The ABJ’s Bob Downing had an interesting piece this weekend about the chemicals used in the fracking process in Ohio’s wells. For example, a single well – Chesapeake Energy’s Mangun well – pumped 304 TONS of hydrochloric acid into the ground. Innovation Ohio converted this number to “608,000 pounds, enough to fill eight tanker trucks.”
Quoted in the ABJ piece, Dr. Jeffrey C. Dick, chairman of the geology department at Youngstown State University, said “The biggest threat is not the fracking that takes places thousands of feet underground, but rather the likelihood of spills, leaks, equipment failure and accidents at the surface that could pollute ground and surface water.”
I think you’ll notice that my fracking coverage here has been pretty balanced. I haven’t been calling for a complete halt on fracking or wastewater disposal, but I do think the potential dangers are worth pointing out. Energy companies and industry groups may be right when they say the process (like nuclear energy) is safe if all the rules are followed and nothing goes wrong.
The problem is, things can go wrong.
For example, a recent leak at a well in Pennsyvania caused fracking fluid to spill at a rate of “300 to 400 gallons a minute for less than half an hour.” And while I haven’t seen anywhere near 12,000 gallons of spilled fracking fluid in the recent violation data for Ohio, it does show the types of things that can go wrong even if all the rules are followed.
The Kasich administration, oil and gas companies and industry groups seem to want people to shut up and stop asking so many questions. They want everyone to just trust them; they are the experts, they know what they’e doing and if we just leave them alone the world with be a wonderful place full of great jobs and plenty of cheap energy.
Instead of saying: we understand your concerns, and here’s what we’re doing to address them, they say: just have faith. And I think that puts off a lot of people.
I can’t think of a better way to showcase this attitude than with this recent tweet from Chesapeake Energy, the largest fracking well operator in the state of Ohio:
I’m pretty sure St. Thomas Aquinas wasn’t talking about faith in Oil and Gas companies when he said “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
Like I said, I’m not promoting the idea that we kick the oil and gas companies out of the state and shut down their operations, but I do think it’s worth taking the time to question people – especially our leaders – who worship with blind faith at the church of marcellus shale.