HYDRO-FRACKING FOR NATURAL GAS: HOW THIS “CLEAN” FUEL TECHNOLOGY THREATENS OUR WATER, OUR HEALTH, OUR LANDSCAPES AND OUR ENERGY FUTURE
A PUBLIC PROGRAM & SYMPOSIUM APRIL 14–15, 2010
ORGANIZED BY THE COOPER UNION INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
BACKGROUND The April 15th Symposium of the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design addressed America’s most important energy choice of the early 21st Century. Five years ago, the natural gas industry developed a new technology, horizontal hydrofracking, that makes possible the extraction of the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas known to be trapped in the deep shale formations that underlie much of the United States. As the industry has moved to exploit these formations, beginning in the Intermountain West of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, estimates of America’s natural gas reserves have soared. Seizing on natural gas’s historic reputation as a clean-burning fuel, naturalgas producers and industry experts have argued that it should replace coal as the new, green fuel for electric-power generation. Advocates enrich this vision of a green energy future by further advertising that natural gas is an American fuel that will free the U.S. from dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources, bring economic prosperity to rural areas where shale gas is plentiful, and lower energy costs. Swayed partially by this bright vision (and partially by longstanding political alliances), the Bush Administration, through the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney, ensured the 2005 passing of federal legislation that exempted shale-gas extraction from many of the environmental regulations other industries must follow, thus cutting back federal oversight of the industry. Since then, the natural gas industry has aggressively argued that this exemption is rationally justified because hydraulic fracturing is “safe”. Experience is proving otherwise. This new extraction process, commonly known as fracking, depends on holding sand in solution and forcing it into shale at high pressures to create fractures that release the natural gas. To facilitate the technical demands of this process, chemicals are added to the mix that is injected into the wells. Many of the five-hundred chemical compounds that best serve the technical needs of the process are toxic, non-biodegradable materials of every type, capable of contaminating water supplies and affecting human health. Current drilling activity, which represents only a fraction of what the industry hopes to ultimately obtain, has polluted domestic water wells and surface streams. Uncontrolled eruptions above ground, quality-control failures in gas-drilling operations, spills and escapes from containment lagoons next to drilling operations have all resulted in serious water-pollution events. Even at the current level of activity, far more waste fracking fluid is being produced than can be processed and disposed of. In addition to the waste chemicals that come back to the surface after fracking, experts are also concerned about the long-term implications of the liquid that is left in the deep rock after gas extraction is completed and what will happen in coming decades as hydro-geological processes set it in motion. The consequences for water resources could be severe and irreversible.
But shale fracking has other environmental and social consequences as well. One is air pollution from ozone and methane emissions. Another is the industrialization and fragmentation of rural landscapes. These operations require extensive road and drill pad construction that require clearing of forests and agricultural ground cover. The extended infrastructure leads to landscapes that have round the clock industrial activity with equipment distributed every five to forty acres. The physical and aesthetic damage of these industrial activities can render the land valueless for other productive purposes. The success of the gas extraction is accomplished at the sacrifice of all other rural economic activities, from recreation to agriculture, tourism, retirement living, and habitat preservation. Many argue that when the damages to these interests are added up, the net cost to society is far greater than the net energy benefits. Then there are the implications of shale gas for the future of green energy. Shale-gas advocates judge it favorably when compared to burning coal for power generation, but shale gas is not a green fuel. Though not as dirty a fuel as coal, it is still carbon combustion, black energy, whose environmental consequences should be compared to true green energy, power generation without carbon combustion, in order to understand the degree of impact. If the price of natural gas is kept artificially low by allowing it to externalize its environmental and social costs, then the development of truly green energy is unfairly undermined and many of the hopes for green energy and a green economic future will fall short. Shale-gas fracking at the level the industry is projecting will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, energy dollars that would be better channeled into supporting greener, alternative energy sources. Thus, a rapidly escalating and increasingly heated political debate over shale extraction, and the new natural-gas industry it would create, is now spreading across the country. It is a debate that will determine the direction of American energy policy over the foreseeable future: natural gas versus green energy, and inadequate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions versus a strategy of true greenhouse gas control that eliminates the use of carbon combustion for power generation. This debate will also determine the fate of many of Americaâ€™s rural landscapes and whether the American taxpayer is willing to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in remedial costs to restore water supplies, limit air pollution and correct the damage to public health and rural communities. Perhaps the most critical issue is the one that underlies all of these questions and the entire shale-gas debate: the choice between hype and hard facts. The shale-gas industry has mounted a public-relations effort that is rapidly approaching that of the global-warming deniers. The television coverage of the Winter Olympics was regularly punctuated with slogan-filled praises of natural gas, and full-page ads for a natural-gas future now regularly appear in publications such as Business Week and Scientific American. None of the ads mention fracking or its consequences; all of them try to create a hazy green aura around the industry while the consequences of under-regulated gas fracking are steadfastly ignored. Nowhere does the debate over shale-gas fracking rage more bitterly than in New York State, where a confluence of educated voices and public-interest political muscle has challenged the shale gas industryâ€™s myth-making with solid science, including economic and public-health analyses and an ever-increasing body of testimonials from landowners devastated by their
experience with shale-gas fracking. The largest shale formation in the country, the Marcellus shale, underlies Pennsylvania and upstate New York. The choices New York State is now considering in the serious public-policy debate will be definitive for charting the future course of shale-gas fracking and the larger related issues of American energy policy. From the threat to conduct shale gas fracking in the New York City watersheds to the hundreds of upstate landowners who have become convinced that shale gas is the key to reversing a century of upstate economic decline, to the even larger number of farmers and retirees who see a way of life and cherished rural landscapes being destroyed by industrialization, to the local governments hoping for windfall tax receipts as a way out of years of fiscal crisis, gas fracking cuts across the interests of an enormous portion of the state. Meanwhile, the new natural gas industry, in its eagerness to pursue its boomtown vision of an energy future continues to deny that there are any real environmental or social issues that need addressing. It is the purpose of the CUISD to address the critical debates of sustainability, particularly those in which New York plays a central role. There is no more pressing issue at the moment than what the future of shale-gas fracking could be, in New York and in the United States. On April 15th Cooper Union conducted an expertsâ€™ roundtable discussion and a twohour public forum in the Great Hall on the issue of shale-gas fracking. The forum centered on presentations by three nationally renowned experts. First was Dr. Theo Colborn, public health expert and President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Paonia, Colorado. Dr. Colborn is one of the countryâ€™s leading experts on the impacts of the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid. Second was Professor Michel Boufadel, Director of the Temple University Department of Environmental Engineering, who looked at the total costs and benefits of shale-gas drilling and the extent to which the reality of those costs and benefits match the hype. Finally, Albert Appleton, Adjunct Professor at the Cooper Union, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and globally recognized water-resources expert, spoke about the political debate and its implications for a society that needs to recognize the deep interconnectedness between the economy and the environment.
THE EVENT April 14 Screening of Debra Anderson’s Split Estate Imagine discovering that you don’t own the mineral rights under your land and that an energy company plans to drill for natural gas two hundred feet from your front door. Imagine having little recourse other than accepting an unregulated industry in your backyard. Split Estate maps a tragedy in the making as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health. 2009. 74 min.
April 15 Faculty and Experts Roundtable Panel of experts in various fields, including biology, environmental engineering, film and video, education, and law discuss the contemporary issues that face our community today in the context of natural gas fracking. Panelists include Dr. Theo Colborn, President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange; Dr. Michel Boufadel, Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tempel University; Al Appleton, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection; Josh Fox, filmmaker and director of the Jury award-winning Gasland; Calvin Tillman, mayor of Dish, Texas; Jeff Zimmerman, environmental lawyer; and Jim Brennan, State Assemblyman for King’s County.
April 15 Symposium Keynote speaker: Dr. Theo Colborn, President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange. Also participating is Dr. Michel Boufadel, Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple University. Closing remarks by Prof. Albert Appleton, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
PARTICIPANTS’ INFORMATION Theo Colborn, Ph.D. Theo Colborn is Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), based in Paonia, Colorado. She is an environmental health analyst and best known for her studies on the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Dr. Colborn earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Zoology (distributed minors in epidemiology, toxicology, and water chemistry), an MA in Science at Western State College of Colorado (fresh-water ecology) and a BS in Pharmacy at Rutgers University, College of Pharmacy. In 1985, Dr. Colborn received a Fellowship from the Office of Technology Assessment, through the U.S. Congress. She then joined the Conservation Foundation in 1987 to provide scientific guidance for the 1990 book, Great Lakes, Great Legacy? in collaboration with the Institute for Research and Public Policy, Ottawa, Canada at the request of the Canada/US International Joint Commission. She held a Chair for three years, starting in 1990, with the W. Alton Jones Foundation and received a three-year Pew Fellows Award in 1993. Dr. Colborn has served on numerous advisory panels, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, the Ecosystem Health Committee of the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, the Science Management Committee of the Toxic Substances Research Initiative of Canada, the U.S. EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee, and the EPA Endocrine Disruption Methods and Validation Subcommittee. She has published and lectured extensively on the consequences of prenatal exposure to synthetic chemicals by developing embryos and feti in wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans. Over the years she established and directed the Wildlife and Contaminants Program at World Wildlife Fund US.In her retirement she has set up a non-profit, TEDX, to carry on the work of providing objective, technical information about endocrine disruption and related low-exposure hazards for academicians, policy makers, government employees, community-based and health support groups, public health authorities, physicians, the media, and the public. Her 1988 research on the state of the environment of the Great Lakes revealed that persistent, man-made chemicals were being transferred from top predator females to their offspring and undermining the construction and programming of their youngsters’ organs before they were born. In light of this evidence, in 1991 she convened twenty-one international
scientists from fifteen different disciplines to share their research relevant to trans-generational health impacts. Specific participant and specialty information is provided in the Wingspread Consensus Statement at www. endocrinedisruption.com. During that meeting, the term “endocrine disruption” was coined; and a book followed in 1992: Chemically Induced Alterations in Sexual and Functional Development: The Wildlife/Human Connection, a collection of technical manuscripts provided by those who attended the session. The information from this volume and numerous subsequent publications on the result of lowdose and ambient exposure effects of endocrine disruptors was popularized in her 1996 book, Our Stolen Future, co-authored with Dianne Dumanoski and J. Peterson Myers now published in eighteen languages. Dr. Colborn’s work has prompted the enactment of new laws around the world and redirected the research of academicians, governments, and the private sector. Among her awards are the: Chatham College Rachel Carson Award, Norwegian International Rachel Carson Prize, United Nations Environment Program Women Leadership for the Environment Award, International Blue Planet Prize, Society of Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry Rachel Carson Award, Center for Science in the Public Interest Rachel Carson Award, Beyond Pesticides Dragonfly Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Science and the Environment. Dr. Colborn is most recently the recipient of Time Magazine’s 2007 Environmental Heroes Award and the 2008 Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development.
