Michigan’s waters from drilling, leaking well heads, water recapturing (flowback), spilling, deep well injection of flowback, and illegal brining. Methane gas leakage into water wells and basements of homes is dangerously troublesome too.

“An EPA investigation in 2011 found water wells near fracking operations on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Pavillion, Wyoming were polluted with synthetic chemicals, glycols, alcohols, methane, and petroleum hydrocarbons ‘consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids.’ The drilling company implicated in the study, EnCana, has denied responsibility … The Ohio Division of Mineral Resources Management concluded that fracking caused an explosion in Bainbridge in 2007. One house was destroyed and 19 other homes were evacuated due to high methane levels … The problem arose when Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corp fracked the well without properly cementing the production casing.” (Shale Gas Review, Tom Wilber, March 2013)

Third, it’s accurate that the MDEQ licenses traditional oil, gas waste to brine roads. However, “DEQ officials said that … just over 40,000 gallons of Flowback from two Kalkaska County hydrofracking wells was spread on roads by Team Services LLC Kalkaska, a private company working for Encana Corporation.” (Northern Express, Oct. 2012)

FOIAed documents showed “… The frack wastes were sprayed in a state forest between two horizontal frack wells in Kalkaska County. In Cheboygan County flowback was spread on roads abutting Paradise Lake, on camp roads at Mill Creek Campground, and in an industrial yard … The spraying was permitted for 94 days, not just 30.” (banmichiganfracking.org, Jan. 14, 2013) Finally MDEQ …”officials determined …Team Services LLC violated its permit and environmental protection laws when it spread oil field brine on Benzie County roads that exceeded state limits for Benzene, Toluene, and other toxins.” (Traverse City Record Eagle, Brian McGillivary, Aug. 5, 2013)

The August 5 Simaz letter explained that millions of dollars have flowed from the oil and gas industry into state and private hands. Not mentioned were the lobbying millions flowing into the campaigns of federal and state legislators and the impact those legislators have had on now delayed EPA reports. Michigan’s grassroots legislative effort to ban horizontal hydraulic fracking (FRACKING) is not directed at the state’s 12,000 existing wells, private landowners’ royalties, 8000 workers, or 37,000 workers in related industries.

And, I never accused these workers or Simaz of not caring. These hard-working citizens are focused on supporting their families in very difficult economic times.

This grassroots initiative is directed at the multi-billion dollar international oil and gas industry’s FRACKING, which is freely consuming and toxically polluting millions of gallons of Michigan’s aquifer waters, while endangering our air, environment and the health of citizens, livestock, and wildlife. Expansions of hydrocarbon-based energy further impact the climate of our planet, endangering future generations. Democracy allows citizens to create legislation and vote.

It’s true, shale not water is being FRACKED; however, FRACKING covers the entire hazards of the process: enormous water withdrawals, drilling, blowouts, fracking, flowback, spills, explosions, trucking, ponding, deep-well injection, pipeline and well head leakage, injection induced earthquakes, etc.

All of these issues haven’t arrived in Michigan yet, so one must track FRACKING impacts elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.

Linda Travis,
Mecosta

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