LETTER: Difficult to have faith saying fracking is integral to jobs, energy
A recent letter from Michigan Oil and Gas Association President Frank Mortl (Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan is proven safe, important, Feb. 27) strategically ignored the risks imposed by fracking to human health and the environment, touting the fictitious notion that fracking is “integral to energy production, job creation and our economic wellbeing.”
Indeed, a “traditional” version of fracking has been going on in Michigan for decades, and more than 12,000 wells have been stimulated by this method.
There have been accidents with this “traditional” method, and the jury is still out on longer-term potential health and environmental issues.
Across the nation, however, the controversy is over the relatively new method of fracking, High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing, a method that drills to deeper gas deposits, and therefore requires much higher volumes (typically 100 times) of fluids, a new recipe of fluids under much higher pressure, and is characterized by a drill that turns horizontal for thousands of feet in the shale layer where the fracturing occurs.
The fracking process in the horizontal section of the well opens up vertical cracks in the shale. These cracks are held open by sand, the “proppant” injected into the cracks, and allows the gas to flow. HVHF has only recently begun in Michigan and has so far only been used in approximately five to 10 wells in the northern Lower Peninsula.
This new fracking method uses large quantities of toxic chemicals. The first well in Missaukee County required 448,000 gallons of fluid per frack and has been fracked 15 times, for a total of 6,720,000 gallons.
Industry representatives like to use the word “small” when they talk about quantities of chemicals, but they are really referring to the percentage relative to water and sand.
This percentage has been reported as being between 0.5 percent and two percent. Using the “smallest” percentage, namely 0.5 percent, the Missaukee County well has had 33,600 gallons of chemicals used in the process, hardly a small amount when one considers that these chemicals are residing underneath our aquifers. Most of the fluids associated with fracking flow back out of the well and drag up with it natural toxins such as radium, selenium, arsenic and toxic petroleum products.
These “flow back” fluids are injected into disposal wells in the area. There are around 50 injection wells in both Antrim and Kalkaska Counties and nearly 1000 across the state. The dangers lurking beneath our aquifers include 1) frack chemicals, natural toxins and natural gas migrating into our water supplies at the frack well site, via the frack cracks, natural faults or the well shaft and 2) frack chemicals and natural toxins migrating into our water supplies from injection wells via natural faults or the well shaft. Citizens whose water supplies come from aquifers over frack wells or injection wells have to decide how much they want to trust industry and regulators for their health and safety. Citizens are responsible for testing their water — advanced tests that are expensive — and they will have to decide how frequently they should perform such tests.
Citizens, not industry, end up being responsible for replacing their water supplies with brought-in water. Property values go down whether or not water has been contaminated, because no one wants to own property that has a ticking toxic time bomb underneath. The dangers not only include harm to household water but also extend to agricultural, both livestock and crops. The state of Michigan is home to 20 percent of the world’s available fresh water; it is our responsibility and duty to protect it, and this responsibility especially applies to those who have the greatest control, namely industry and legislators.
But the oil and gas industry has achieved an exemption from a state law to which all other big water users are held accountable. In addition, royalties paid via state-owned leases go to the Michigan Mineral Trust Fund to purchase recreational lands. Also, at the Federal level, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act were amended in 2005 to exempt fracking.
In light of such events, it is difficult for citizens to have a strong faith in industry and legislators’ objectivity.
The statement that fracking is “integral to energy production, job creation and our economic wellbeing,” used both by industry and legislators, is short-sighted and does not factor in the true cost to citizens’ health, property value, security, protection and our environment. It provides short-term gains to a select few and leaves ours and future generations to pay the true cost. There is no such thing as safe fracking. Fracking must be banned.
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