Michel Boufadel, Ph.D. Dr. Michel Boufadel is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a professional environmental engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is also a professional hydrogeological hydrologist as accredited by the American Institute of Hydrology. His areas of expertise include environmental hydrology and ecohydrology, where he develops methods to account for changes in the environment due to natural and anthropogenic stressors. He has been the lead researcher on projects funded by the Oil Spill Research program within the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). He is currently investigating the lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the beaches of Prince William Sound, where he and his team conducted field studies on beaches and are exploring remediation technologies for dealing with the twenty year-old spill. He conducted floodplain delineation studies for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) using hydrologic models developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and Geographic Information System (GIS). He also conducted vulnerability studies of watersheds in a project funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Water Quality, Exposure and Health. Dr. Boufadel is author of numerous articles in publications such as NATURE, Geoscience, the Journal of Environmental Engineering, Environmental Geology, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Journal of Contaminant Hydrology and Journal of Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment. The work of Dr. Boufadel has been reported in various media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC World News and other numerous international media venues.
Albert F. Appleton, J.D. Albert F. Appleton is an international consultant on sustainable development with expertise in water resource and water utility management, infrastructure economics and public finance, land use and landscape preservation, the economics of sustainable development and the use of financial strategies such as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to achieve mutually supporting economic development and environmental protection goals. His most recent work includes designing a plan for the United States Forest Service to use PES strategies to restore nine million acres of California national forest and end the catastrophic forest fire cycles in California, a program now moving toward implementation; designing a program being successfully implemented to restore the Tisza River flood plain and revive the local rural economy in eastern Hungary; advising a network of Mid-Atlantic environmental and civic groups locked in conflict with the natural gas industry’s proposals to use highly polluting fracking techniques to extract natural gas from shale formations on how to transmute that conflict into a future oriented partnership for sustainable shale gas extraction; serving as a member of the Alberta Water Research Institute expert panel designing a blueprint for the future sustainable management of Alberta’s water resource and water utility systems; and redesigning the water and sewer rate systems of Shanghai to encourage water conservation, improve social equity and support the use of revenue bonds to expand Shanghai’s water and sewer infrastructure. Since the mid-1990s, Mr. Appleton has done such sustainable development and water infrastructure work in numerous foreign countries as well as the United States, and has been involved in expert consultations and public presentations in many others, most recently in Brazil on establishing a market based program of protection for Sao Paolo watersheds. Mr. Appleton is a member of the Katoomba Group, a worldwide network of experts on the use of market tools to promote sustainable development. He also is a Senior Fellow at the new Cooper Union Institute of Sustainable Design and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Cooper Union where he teaches Sustainability and its Economics. During the first half of the 1990s, Mr. Appleton served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Director of the New York City Water and Sewer system. His program innovations saved New York City billions of dollars, most notably through the New York City Catskill watershed protection urban-rural partnership, which successfully preserved the pristine quality of New York City drinking water and which has become a worldwide model for watershed protection. He also spearheaded a comprehensive water conservation program that permanently reduced New York City’s water use by nearly 400 million gallons of water a day or 30% of total consumption. He initiated New York’s cost saving innovations in the use of natural infrastructure such as the Staten Island Bluebelt System and increased the rate of water and sewer infrastructure construction activity by 50%, earning the DEP designation as the City’s best construction management agency. He introduced new concepts of asset optimization into Departmental operations and reoriented the Department to focus on market based, cost saving, pollution prevention programs, instead of construction of capital intensive clean up facilities, thus bringing an end to a decade of annual, double digit, runaway water and sewer rate increases. Mr. Appleton’s academic training is in mathematics, political science and law.
EXPERTS’ PANEL April 15 PANEL TRANSCRIPTION Kevin Bone: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Cooper Union. I’m Kevin Bone, the Director of the Institute for Sustainable Design at Cooper Union. I’m going to hand the microphone over to Al Appleton in one moment to let him do the introductions, and we hope to see you all this evening; this is the second of three events that we’re putting on that have tied to the hydrofracking question, which we all know is a hugely important issue. We look forward to hearing from this incredible group of people and their experience on it. Now I turn it over to Al Appleton who is, among other things, a senior advisor to the newly formed Institute for Sustainable Design. Thank you, Al. Al Appleton: Thank you, Kevin. Well, a year or two ago Kevin said, “Come talk to my partner, Joe Levine. He’s got this problem up in Wayne County.” I thought, “Well that’s good. Give a little free advice, be able to be pompous safely for a few minutes.” Now, two years later, we’re here in this historic space tackling this issue head-on. When we talk about the fracking part of the natural gas industry, we need to acknowledge that the language used to distinguish conventional natural gas drilling from fracking gas drilling is not quite precise. In the old days when we had conventional natural gas, it was pretty good stuff and I remember growing up to “clean burning natural gas.” It’s a different world now, and we’re getting our natural gas in much different ways. It raises the fact, which we’re going to talk about a little in this panel today but more this evening, that when push comes to shove natural gas is really black energy: it may (or may not) be better energy than coal, but it still burns carbon. It’s not the wind, it’s not the sun, it’s not geothermal, it’s not energy conservation, and the choice for the future at the end of the day is really a choice between black energy and green energy. I’ve slowly been coming to the conclusion that the choice between gas fracking and green energy may actually be a much more important choice than the whole issue of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Control Bill that we’re debating through, given the efforts of this industry to get the federal government to subsidize it. To where that trillion dollars in investment is going? Are we going to put that into the fracking gas industry that Boone Pickens screams of, or are we going to put it into the green energy that most of us dream of and the world hopes for? Underneath everything else that you’re going to hear today that’s really the ultimate issue and the ultimate choice for the future. We have six experts here on this panel who are going to discuss this issue from a number of perspectives and they’re all first-rate people. They’re all,
as the British would say, “top of the line.” We’re going to open with Professor Michel Boufadel, who is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple. He’s going to lay out some of the basics of this industry and the kinds of questions that should have been asked long ago, when considering the hydro-fracking issue. We’re going to go to the world renowned Dr. Theo Colborn, who’s been gracious enough to come from Colorado. She is going to talk about the health impacts of all of these chemicals that the industry likes to say are harmless, but if any other industry were to use these chemicals they would have to be on the hazardousmaterials list. Then we’re going to track the problems we have with this kind of fuel. Mayor Calvin Tillman has been on the front line in dealing with this issue and he is responsible for getting people alert to the fact that, while the natural-gas industry is stressing that their procedures do not harm drinking water, there is a whole series of related consequences affecting our crucial life-support systems. He, out of an act of genuine leadership, has now been trying to share the experience of his community in Texas with
other communities that have the same issues. Then we’re going to move to Josh Fox, whom many of you know and who has a tremendously wonderful back-story. He decided to get involved with this issue, made a documentary, and won the Special Jury Prize for this documentary at this year’s Sundance. This documentary and the pieces he’s going to show of it, puts a human face on all of these consequences: a human face on people that the natural fracking gas industry likes to refer to as “anecdotes” or “collateral damage.” Then we have our wonderful lawyer, Jeff Zimmerman from Philadelphia who has been providing the legal backup and the technical advice that, when paired with the energy of community groups, often forms an irresistible political combination. He’s going to talk about where we are today in terms of the legal and regulatory tools available to us and the targets on which we want to focus these tools. Finally, we have our own Jim Brennan, from Brooklyn, an assemblyman, who has always been a little bit of an iconoclast and a little faster on the draw than most other of his colleagues to recognize when something needs to be done. He’s going to talk about how we’re going to change this in the future and how we’re going to create the long-term legislative framework for ensuring that this industry operates sustainably. So, without further ado, Michel. Michel Boufadel: About six months ago I attended a talk in Philadelphia about drilling in the Marcellus Shale and I was interested because I felt that the risk,
the environmental risk, was so great. So I started looking into the literature about the topic: what do we know? I was surprised to find out that there is not much. There are not that many studies conducted by independent entities. Most of what we do know comes from publications by scientists who are sponsored by the gas industry. That actually made me very concerned about the whole process. What I’m going to do now is describe the entire procedure of hydraulic fracking and how the natural gas is extracted. I will mention the pitfalls and what could go wrong. As most of you know, there is this layer of shale, which is about forty-five hundred feet below the surface, and entraps the natural gas. In order to extract the gas, one starts by drilling a well down to that layer and then turning the well horizontally until it goes about two thousand feet from that footprint. Hydraulic fracking consists of pumping fluids down this well under high pressure until the layer of shale is fractured surrounding the well. Then the water is pumped out and the natural gas is allowed to flow back. Now, what could go wrong? In the process of hydro-fracking you have high pressure that is applied at great depth. Initially, when I started looking at the topic, I talked to certain structural geologists and the conclusion was that there was not that much connectivity between the shale layer and the overlaying aquifer. It turns out that that’s not the case: there are natural faults, joints, and fractures that connect the shale to the upper aquifer. In the case that something does go wrong, the first thing you would see is gas flowing back to the surface, certainly contaminating the aquifer. The second thing that could happen is that the injected fluids could flow back. Now, regarding the fluids that we inject there: the industry is working with fresh water to which they add certain chemicals and sand to make it more efficient for the extraction of the gas through fracking. They put in viscosity reducers and they put in biocides to kill the bacteria so they don’t foul the wells. Then, when that water flows back, it contains those chemicals that are highly toxic, it will accumulate some rock salts, thus increasing the salinity of the water to about six times the salinity of seawater, and it also picks some radioactive matter, which is naturally occurring. So the water finally comes back to the surface, and at that moment we’re talking about a million gallons that is pumped back to the surface, at which point it is placed in open pits for treatment. If these pits spring a leak, common models for dealing with groundwater pollution do not work. There are more advanced models that need to be applied to predict the movement of these contaminants and I will talk about them tonight. Then you have another issue, which is that the water that has been affected by the well cannot be treated in wastewater treatment plants. First, the water contains toxic chemicals, but more importantly it has such high salinity that it will kill all the necessary bacteria in any wastewater treatment facility. Now you cannot treat the water. What we advocated from the get-go was that there should be some risk assessment studies: again, the more I look the more I am surprised to find that there are none. We heard about a month ago that the EPA is going to conduct a risk assessment study or cumulative-impact study. My comment on that is it’s a study that is funded with two million dollars and it will be interesting to see how they are going to apply it. Are they going to come up with general guidelines or specific recommendations for a particular watershed? The watersheds where the drilling is taking place are not flat areas. These are, in most cases, especially in the New York area and eastern Pennsylvania, mountainous regions. So the impact, actually, is highly localized. You cannot use some kind of weather model, like they used. We cannot predict it based on something happening at the hundred-mile scale, we need to bring it down to the five-mile scale, which means we need data from that locale and we need data to anchor any
model or prediction that we make. From that point of view we need to have a risk assessment study that actually has some teeth to it in order to provide specific recommendations for any particular region in this country. Thank you. AA: Well, usually it’s the job of a chairman to reign in a richly prolific speaker, but Michel, you’ve set a record for terseness and focus. Before we go to the next speaker, the very distinguished Dr. Theo Colborn, I would like to provide one or two details of context for our presentation. The chemicals used in hydro-fracking can get into the public environment in about five different ways. There is the contamination of the aquifers that Dr. Boufadel was talking about, which the industry says can’t happen. There are also uncontrolled eruptions of material back from the subsurface where they are drilling. There are spills: this is not an industry that has the Good Housekeeping seal of approval in terms of its day-to-day operations. There are untoured events for the fracking materials and wastewater that is stored on the ground, generally in lagoons: rain events, construction failures, collapses. Lastly, there are attempts to discharge this wastewater into streams. So this is not some kind of isolated incident we’re dealing with, this is an industry that has many different pathways for contaminating the public health systems, even before we talk about air pollution. For what the implications of those potential contaminations are, I now turn to Dr. Theo Colborn. Theo Colborn: I was asked that question this morning, “Tell us about the health effects.” Now, I got involved in natural gas, and I didn’t intend to, when I injured my spine working in Washington D.C. and was home in the mountains of Colorado. In the same day that the doctor told me that I couldn’t go back to Washington to work, I found out that a company called Gunnison Energy was going to drill in our watershed. A few years before, I had gone back to college to get a PhD to become an expert in western water quality, so a lot of my friends and neighbors in the west knew and began calling about what was going on. However, that day there was a public hearing where fifteen hundred people turned out against this particular activity. When the meeting was over (I couldn’t go to it) someone handed to me the only recipe that I’ve ever been able to put my hand on that tells me what a company’s going to be using for fracking. There were a lot of benign chemicals on there like Bentonite, and being an ex-pharmacist I recognized a lot of these chemicals, but there was one on there called 2BE, 2-Butoxyethanol, which I knew nothing about. So I called my office in Washington D.C, where I have gophers working the computers around the clock collecting information, and said, “Send me everything you’ve got on 2BE.” That was in 2002, we were still depending upon FedEx, and it took about five days to get back to me in an extremely thick box about this one particular chemical. It’s really fluky that it turned out to be a chemical like this, because 2BE is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and evaporates at room temperature. It mixes in water, you would never know that it was there, and all I kept thinking was, with my daughters now on the small farm where I raised my family in Colorado, “Gosh, if that stuff gets underground and begins to migrate, it’s going to take at least ten to fifteen years before anyone is going to realize that maybe our groundwater has been contaminated. If it should come out where our sub pump goes underground and pumps water onto our farm, it could possibly come into the house.” I calculated that it was going to be in the water at seven parts per million, which was well above a level that would be considered safe. I then thought, “Ok, water underground doesn’t mix, it moves and slugs. It goes like toothpaste, something like that.” I got concerned and began reading. The amazing thing is that this chemical has very bizarre effects. One of the first things it will do is dissolve the red blood cells: it dissolves the fat in the
red blood cells, so that people can develop bloody urine, bloody eyes and bloody noses. A couple years later, people began telling me that they were having this problem over in Garfield County, where all this activity was taking place, just to the north of us: they were having blood in their urine. They went to doctors and the doctors did the whole blood scan. They tried to find out what was wrong with them, but they couldn’t find anything, initially. In the end they discovered it was something called idiopathic hematuria. The doctors didn’t know how to deal with the bloody noses, and the veterinarians were having trouble with the livestock having bloody noses and bloody eyes as well. I knew there wasn’t much I could do, but having worked in Washington for eighteen years I knew that it was very important to get this kind of information on the docket. So as it turned out I mailed off the letter to these two agencies and thought that I had done what I needed to do. Two years later, to the day, a woman called me and said, “I’m looking for Dr. Theo Colborn.” I told her that I was Theo Colborn and she responded, “Well, I wanted you to know that I found your letter in the docket. I happen to live within three hundred feet of a well pad upon which they are now up to the ninth well.” They had, of course, drilled and fracked these pads: most of these wells had been fracked eight or nine times. She continued, “I developed a very rare adrenal tumor,” which is one of the problems with 2BE. “I had to have the tumor and one adrenal gland removed.” So she’s walking around now with one adrenal gland. This is very, very rare and I thought, “Oh my, the odds.” The chills went up and down my spine because the work I had been doing over the years has been on chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They can get into the body and from the day of fertilization to the day birth alter how our children are constructed. So the adrenal gland is part of the endocrine system and I knew right then and there, there was something. Have you ever had a chill go up the back of your neck? I just knew I was going to get involved in this. Then she started having all the people in Garfield County who were having health problems call me. What you see here is when the industry moves in they drill and frack, and the people living near this activity feel the adverse effects. Plus now I know the workers who stay on the job site and live in the man-camps on the well pads. These guys are exposed to these chemicals around the clock, just like the residents. These people start out with about the same kinds of symptoms: burning eyes, itchy skin, sinus headaches, sore throats, coughs. It’s now called the Entena cough over in Garfield County and the doctors can do nothing about it. They say, “Well what else is wrong with you?” when you go to the doctor for the cough. The dogs cough too, by the way. Then they begin to see things like severe, constant headaches. The patients begin to feel a numbness in the ends of their fingers and their toes: they get this tingling type of effect. There’s swelling, and then this swelling is accompanied by severe pain, maybe here one day, there another day, much like fibromyalgia. Plus there are symptoms like multiple sensitivity and severe depression. These people are not well, but there’s no way, really, to deal with it. So they would call me and I would write down their name, take their telephone number and they would talk to me. A man called me and he said, “Well, I have hematuria. I have that problem now plus severe hypertension.” Laura’s tumor was an adrenal gland tumor and the adrenal gland produces a hormone called aldosterone that controls blood pressure. What happened was, this chemical caused those cells in her adrenal gland to grow, to multiply and produce a lot more aldosterone than they should. After she had finished breast-feeding her baby, a year and a half after her well had blown up, she went to the doctor’s and she had severe, malignant hypertension. Within a week they were doing the surgery on her, that’s how critical it was. Now this man was also suffering from hypertension and he said that his dog and daughter woke up every
morning with headaches and vomiting. He said, “Well, what do you think I ought to do?” And I said, “Well, I think you better think about this and think about moving.” Well, apparently what happened was, he went to the company and told them that he had these problems; what were they going to do about it? The company offered him money: maybe his house was worth $250,000, they’d offer him $350,000 and they moved away. We lost track of that man. This is the kind of problem we have all the time. People move, or they take money to not say anything and have water delivered to their home over the years. However, what they find out after the fracking and drilling have stopped is that they’re not getting better. Then they begin to get upset, but they signed gag orders. A similar situation happened at Love Canal: everyone was being paid off and left. We haven’t even been able to follow that cohort to find out what happened to those children, those people who left Love Canal many, many years ago. This is the tactic the industry uses. What happened next was through providence: an MIT student called soon after I heard from Laura and said that she wanted to become an expert in fracking and asked if she could come intern with us on a National Science Foundation grant. This is the kind of help I kept getting. Everywhere people began calling in: the Oil and Gas Accountability Project began sending me material safety data sheets, which I’ll talk about later tonight. This girl was sitting there saying, “Oh you’ve got to get this into the database.” You know how kids are with computers, they’re terrific, and they’re light years ahead of people like me. She got so involved that she wanted to get out with the workers. In the boom times there were bars where you could go meet people, so she got to know the workers. They were taking her out on the job and she was getting to see so much. What we discovered as we began looking at the health effects of the chemicals that are in the products (and believe me, it was quite a lot: right now we have nine-hundred and forty products on our list) is that we know 95-100% of what’s in the barrel of only 14% of the products. At the other end, we know less than 1% of what’s in the barrel of 45% of these products. That’s how serious it is, there’s just no information on the products we’re getting. However, we broke out what information we had with the data we had and came up with a pattern of health effects, and if you come tonight you can see that. These were the same kinds of health effects that you would expect. The greatest percentage of the chemicals cause skin and eye irritation, sensitization, immunological kinds of problems, respiratory problems and neurological problems. There were also the long-term effects on the kidneys and liver. In many cases people, including physicians, believe that these symptoms are just a result of advanced age and not of a developing chronic disorder. We found out that this was happening in Alabama, Texas, wherever drilling had gone on. It happened where the industry had moved into the state in high density clusters, since the only way they can make money anymore in this business is to work in areas where you already have the facilities and infrastructure to process and deliver the gas. By this logic, they’re going to squeeze as many pads with as many wells on a pad as they can. Now let me tell you about the chemicals. Out of the nine hundred and forty products at which we’ve arrived, we developed a list of about six hundred and fifty-six chemicals. The names the manufacturers gave us for the chemicals are so obtuse or they don’t tell us makeup of these things so that we only know about 50% of the chemicals that are in these products. These results would never hold up in a court of law. These large industry studies and big statistics are based on incomplete information. Although, even with our limited data, we kept coming up with consistent results. We looked at Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana. Even the names of the products were a little different because the salesman who was there
selling the items in a particular state is representing a manufacturer who is competing with a variety of other chemical manufacturers in the country. This salesman is going from well pad to well pad saying, “Well I can sell you that same thing you’re using now for $10 less a tote under a different brand name.” It’s a very big business that does not want to be shut down. Nevertheless, we consistently got the same health patterns. If you go to our website, endocrinedisruption.org, you can pull up these findings under our natural gas program. Cancer is quite low, percentage-wise, but many of these products would all kill you before they would cause cancer anyway. Cancer is not the way we should be addressing this issue. Unfortunately, in this country, risk is based on the probability of cancer and not on the kind of health effects that are long term and that can cause chronic disorders or undermine the health of our developing children. AA: I think it’s worth everyone in this room knowing that, if you’re like any average person in the United States, you have over eighty artificial chemicals in your body now. TC: Oh my goodness, it’s more like five or six hundred. AA: Well eighty was the figure I was given, maybe they’re breaking me in slowly. In Europe, where they have a much stricter standards in the handling of these issues, they passed regulatory legislation by going up to people on the street and saying, “Do you know how many chemicals you have in your body right now?” Most people haven’t a clue. They continue, “Well, let’s do a test for you.” Most people after those tests walk away converted advocates for much stronger chemical controls than what we’re working on here. The next great water pollution crisis in the United States is going to be over pharmaceuticals, chemicals and endocrine disruptors. Keep in mind, these chemicals do not just travel through a pathway in water, there are also pathways in the air and these have huge community impacts. Those who are debating this issue have been extremely fortunate that there is a community in Texas called Dish, and the mayor will explain how it got its name, which is the air-pollution capital of Texas as a result of the natural-gas industry. Dish is a community impacts capital, and the mayor is trying to see that the mistakes that were made there don’t happen as industries come visit us in the northeast. In recognition of his gallant attempts to get us to think about the consequences before they happen, rather than afterwards, I present Mayor Calvin Tillman. Calvin Tillman: So I moved to Dish, Texas in 2003 from a small town in Oklahoma, and by that time there was already oil and gas industrialization all around us. Since the drilling had already started when we moved in, we didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Dish is right in the center of the Barnett Shale and we’re about twenty-five miles north of downtown Fort Worth, a city of about two square miles, a hundred and eighty folks, and an annual budget of around $70,000. It’s a very small, rural community. About two years after I moved in, I noticed a muffler sticking up in the horizon, just south of our little community, and that muffler was for a natural gas compression site. This site continued to grow, and grow, and grow, starting outside of our jurisdiction and ending up well within our borders. In my dealings with this I found that the local governments didn’t have much control over facilities such as this, particularly with the pipeline and the compression stations, but we worked with them as best we could. The site was permitted as five separate sites, and in the state of Texas they have what is called a Permit by Rule, under which you have to go in and essentially fill out an application stating that you
won’t reach an established emissions limit, and the state regulatory agency will send you a permit. Each one of these five individual sites filed separately. Now, individually, each of them do not reach that limit of emissions but collectively they’re way above the threshold and one of the areas in which they’ve exceeded the limit is volatile organics. I’m not a scientist by trade, so it has been a little bit of a learning experience for me to get involved and learn just what exactly a volatile organic is. What does benzene mean? What are these things? It’s taken me five years to really find out what I need to know but the more I scratch the surface, the worse the situation seems to get. As the drilling moves in, the first thing you notice is that it is loud. We managed to work with the companies to get a noise abatement installed on all the compressor sites, which was a big win for us. As the site continued to grow other things started to show up such as dehydration units, amine units, and more of the processing hardware. Now we know that gas doesn’t come out of the ground as this cleanest burning hydrocarbon, it has to go through a
process before it gets there and that all happens right in Dish. All of these impurities are removed and they’re dumped into the air of our community, and the odor that comes from this facility just continued to get worse, and worse, and worse. I began complaining to our state regulatory agency, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, and was essentially ignored. I complained to the operators and they ignored me for a long time until finally they decided that they were going to come out and do some testing in order to figure out what the source of this odor was. Now, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that they knew what the source of the odor was, but they came out and did their testing nonetheless. Their tests consisted of sticking a gas detection unit in the back of an SUV and driving around for two hours. They came back with the report that said everything was fine: “we detected no gas or no odor that would be detectable to the human nose.” They were intentionally trying to mislead us. At that point we made the decision that we were going to do our own air study and we were going to find out what the problem really was. It had always been my assumption that they were leaking gas and I was going to show them that that was the case. However, when the results of our air study came back, it was much worse than I could have ever imagined,
because it had a lot of the things that Dr. Colborn had mentioned in our air. There were sixteen chemicals that were above the effect screening levels for human exposure. These chemicals included all of the BTEX chemicals: the benzene, the toluene, and there was a bunch of sulfur compounds. We had carcinogens and neurotoxins in our air at pretty high quantities. All this time I was expecting to find a gas leak; I wasn’t expecting to find all of these carcinogens and neurotoxins. So we went out and got with a group, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, and a scientist named Wilma Subra, who is a nationally recognized scientist in environmental health. She’s won an award called the MacArthur Fellowship. She’s a very intelligent lady and she’s extremely helpful to small communities like Dish. She put together a health assessment that presented a number of queries in the form of a questionnaire. It came back saying that 61% of the health issues reported by the citizens of Dish, including runny nose, burning eyes, etc., 61% of those accounts were related to or were known effects of the chemicals detected in our air quality study. This led us on a further quest. I always say, “Once you know, you can’t not know.” We worked with the state to get them out to do some biological testing, of which we have just started to receive the results. They took blood, urine and groundwater samples, as many of us are on well water. They took one person per household who volunteered (they would not do more than one person and they would not evaluate children) totaling samples from twenty-eight people. Of those twenty-eight people, half had elevated levels of these toxins. Our state regulatory agency looked at things a little differently because they said, “Well, half the people were normal.” But Wilma, our scientist who’s helping us, seems not to look at it that way and thinks that there’s an area of great concern here. Like I said, as this has gone on it’s just continued to get worse. When my well water was tested by the state agency they told me that most of the BTEX chemicals did not show up. However, when my water was tested by the Department of Health and Human Services, they recorded ethylbenzene, styrene, oxylene, and m & p xylene in highly detectable levels. This information is obviously very fresh, literally just a couple of days old, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. As we move on, I keep thinking that one of these days, we’re going to do a test and everything is going to come back ok, that we’ll be able to declare ourselves clean and move on with our lives, but that simply has not happened. Once our air study was completed we released the results. Typically these kinds of results don’t get released because of litigation issues, but there are just not a lot of independent studies like this and we felt it was our responsibility to publish the data. That forced the state to take some action of their own and the state agency did a very comprehensive test throughout the Barnett Shale, taking ninety-four samples at forty-four locations around the area. This didn’t just include compressor sites, but also well sites and the processing facilities. Of those forty-four separate locations, twenty-one sites showed elevated levels of benzene where the chemical was anywhere from seventeen to forty-five parts per billion. We realized that we actually had one of the lower chemical counts once they went out and did the sampling. The experts that I’ve talked to on the subject say that if you get above five to ten parts per billion of benzene, you have imminent issues with children’s health. I think this not only validates the study that we’ve done but also lets us know that it’s all over the Barnett Shale. You know in Dish, our compressor site probably looks better aesthetically and is quieter than most of the ones in the region because we have been such a proactive community. Unfortunately, a lot of folks just don’t want to know. They want the letter from the state that says that everything’s ok and they want it to go away, but thankfully Dish is not full of those kinds of people. Thank you very much.
AA: Discussions like this are inevitably abstract: we’re sitting here in a comfortable room in the middle of the afternoon far away from the rural areas that produce the energy that powers all of these things. We’re very fortunate, therefore, that when Josh Fox was approached to lease his land for this gas drilling, he decided to find out something about it first and set off on a yearlong saga that led him to become the filmmaker of choice on this issue. Josh is going to show us some of the film clips and he’s going to talk a bit about the human element in his exploration of this issue. Josh Fox: Thanks so much, Al. It’s a tremendous honor to be on this panel with these incredible people. Thanks also to Joe Levine and Kevin Bone for putting this together. I started on this back in May of 2008 when I was going door-to-door for Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary, hearing about gas drilling and about this invading the upper Delaware region. Everyone was talking about this happening in both New York and Pennsylvania. Then my dad said, “Look at this letter I just got,” asking for the lease of our property. It was about 19.4 acres that my parents got back in the seventies, where family and friends built our house and where I had the good fortune of growing up. I went to this meeting of a group called the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and they blew my mind as they outlined the disaster that was proposed by showing us pictures of Wyoming, talking about hydro-fracking and Theo Colborn’s list of chemicals. Plus, at that time her list was only up to two-seventy and now we’re hearing six hundred fifty-six. So what I did as a storyteller and filmmaker was ask Barbara, the head of the Damascus Citizens, “Could I do a five minute video for you to help this presentation be a little bit more fun?” A year and half later here we are with this feature film with a complex and nationwide story. The more I got into it the more daunting, upsetting and strange this Orwellian nightmare of gas drilling became to me. There isn’t a lot of science that we can look at, and that’s one of the main things that I think is so alarming, but in terms of making this movie, it was all about talking to people on the ground, in those areas and getting their stories, seeing their science, and the things that they had collected. The burden of proof is on the citizen, not on the company, even though there is no way for 2BE to get into the ground in any natural way and they’re using it in the fracking, the citizen still has to prove that the gas company put it there, which is a virtually impossible task and extremely expensive. I’m going to show little bits of this Wyoming section of the film today because these guys out in Pavilion, Wyoming are just remarkable people. At first I was helped by Barbara’s contacts, then they told two friends, then those told two friends, and so on until when I got to the border of Texas, I had a message on my voicemail from Calvin Tillman saying that “I heard you were coming to Texas, I’m the mayor of Dish. Do you want to stop by?” There was this incredible network of people who are brave enough to speak out and are articulate on the issue. Nobody ever asked what my political affiliation was, any of that stuff, which I was nervous about being a guy wearing these glasses from the east coast rolling up in Texas, wondering what people were going to think of me. It was this amazing generosity, and I think that that’s what comes through in the film while I tried to make it as spectacular, with exploding sinks and a wry sense of humor, as I possibly could to make this national disgrace palatable. What I think makes the film exciting is the fact that the people in it are so optimistic and undaunted. There they’re living in a situation where life is completely turned upside down: your air and water are harming you, a lot of your family members and neighbors have health problems and you have an industry that has a boot print right in your face. Yet, they’ve found a way to express this, not through anger, rage, or by blowing things up, but rather through appealing to the human heart.
So I’m going to show a bit of this Wyoming section from the film. I will say that we’ve been inundated with emails since we won this prize at Sundance (we also won four other prizes at the other four film festivals we went to) and we are going to be doing a number of things to bring this project to the people: a grassroots screening tour across New York and Pennsylvania, which we’re lining up now. We are going to premier the show on HBO, June 21st, and that’s the biggest, fastest way to get to most people. Then we will open it in theaters in the fall for those of you who don’t have HBO. So there will be ample opportunities to watch the film. I know, everyone has been asking me, “Can we have it? Can we have it now?” The best thing to do is to show it on TV and have people who don’t know anything about this start to learn. Everywhere we’ve gone with it people are shocked, amazed, confused and want to know what they can do. Here we go, so I’m going to show a little piece of this Wyoming, maybe about seven or eight minutes of it and then, however it’s going to proceed. FILM Voice 1: We don’t drink it anymore. Josh Fox: Tell me about your water. Where do you get it from, how does it work? Voice 1: Walmart. Voice 2: We buy it (laughs). JF (voiceover): Like Jeff and Rhonda Locker, after a nearby frack job, Lewis Meaks’s water went bad, starting smelling like gas. Voice 3: In 2004 they drilled this well right over here. I don’t know if you can see it from here, it’s five… JF (voiceover): Numerous water tests turned up various forms of hydrocarbons and glycolethers. Encana, the company doing the fracking claimed no responsibility. With his back against the wall, Lewis had no alternative but to try to drill a new water well on his property. Voice 3: From a hundred-eighty, a hundred-sixty, you can smell gas. And he went in there and we got to two-forty and when you put that joint on and start to try to blow it out, that well up, it came at us. (Machine sounds) JF (voiceover): Natural gas exploded out of Lewis Meaks’s water well for over three days. The Department of Homeland Security reported that over three million cubic feet of natural gas escaped into the atmosphere. Lewis had to get an injunction from a judge to get Encana to cement the well to stop the flow and to provide him a replacement water source. The big green building next to Lewis’s house contains two cisterns that Encana fill up twice a week. JF: So these are two big water tanks that they’re filling up for you. Why are they bringing it? Voice 3: You tell me! If nothing’s wrong, why are they bringing it?
JF: So you actually hired a hydro-geologist to figure out what was going on? Voice 3: Yea. JF: And what did he say? Voice 3: He said that they’ve got everything intermingled. When they do anything like fracking, they’re going to intermingle everything. (Running water) You can already see, you’re going to see little pearls of stuff starting to come out of it like oil. I just, I already saw one over here. JF (voiceover): And the water that comes from Lewis Meaks’s original well is only good for some bizarre science experiments and brain altering recreational activities. JF: Oh man! (Coughs). Voice 3: Tell me you’ll drink that. JF: No way. Voice 3: Tell me that nothing’s wrong with this water. JF (voiceover): It smelled like turpentine, that chemical smell that goes straight to your head and gets you dizzy almost immediately. Voice 3: Here’s the thing, you know, I think it’s criminal. What would happen if I took some chemicals, like I got, and took them to the big boss here at Encana and dumped them in his well? They’d have me in the pen so fast my head would spin. But look, they can come out here and do whatever they want to and they don’t even have to report and tell us what they’re putting in there. Voice 4: The whole concept of democracy and looking out for the little guy does not apply here. Voice 3: Exactly and I ain’t lying. I’ve never seen such lying you know what I mean. I mean, their word ain’t no good and you know we were all raised that way. If your word ain’t no good then you ain’t no good. And you talk to these… these are grown men lying to you. For what? For money and that’s it. (Scene change) Voice 2: When we had ours tested and they found glycola in it, it cost us $4400. JF: Yea, for what? Something’s burning on the surface of this, like a plastic. JF (voiceover): Glycolethers are odorless, colorless, and are a liquid chemical component of plastic. When Lewis took a blowtorch to his water, I think we found a cheaper way of testing for glycolethers, either that or a secret Wyoming recipe for homemade plastic. (Scene change) I liked Lewis immediately: cool seventies padded mirrors, cowboy statues everywhere and the most comfortable couch in the United States. (Scene change) John Fenton and his wife, Kathy, have twenty-four gas wells on their property, all of them visible from their front porch.
Voice 5: I was raised here and at one time there was nothing. I mean there was no oil, nothing. Now all this…everywhere you can see. Yea and like, we can’t really sell this place with the water situation, well look at it. We don’t own our mineral rights. (Scene change) Voice 4: Now see this black cow right here, that little cow. That little cow’s probably less than twelve hours old, right there. Yea, that’s a newborn there. We’ve only got a certain, you know, amount of water wells to work with and God, I don’t know how they even drink it, to be honest with you. It’s the damndest smelling stuff and it comes out different colors all the time but you got to use it sometimes. I think we should strive to be the cleanest and the most environmentally conscious that we can. A lot of times it’s right out in the middle of the field, that’s where we make our money. You see the green grass growing, that’s money to us, you know, and that’s fertilizer and that’s feed for the cows, that’s everything and they tear up a football field-sized area and drill a hole out there. They spread toxic chemicals and then, on top of that, you got gravel and rocks and big pieces of metal and then they pipeline everywhere. It just cuts us to pieces. There’s no rhyme or reason to how they do things out here: they do it different on every hole, there’s different people, nobody’s watching over them. You know, it’s a free-for-all. JF (voiceover): Doug Fenton describes his home being surrounded by ventingcondensate tanks. At times the fumes from the condensate tanks are so strong, they surround the house in a cloud of toxic vapor. Voice 4: And you can come out when the sun’s coming up and there’s just brown, the first hundred, two hundred feet of air, it’s like a brown blanket lying over the top of everything. Not only are all the animals in there breathing it and absorbing it through their skin, but all the people are too. JF (voiceover): Kathy and her mother-in-law, who lives right down the road, suffer from headaches, dizziness and a loss of smell and taste. Voice 7: I know they say that you have to let them drill, you got to come to a compromise, you know we already know that. We’ve already compromised as much as we can compromise. If they do any more drilling out here it’s going to force people, force us out of business, off our land. The less people they have to deal with out here the more they can drill. But they can drill whether we like it or not, doesn’t seem to matter that we’re affected. Humans are being affected. (Scene change) Voice 4: If I had known what it was going to be like I don’t know if I would have brought my family here. I hate to say that because, you know, some people might see this and wonder how I could like this, but this is my way of life. You know my father and my grandfather were old-time cowboys, you know. And my grandfather on my mom’s side, they were farmers in Nebraska, this is my family heritage. And my wife, this is their family farm. You know, we’re proud of this. But by God, if your way of life is being besieged and your health is under attack, I don’t know what else you can do. I don’t know where the hell I’d go, though. Where, where else can I go? This is happening everywhere, that’s the biggest thing I want to people to know. You’re not alone if this is happening to you because I’m in the same boat you are. And what we need to do is we need to get together and we need to stand up and we need to speak
with a unified voice and we need to stand up to these assholes. END FILM JF: I don’t know how much you could hear. The sound quality in this room is kind of bad but there’s a clip online of some of the people you’ll see in the film and hopefully watch. So again, thanks. AA: As a member of the Cooper family and in defense of its sound quality here, it was good enough to get Abraham Lincoln elected president. We have to put up with some things. As Josh was showing the film, Theo leaned over to me and said, “You know every one of those cans is an endocrine disruptor, the foamers.” I know Wyoming, I grew up in the west, that’s a very sparsely handled country. We have an industry that grew up under the overly protective wing of Dick Cheney and it got its habits from being in places that were flat, arid, very lightly populated (part of their problem in standing up to those xxx’s is that there’s not enough of them) and publicly owned in many cases, at least the mineral rights are publicly owned, and, on the whole, a very conservative population whose first impulse is not to organize at the drop of a hat. This industry is now essentially bringing those bad habits that it has learned in those areas into a part of the country that is hilly, wet, densely populated, privately owned, and where there is an altogether different tradition of social action. It should be clear from those pictures and from those cries of anguish you heard that this isn’t going to work in this kind of terrain in which they’re getting involved. Even Ed Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania, whom no one has ever accused of being in favor of over-regulating the natural-gas industry, told the natural gas industry at the annual convention in Houston not too long ago that “You folks have really blown it. You did not understand what it meant to move into this kind of populated area.” Hopefully the resistance that is being mounted here, the resistance by people like Josh and many others, is going to wash back. Through the mechanisms of national legislation it’s going to wash back into these parts of the American west that are equally important to us and equally part of our heritage. So let’s start talking about how that’s going to happen by looking at the existing legal tools and how they are being used. There’s no one better than our own Jeff Zimmerman. Jeff Zimmerman: Thank you, Al. It is an honor to follow one of the best lawyers we ever had in this country in this great hall, in the form of Abraham Lincoln. I’m not Abraham Lincoln and I don’t pretend to be. I am from Illinois, I will tell you that much, and I am not from Philadelphia. I’ve always wanted to be a Philadelphia lawyer and I never quite knew what that was, but it was always a goal that I sought. I’m actually a Washington lawyer, and that may be a curse, I’m not sure. Let me tell you what I see as far as the legal structure we’re dealing with here. The news is not particularly good. There is obviously the opportunity for private-damage suits, toxic-tort suits, water-law suits that individuals may have against particular operations but those, frankly, are going to be very expensive for any individual to sustain and very difficult to establish to meet the burden of proof as the plaintiff, to prove that it’s more likely than not that a particular company contaminated your water, damaged your property or killed your livestock. However, there are some suits that have been brought. There’s a toxic tort suit, a multi-plaintiff toxic tort suit that’s been filed for a number of residents in the Dimock Pennsylvania area. There are a couple of private suits filed by individual plaintiffs in western Pennsylvania and so far they have been a function of the leasing agreements that those individuals signed and doesn’t give them a lot of relief. In addition to common law claims, public nuisance, private nuisance, other torts, they have statutory law.
Now, you’ve seen and heard that most of the federal statutes that would regulate this sort of situation have exemptions for the oil and gas industry of one type or another. Right now that is the case for most of these laws. There are some areas around the edges where we can work on that or we can try to chip away at those exemptions. Probably the most important one at the moment is under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 adopted a provision to change the Underground Injection Control Regulatory Program under the Safe Drinking Water Act to exempt injection of fracking fluids from the requirement to hold an underground injection control permit, as long as they did not include diesel fuel in the fracking liquid. Recently it’s come to light that indeed the three companies that signed voluntary agreements to not use diesel in their fracking liquids have violated those agreements and Congress is now beginning to look into that. So there is some hope on the horizon. There’s another provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act that comes into play here and needs to be exercised much more vigorously. That is the Imminent Substantial Endangerment Provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act. If there is an imminent, substantial endangerment to a water resource, a public water supply or a private water supply and the state is not effectively enforcing against a potentially hazardous issue, the federal EPA can come in and exercise authority, take action and direct remediation, clean-up, replacement of water, etc. That has been used at an oil well in western Pennsylvania several years ago. We are now pushing very hard on EPA Region 3’s enforcement officials and the national enforcement officials to make greater use of this Imminent Substantial Endangerment authority. Under the Clean Air Act, we’ve heard the stories of Dish, Texas and we saw the footage of the air emissions in Wyoming on Josh’s film, it’s even much worse than that, as we all know. There are provisions of the Clean Air Act that ought to be used here, such as a provision for hazardous air pollutants. This is a classic situation where there are multiple sources over a wide area that are emitting toxic air pollutants and are essentially escaping regulatory jurisdiction because they’re staying under those thresholds of the individual emissions. There’s a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows for area-wide standards to be adopted. The EPA hasn’t taken any action in that regard yet but that’s what we can petition and push for. There are provisions in the Clean Water Act that would affect stormwater dischargers and runoff from these operations; those ought to be used as well. Lastly, there is the National Environmental Policy Act and, here in New York, the state equivalent of that, called the State Environmental Quality Review Act. You’re probably all aware that New York State is in the process of updating an old, generic environmental impact statement that they passed in 1992 on oil and gas operations in the state in order to address horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The draft came out last fall and all of us commented on it. There’s no indication yet as to what New York State’s going to do if they’re going to finalize that impact statement. There have been calls from a variety of sectors, and certainly from everybody working on this issue from our perspective, to either withdraw that impact statement because of its deficiencies or maintain the moratorium on permitting new drilling projects while that study was being done. We are fortunate in New York that there is a moratorium at the moment and I know that there have been a number of bills that have been produced in the state legislature to extend that moratorium or to tie it to the study that the EPA, nationally, is just starting to do on the effect of hydraulic fracturing on the environment, particularly on drinking-water sources. That study is being scoped now. Hopefully, it will start at the beginning of October this year and probably take two years to complete. The National Environmental Policy Act and SECRA issues are very important for us because while they don’t require the agency to make
the right decision at the end of the process, if they don’t follow the process through to conclusion, then they can be enjoined and sent back to the drawing boards. That’s what we need to try to do, not only in New York State but also in Pennsylvania. Now Pennsylvania doesn’t have an Environmental Review Act similar to the New York statute so each decision by the Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection on their permit applications isn’t affected by that type of review. However, the western Pennsylvania area and the Susquehanna River basin area of Pennsylvania have already been adversely affected in numerous situations, and we have contamination and carcinogenic chemicals in peoples’ drinking water wells across the state. There has been some enforcement in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as they’ve been embarrassed into it from time to time. The fines have been relatively small, slap on the wrist kind of fines but there have been a few cases where activities have been halted and new consent agreements have been worked out under which the industry will improve, supposedly, its performance. The one place that we are in pretty good shape at the moment, and I emphasize at the moment, is in the Delaware River basin, which provides, along with Catskill reservoirs on the other side of the mountains in the Hudson River Valley, 90% of New York City’s drinking water. Both the Catskill and the Delaware sides of the mountains are in the prime area for Marcellus Shale development, according to the industry. So far there have been no permits granted by the Delaware River Basin Commission for gas extraction from shale layers in the basin. We’re fighting that battle right now: there are two applications pending that would involve hydraulic fracturing in the basin. Those are pending before the commission and will be up for decision in July of this year unless we can delay the process even further. Beyond the shale gas issue, the Delaware River Basin Commission has chosen not to exercise jurisdiction over gas wells that were completed in any other layer other than shale, and immediately under the Marcellus shale there is a sandstone layer, Oriskany Sandstone, that has produced gas historically in this state and has never been drilled with hydraulic fracturing or horizontal production. That issue needs to be expanded at the DRBC so that the control over gas projects applies beyond just the shale. Lastly, there is an exclusion for all exploratory wells. Now there is no such thing in Pennsylvania rules as an exploratory well. DRBC has made up this category and decided not to actually cite its jurisdiction over it, and that is potentially allowing for a lot of drilling activity to take place without any effective regulatory oversight. I know we have found in western Pennsylvania that a lot of so-called exploratory wells have ended up producing an awful lot of gas and contaminating the environment. So we have our work cut out for us. The industry is very heavily invested in this technology and they’re going to fight us every step of the way. It is going to take a lot of experts, such as the folks up here and a lot of persistence on our part to wage this battle, but we’re going to do it. Thank you. AA: Our last speaker is Assemblyman James Brennan from Brooklyn. The assemblyman has from the very beginning of this issue been concerned with its implications. A year ago he put forth simple legislation just to protect the New York City watershed and create a moratorium on drilling. Since then he has become much more deeply involved. I’m personally satisfied that his action in introducing this legislation has spawned much more attention to the issue. Now a whole host of accompanying bills, some less ambitious than others, are being introduced by the legislature. The New York State legislature is our fallback position if, as was discussed, the fourteen thousand comments made on the New York State Department of Environmental Protection AIS do not sway the Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York
State government or the Paterson administration into a more reasoned and scientific analysis of the risks. So without further ado, one of the champions of rational energy policy, Jim Brennan. James Brennan: Al, thanks so much for that introduction and your leadership as a great environmentalist in New York City and State. I want to thank the Cooper Union Institute of Sustainable Design, Professor Kevin Bone, a friend of mine as well as my fellow panelist, for being here. We’re all here because as residents of New York City and State we recognize that there is a substantial likelihood that at some point in the very near future New York State will authorize large-scale opportunities for gas drilling in some of the most environmentally sensitive parts of our state (New York City watershed, Delaware River basin, and other critical water supply areas of the state). To do so poses unacceptable environmental and public health and safety risks in relation to the water supply. There was a man a hundred and fifty years ago who gave a speech here, a politician, who then won his party’s presidential nomination, got elected president, saved the union and ended slavery, but there is a gulf between his decisiveness and the current problems of the New York State legislature with respect to making decisions. I presume, since you are all intelligent, educated people, you have taken note of that fact. My predecessor, when I went to work for him twenty-nine years ago, said to me, “You know Jim, no man, woman or child is safe while the New York State legislature is in session.” I was young and idealistic at the time and I thought he was kidding, but he quit three years later and I’ve been in office for twentysix years ever since. I’m still hoping he’s wrong but we have a situation now where the State Department of Environmental Conservation put out its draft regime for permitting gas drilling in the state. Al and the other speakers took note of the fact that the draft regulatory regime has been thought of by many environmental organizations to be grossly inadequate in relation to protecting the environment, for instance, the setbacks in the watershed of about a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet between the infrastructure of the New York City water system and where you would put a well pad in. There is really a ridiculous lack of proper protection. I should tell you that we anticipate the state DEC, the Department of Environmental Conservation, will put out their final adopted regime sometime this summer. About fifteen or twenty democratic members of the assembly had a meeting with Chairperson Pete Grannis, the commissioner of DEC, about two months back to try to talk to him about what they’re up to. I think many of us who are concerned about this came away deeply disappointed because it does not appear that there will be any significant curtailment or restriction with respect to protecting the environment in any meaningful way (i.e. capping drilling, abolishing drilling, restricting drilling of any kind). I am not confident that the executive branch of the state government is going to undertake any significant protection of the watershed or other critical water supply areas in the state. Fortunately, the New York City government and the Bloomberg administration did their own independent environmental work on the impacts of drilling in the watershed and they absolutely concluded this was a major risk to the water supply. They have come out against drilling, at least to some extent. I’m trying to work with them on this particular issue, of course, but it has been difficult. Now in the past couple of months we’ve been attempting to address the financial catastrophes of the poor state government in relation to the recession and we are not making much progress while the state is going broke. We’re going to run out of money relative to the cash obligations we have to schools, hospitals, etc. by June. So we have to get a budget in
place very soon and we are not doing well. However, I am carrying a couple of bills right now, one that would ban drilling in the watershed and impose a moratorium on permits outside the watershed for two years. I’m carrying another bill that is far more comprehensive, which bans gas drilling in the watershed, Delaware river basin, sole source aquifers and other critical water supply areas and does a lot of good other protections, including mandatory clean ups, remediation, drillers posting bonds and financial security any time they come in and drill. Anybody with a bad environmental record would be prohibited from getting a permit. Then, as Al mentioned, a number of different legislators have begun to introduce legislation that, unfortunately, is far less comprehensive. I mentioned to you that my bill required that drillers post a financial security for cleanup if they get a permit to drill. The chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, Bob Sweeney, has put in a bill that just does that one thing. So there are other people doing things that are much smaller in relation to attempting to enhance restrictions on drilling. Plus, we’re not getting a lot of pressure from the environmental community to act. I’m not really sure why that’s the case, but I’m not getting a good feel as to whether there is any kind of consensus on a coherent approach to dealing with gas drilling in the environmental community. My colleagues and I need to be working with environmental organizations to make our own political assessment of what we can do. Among the things I’m considering doing is attempting to force a vote in the Environmental Conservation Committee on one or both of the two pieces of legislation I described to you as a possible step forward. Let me just emphasize that New York State is a big state and that there is an existing natural gas industry. It is small and primarily located in western New York along the southern tier of the state. The idea that legislators from those communities, who are concerned about the economies of those communities would consider the possibility of depriving those communities of jobs, revenue or production and would be willing to vote to severely curtail, ban or severely restrict gas drilling in those parts of the state, is improbable. I cannot tell you what their attitude will be, but I am concerned that their attitude would be “no,” and so the possibility that at this time the New York State legislature could adopt comprehensive policy or comprehensive restrictions on gas drilling concerns me a great deal. You can see this in the papers every day. We have the same institutional dynamic in New York right now that exists in Washington. The state senate is badly divided in a partisan way. There are thirty-two democrats, thirty republicans and all thirty republicans vote “no” on everything. Therefore, since there are sixty-two people and you need thirty-two votes to pass a bill, you must get every single democrat, all thirtytwo of them must vote “yes” in order for anything to happen since all thirty republicans vote “no.” That’s the political framework in which the New York State government is attempting to make decisions at this time. Now there will be an election soon and there’ll be a new governor. There may be a different political dynamic: the republicans may retake the majority or the democrats may gain additional seats. I cannot tell you what will happen and I do not know whether or not it will be possible for us to do something comprehensive or for us to try to break off small pieces of restrictions on drilling in various types relative to liability, financial security or different kinds of regulatory schemes. I cannot tell you how this is going to play out. I do believe that if and when the state Department of Environmental Conservation comes out with its regulatory regime it is likely to be grossly inadequate. At that time, I would think, the City of New York, environmental organizations and citizens groups, may feel a necessity to litigate the validity of whatever decision is made because a lot of people believe that the state’s environmental assessment and their environmental regulatory scheme is inadequate as a matter of law
and does not properly handle the environmental assessments required by the state Environmental Policy Act. So, this is my view of the current situation. I believe that I may be able to advance legislation in the State Assembly. I’m not sure it’ll be successful: you don’t like to lose and I don’t want to force a vote on a bill and then lose, that’s not usually a good way to advance your cause. Thank you very much and I’d be happy to answer any questions. (In response to an inaudible question) Just by pure coincidence. The simple ban and permit moratorium is A1322B and both of these bills are sponsored by State Senator Tom Duane in the Senate. The other one is A8748 and that is a comprehensive ban on more than just the watershed and other parts of the state but a regulatory structure as well. AA: Alright, we’re going to open the panel to questions in about two minutes. I promised Michel, who wanted to talk more about risk assessment in the context of all the other comments, that he could lead off. Michel. MB: Well, it’s ok I guess, there were many topics that we covered. Maybe we can leave it up to the questions and then I will interject. AA: Alright, I’ll open the floor. I’ll take a ten second statement for somebody who has to let us know something but then I want questions. Sir. Q1: (Initially inaudible)…if it’s not recycled in another well, goes to a waste treatment plant. I, in preparing testimony against the Delaware River Basin Document for Water Withdrawal, tracked down all of the plants that were maimed as the recipients of the Stone Energy water and, I don’t have my notes with me, they all pretty much claim to have state-of-the-art equipment that would use chemical procedures to remove NORMs, radioactive material, heavy metals, everything but the chlorides. Are they telling the truth? Is that possible? MB: The techniques for removing the heavy metals do apply, but I’m not sure they are being used in standard wastewater treatment plants. Q1: These are not public treatments, these are special. Pennsylvania Waste Treatment, I believe, was one of them. But there are only a handful of these in the entire state. JZ: There are actually, I saw a list of four or five, but they’re all in western Pennsylvania where the greatest development has already taken place and my question is, even if they have the treatment capability, do they have the capacity? Q1: They told me they did. I asked them. I had conversations with all of them. AA: The only way to reliably tell that would be to look at the permit document and to look at the monitoring that would come afterwards. Q2: Recently there’s been a lot of activity in Wayne County by the gas industry, including seismic testing for these ten test wells that we’re concerned about. I’d like to just ask you, will that seismic testing be done in order to produce some sort of mapping by which they’ll make their plans or analyze the results of the test bores? Is there some scheme that they have with this seismic testing? How is it we can know about it because just this past weekend we actually saw their surveying and their marking?
MB: Seismic testing, the way I guess I understand it or would like to explain it, is not to test for potential earthquakes. Essentially, seismic testing is conducted to detect the fractures or the joints in the geology. Now it does take place during hydro-fracking and I would say one of the challenges for us is that we cannot get this data. This data is property of companies and the public should be able to have access to them. Q3: At the end of the day, should hydro-fracking be banned or effectively regulated? AA: Alright, there’s three options. Option one is to allow it to proceed in the current Wild West manner it is proceeding with maybe a few protections in green wash attached to it. Option two is to ban it. Option three, and this is the option that I think you have to consider more carefully than you might want to, there are still are many people in New York, Pennsylvania who think they’re going to get rich and retire to Florida on this, and they need to get some time to think that through, is to allow it but regulate it. So the questioning from my perspective is what I call sustainable gas drilling, which is gas drilling that stays out of a lot of areas and then the remaining areas are drilled according to local zoning and essentially cradle-to-grave security over all of these materials with the kinds of bonds you heard Jim talk about in his legislation. Now, the problem with that is the industry doesn’t want to play fair or as I’ve told some natural-gas executives more than once, it’s very hard to get into a mutual problem-solving effort between communities, environmentalists and the natural-gas industry when someone won’t admit there’s a problem. If the gas industry will not admit there’s a problem, sooner or later the choice is going to come down to the Wild West or the man. And then that’s going to be a purely political choice. Other comments from the panel? JF: I actually get asked this question all the time because I’ve been out on the road showing the film and people want to know what to do. The question comes in the form of, “Can this be done safely at all?” The answer that I always have is, “I have no idea.” No one knows, I mean the industry is fond of saying, “There hasn’t been a single incident of water contamination with hydraulic fracturing,” and that is a very carefully constructed legal sentence, which is about the hydraulic-fracturing part of the gas-drilling apparatus. You can’t prove what part of this is going wrong but it’s going wrong all over the place. My answer to them at that point is, “If there is a town out there where they have a hundred plus wells, where everything is going hunky-dory, and there isn’t a single contamination incident or there aren’t volatile emissions going into the air, and people aren’t up in arms about their land use, and everyone is super happy, I want to go to that town, because I haven’t been there and I’ve been to a lot of places where this drilling is occurring. I would like to turn it around and say, “If you’ve got the model place, I’ll go there and film.” I’ve journeyed to dozens of states and I never found that place. Q4: One of the things that seem to be trying to happen from the New York City perspective is that we’re trying to draw a picket fence around the reservoir area, for instance, a hundred feet, five blocks, or seven miles and say, “Ok, now we’re good.” How does the aquifer actually work? Does it follow that kind of earth map? What about rain water, what about all of the hurricanes and everything we’re having? It seems like there’s a lot of flooding in this region, does anyone know from an environmental perspective how realistic it is to draw any kind of line around the watershed and say, “Outside of that, we’re good?” JZ: Let me see if I can answer some of that. The New York City report that
was done for DEP by Hazen and Sawyer looked at the Catskill Mountains and said, “The fracturing in these mountains is so extensive and so old that there is really no effective way to be sure that material won’t migrate from seven or eight thousand feet down all the way to the surface. The Pocono Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania are just as old as the Catskills and just as fractured, I’m sure. So if it isn’t going to work in the New York City watershed why is it going to work somewhere else? Q5: I’d like to ask a question about one of the more benign issues here. If there are forty thousand wells, for instance, in the upper Delaware and the Catskill watersheds, forty thousand times approximately five acres per well comes out to a number of about 250 million trees, in terms of cumulative impact. That’s just one issue. So from the panel’s perspective, even if we could have completely clean drilling and no chemicals or anything like that, what do you think about the other kind of environmental impacts, segmentation and things like that that we’ll be faced with under the best of circumstances? AA: I’d like to jump in for just one second and then pass it on. Two hundred and 50 million trees, 200,000 acres of land clearing plus eight hundred thousand more acres of adjacent disturbance gobbles up a lot of carbon. One of the great messages of the natural gas industry is “We’re the transition fuel towards a low carbon future.” That may be true if you just measure what you get from burning natural gas versus coal, but when you add in what you just talked about, not to mention road transportation, methane leaks, drilling costs, I think you make a very good case that actually this is going to hurt global warming, not help it. Other members of the panel… JB: Regardless of the threat to the water supply of the City of New York, this drilling would be occurring in areas that are currently rural, forested, scenic and beautiful, and in order for the drilling to be economic you need thousands of wells. Thousands of wells, each one of these wells with their fracturing pads, which basically involves about six pads in a square mile and effectively industrializes the landscape. The community where the drilling is taking place is equally, significantly, adversely affected. The notion that some particular landowner will benefit through the lease of their mineral rights to make a couple of bucks while their next-door neighbors’ water, air, scenic landscape, quality of life, etc. will be destroyed is greatly disconcerting. So for every person who is making a couple of bucks in the area where the drilling is taking place, their next door neighbors’ environment will be destroyed, so we need to be cognizant of that too. AA: Mr. Mayor, would you like to give your comments to this? CT: In Texas, you can really see that the landscape has been scarred. There are literally thousands of pad sites, as Jim stated, and I think one thing that everybody forgets is that this stuff has to get to market through a series of pipelines and there are going to be dozens, and dozens, and dozens of pipelines. Each one of those pipelines carries fifty to a hundred foot easements. I don’t know if anyone has been out to Dimock, but you can look around to the hilltops, and you can see the pipeline easements that are barren and there can never be a tree put on them. That’s certainly something to think about. JF: Well, I was just going to say that also the stress levels on this are insane. When you’re talking about the destruction of your environment, I’m sure all of us would rather be outside on a beautiful day like this, but we end up in hall after hall, conversation after conversation full of angry residents of places.
This takes over your life. The trees, the trucks, the water contamination, all these little things, but every person in my film has no more free time. That’s it. You come home, you’re dealing with the gas companies and then you go to bed. Then you wake up and you do it again the next day. So whether or not these are situations where you are getting into bans and I would really worry about anything less than a ban because this industry is extremely tricky. If the industry is there they are going to constantly cheat and you’re going to have to be the enforcement. Those are the people in this room with video cameras chasing trucks around having to prove that they just broke the rules for the seventeenth time and then argue it in a court of law. Even if they are regulated I have a feeling that they are not going to take those regulations seriously. TC: There’s just one thing here that people don’t realize: gas does not come up dry. So for the life of that active well, water has to be stripped off, there’s going to be equipment on that well pad stripping the water off, blowing gasses into the air, there are going to be trucks going there continually and, as you said, it becomes highly industrialized. All of these activities go on around the clock, oftentimes, and the residents, the people who are allowing these leases to go through, do not realize that. They think they’re going to have a well out back that they can’t see or hear and they’re going to get some royalties out of it. Believe me, I know a lot of people now who are turning around and making a lot of money, they have become millionaires, but they are sick and those people who are rising up and saying, “We have to do something.” We have to shut this industry down and we can’t let this go any farther. How long do we have to wait before this many people get sick? People lose their homes. Their children are ill. They’re suffering with asthma, bloody noses and a lot of other things we don’t even understand yet. The important thing here is it isn’t a one shot operation: that is extremely important to keep in mind. It’s going to go on, it has to, for twenty or twenty-five years while the gas is coming up. AA: Ok, the lady in the white sweater back there, and then over here on the right. Q6: Is there any other way that we can stop this in New York State other than the legislature that, with all due respect, we don’t have the confidence is going to vote to stop it, or by lawsuits that we are also concerned are not going to stop it. It’ll do other things, it might delay it, but is there any pie in the sky, is there any way we can stop this in New York State? AA: Well there’s a couple of things I hope. I basically believe that Pete Grannis was once a stalwart defender of the environment and maybe we’ll bring him back to his senses. It’s hard to ignore fourteen thousand comments. For what it’s worth, the governor’s office and Grannis say we’ll make a merit’s decision on it. We’re going to hammer him on that. But there’s a lot of money at stake in this. As I often say in environmental speeches, that people who make money off of mangling the earth are not going to be carried off quietly. Personally, I approach this like it’s a bar room brawl. JZ: Exactly. Warren Zevon’s, whose advice is applicable here, said, “Lawyers, guns and money.” AA: Lots of people are in this position now, you just heard Theo talk about those who thought they’d get a lease and they’d go back and nothing would happen. There’s a group up in New York called Fleeced who are exactly those kinds of people. We’ve met the enemy and they are us. The world’s got to change. I personally think that much of the reason that the Tea Party movement is so crazy is because they unconsciously know that we’ve got to
change but they don’t want to. Change doesn’t come easy, and you know who stood in this room, we’ve all invoked Lincoln, but I like Lincoln because he was good at change. That’s what we got to do, we’ve got to support the people who are trying to be good at change. MB: Definitely, I think you cannot get a legislator to support it and if you go to court, you definitely need expert witnesses. I would say that the citizens should encourage more independent studies. There are many competent universities in New York and a range of credible research centers. The more of these studies are out there, the more that you can make the case against drilling. AA: Sir in the back with the… Q7: There really are alternatives, and we’re not pushing for them. I know, for instance from what I’ve read about fracking, they could use nitrogen for fracking, instead of the chemicals. It probably costs more, but there are other alternatives around as well. There is solar power, there is geothermal, and we’re not pushing these as much as we should. We should perhaps have the same kind of fervor as when we put a man on the moon. Every time I hear those other alternatives mentioned people say, “Well it takes too much time to develop.” Well, dammit, if we don’t start them now, we’re never going to develop them. That’s the answer, right there. New York City is filled with buildings and there could be solar panels on each of those buildings. Can you imagine the cost savings? So when people fly into New York, they’ll see a city that’s glistening in the sun as it reflects off of those solar panels. That’s how I see the cities of this country. Those are the kinds of things that we can do, there’s just not a lot of imagination on the part of the gas people. AA: Well you just hit it right on the absolutely key part of the debate. Natural gas likes to compare itself to coal; the right comparison is with green energy and if you compare it to green energy, you compare the amount of money they want to invest in natural gas, to what we would be buying with the investment in green energy. Except a small point, we’d put photovoltaic on the roofs rather than glistening reflectors. Next question, Jim please. JB: You expressed some dismay of our state government but there’s going to be an election and it’s not very far away. Hopefully we will have more competent leadership and the severe problems making decisions in the state Senate will be relieved. It may be possible to change the laws of the state, albeit incrementally by making it more costly to do drilling. Hopefully after this election there will be some advancement in the capacity for our state to respond to problems. AA: The farthest person back with the hand up, who I believe is you looking backwards. Q8: Yes, hi. First, thanks for being here and for answering these questions. I asked last night at the documentary how the wildlife was being impacted and, along with that, I’d like to know how polluted our food supply might be according to studies that might have been already done out in Colorado, Montana, where fracturing is already taking place. Of course New York supports large cheese and steak industries. Also, on the same line, can we solicit the help of organizations like National Geographic, with plenty of funding at its disposal, to invest into these types of studies as well? AA: Theo, can you take this? I just want to make one quick comment.
Remember when you say, “Can we?” you’re all part of the we. So everyone’s got to look where they can be of help. TC: That’s a tough question and I wish you hadn’t asked it. I know that there are areas of this country, in Wyoming especially, where ranchers didn’t take into consideration the salt in the water and over the years they began to notice that their herds were not growing well. They were getting gaunt and skinny. They realized that the plants and other feed could no longer grow. Their farms were turning into a salty, unusable land. They lost acres and acres there in terms of food production. I was just sitting here trying to think, “are any of these chemicals persistent” and I can’t think of any right now that are used that would bioaccumulate through the food web and biomagnify up. JZ: What about the metals? TC: The metals, yes. That could be a problem. JZ: Those are in the produced water that comes when it’s all… TC: It does come back, it’s coming up. So far, we’ve seen arsenic, cadmium, etc. The trouble is, we’ve had very little access to where this water is being evaporated and to what kind of materials are in those pits. I’ll talk about it tonight but we had an experience in New Mexico, where the materials that were in the pits did not even reflect the kind of chemicals that they were using for drilling, and most of them were on the Superfund list, but I can’t tell you much more, which is the greater problem. No one is going to go out there, cooperate and give us this information that we need. We just had a study done in Colorado at the request of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission asking the Colorado Gas Trade Association to give them some samples to look at. However, they were very carefully selected here and there. It was just a scattering of samples but it is very interesting what we’re beginning to look at. For one, they use a lot of herbicides, especially in the west, to prevent forest fires: you don’t want to have fires near the well pads. Although, the Pavilion study out of Wyoming actually looked at several hundred pesticides when they were measuring the water that they collected from the people’s homes up there, and no pesticides were found. This ruled out the fact that it was the ranchers, the ranching or the pesticides used in agriculture that was causing the water contamination. However, they did find some very interesting chemicals in that water. Unfortunately, other than that, we know nothing. AA: Ok, time for two more questions, three, tops. The gentleman in blue has been very patient. Q9: Number one, last night I got an email from Governor Paterson’s office introducing me to a site called “Straight Talk New York.” And on that site you can… JB: Is he announcing that he’s running for reelection? Q9: Yes. TC: What was the title of the talk? Q9: It’s www.straighttalkny.com, on which you can post comments; some comments posted already on natural gas drilling and fracturing. Those comments, as I read through them, appeared to be largely from gas company representatives advocating drilling and a bunch of farmers who are advocating
that we get the billions of dollars from drilling. I posted a comment and it actually posted. There’s a little voting box where you vote thumbs up or thumbs down for gas drilling. I guess the question is, is that potentially a viable means for having a significant number of people like myself who are not connected in any way at all to express our voice to gas fracturing? JZ: It’s viable if we get enough people to do it that we overwhelm the industry people. Q9: There’s a hundred and seventy-one votes. That’s probably eighty or ninety gas people and eighty or ninety farmers. There’s got to be eight million New Yorkers. So I think the question is to get the… JZ: You tell two and they’ll tell two… Q9: I sent it to everyone that I know. JB: Let me suggest to you a website of Governor Paterson’s who, with all due respect, is not running for reelection. It’s not scientific and it’s not polling, it’s just whoever hits the website so it’s of no qualitative value. Believe me, we have a representative democracy, there are many, many people in elective office who kind of get it about what’s going on and we have many powerful environmental organizations, NRDC, The Sierra Club and others, that need to be working. This is a very controversial issue, even in the environmental community. Somebody asked, “Well shouldn’t we just ban hydro-fracking altogether” rather than try to just restrict it or carve out areas that are absolutely protected? Millions of New Yorkers respond to environmental organizations and their representatives. As time moves on, it may be possible to strengthen protection using normal representative means. JF: I gotta jump in here, I gotta say something to address the magic bullet question, the “is there something we can do?” question and this issue of the website. Two years ago, the greatest grassroots movement that I’ve ever seen elected a president that was improbable in America. You have to believe in the fact that every single person in this room can impact this. If there’s a person that you know who doesn’t know what’s about to happen to New York City’s water supply and across New York State, you’ve got to tell them and you’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to get as obsessed about this as we are, here, because otherwise this doesn’t change. Yes, Jeff Zimmerman is absolutely brilliant and I believe in the Brennan bill, but this is in your hands, this is in the people’s hands and the power comes from the bottom, up. If you don’t take to the streets, if you don’t actually go ahead and write a hundred emails when you get home tonight and make sure that the next one of these talks is full, then we can forget about it because this is not going to happen without that kind of effort. It’s going to take that kind of effort. I’ve seen this going all the way across the country. People are dying for the east-coast residents to actually make a huge noise. This is what everybody said to me out west, “Get back to New York, make them make some noise.” So this is up to you, actually, it’s not up to any of us up here. We’re doing our job, but you have to talk about this in that way and be that ferocious about it. AA: Afterwards some of us will be here and we’d love to chat for a few minutes.There’s one final question, gentleman, you’ve got it. Q10: First of all, I grew up as a child in Fredonia, New York, in upstate New York, which I believe was the home of the first gas well in the nation. I was a geologist starting at the college there and, having seen well fracking, thought,
“This is all great for New York.” I think this kind of panel is very useful but, I’m directing this to you really, you mentioned that there is a surprising, you might say lacking, unity or coherence in terms of support around your side of the issue. I heard exactly the same thing from Scott Stringer a couple of weeks ago. Generating this kind of activism can come in two forms: the form that influences your colleagues and legislature to actually vote the right way and the kind that gets people to lie down in front of bulldozers, not just here in New York City but also out in Fredonia, Utica and other places like those. So can anyone at this table here just tell me, this is very scientific, this is very appealing to people who are highly educated and very focused on the issue, but what’s being done right now to kind of package the message in a sort of “what’s in it for me” kind of way, out to people who don’t happen to be the beneficiaries of these leases who plan to move to Florida, but more “this is how it’s going to affect your children, this is how it’s going to affect you personally and here’s what you can do about it.” I just wondered what the lay of the land is in the state for that. AA: There’s a lot of that going on. It runs like that from people like Josh, runs from people like Mayor Tillman, it runs from the work that Jeff is doing. It’s a slow process, though. This is a trillion-dollar industry that is reversing a hundred and fifty years of emotional assumptions about of how you get energy in the United States. The important point is what Josh said: every little bit helps. I’m going to wrap up now. I’m sorry but we’ve hit a great vein here and I would love to keep mining it but we’re going to be continuing this evening. I want you to understand one thing about this issue: one of the great things, in my view, of the United States is that it has always looked forward to the future. The future is green energy. The past is black energy. In the past we looked at industries like this and said, “We can put up with damage it does for lots of reasons: it’s hidden out in the countryside, there are so many benefits to it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Now we can’t. There’s a reason that sustainable has gone from zero to sixty in twenty years, sustainable being the idea that anything we do for the economy has to work for the environment, and vice versa. As you go out, heed Jim’s comment. Let’s get this mobilized and let’s get these legislators’ attention. Keep in mind that not only is this an issue for you, but also that you are on history’s side. That, from my perspective, is what really makes all the people at this table, all the people in this room, Kevin, Joe and all these people so important. You know when I did the watershed, I would tell the staff at DEP, “You’re making history here and you don’t even know it.” You have a chance here to make history if you follow the advice and statements that all the people here made and it’s in your own best interest to do so. So good luck everyone. Kevin, thank you. KB: A few years ago, this meeting would have never happened in this Great Hall. Come tonight, bring your friends, it’s very important. This was intended as a kind of experts’ roundtable today, but if we could fill this auditorium tonight, that would be great. This is public information and we’re trying to get this out to a larger media distribution. We hope that happens tonight. We thank you all for coming and we have to get ready for this evening. AA: Kevin, I’ve given my lawyer the last ten seconds. JZ: Thank you. It’s not all bleak, dire and grim, ladies and gentlemen. Pennsylvania DEP issued a press release this afternoon announcing that “DEP takes aggressive action against Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to enforce environmental laws and protect the public in Susquehanna County.” The Department of Environmental Protection issued a sweeping order requiring Cabot to take extensive actions and help the residents of Dimock
township, who have been affected by the company’s drilling activities. Under the Consent Order and Agreement, Cabot must plug three wells within forty days that are believed to be the source of the contamination of drinking water supplies of fourteen homes. The agency is immediately suspending review of Cabot’s pending permit applications for new drilling activities statewide until it fulfills its obligations under this order.” I think that’ll cover it. So there is some good news.
SYMPOSIUM April 15 LECTURE TRANSCRIPTION Hydro-fracking Panel (Evening) Cooper Union – The Great Hall 4.22.2010 George Campbell: Good evening, I’m George Campbell, president of the Cooper Union, and it’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the college, to our historic Great Hall and to this evening’s symposium: Hydro-fracking for Natural Gas, sponsored by our Institute for Sustainable Design. A word about the Institute: the Institute was launched two years ago to establish a major research effort around sustainability. The goal is to engage all four of our academic divisions here Cooper Union: Architecture, Art, Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences into the research program. Here we can begin to infuse a curriculum with critical examination and substantive discourse on issues related to the environment. First, I’d like to thank the Rudin Foundation for its very generous grant that enabled us to create the Institute for Sustainable Design. Over the years the Rudin family has been enormously supportive of Cooper Union as they have been with so many important institutions that are vital to New York. Tonight’s program continues an extraordinary one hundred and fifty year old tradition at Cooper Union of inviting leading thinkers from around the world to the Great Hall stage to present and debate critical contemporary and often controversial issues that challenge the socio-political status quo. It’s a tradition that values the engagement not only of our faculty and students but also of the broader community in public discussion. Tonight we explore the purportedly “clean” technology known as hydraulic fracturing. This is a process that employs water and sand at ultra-high pressures to extract gas from shale. Tonight we look at how this process could actually jeopardize our water supply, impair human health, disfigure our landscapes and ultimately threaten our energy future. We’ll find out the scientific basis of these claims. Professor Kevin Bone of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture here at Cooper Union is director of the Institute for Sustainable Design. Professor Bone has developed an ambitious, exciting and stimulating agenda for the Institute in conjunction with our academic programs. Including this lecture series, Professor Bone has designed a variety of symposia and a number of potential interdisciplinary research projects covering such topics
as the impact of deforestation, rapidly increasing urban density, the greening of older buildings, and building in difficult climatic or geological conditions. He’s doing an exceptional job leading the Institute, engaging faculty and students in what could become the signature issue of our time. Please join me in welcoming to the podium professor Kevin Bone who will introduce the program and our distinguished panel. Kevin Bone: Thank you Dr. Campbell for the kind words. Part of our mission at the Institute for Sustainable Design is to bring awareness to our communities of critical issues related to the environment. Hydro-fracking for natural gas is one such issue. Tonight’s symposium is the third part of a program that we put together looking at hydro-fracking. Last night we screened Debra Anderson’s incredible film “Split Estate” at the Anthology Film Archives and this afternoon we had a rather vigorous experts’ roundtable looking at the topic with an incredible group of people that we’ll talk more about as this evening goes on. Why have we selected this topic for our main spring event? We wanted something that brought together what we call key indicator questions on environmental issues. This was one such topic. First and foremost is the fact that this energy-extraction process we’re looking at tonight has very serious health implications. The chemicals that are used in these industrial practices are entering not only our ecosystems but the ecosystems of our bodies. These chemicals are causing widespread health problems that range from adrenal tumors to ADHD, diabetes, neurological disorders, sinus and respiratory infections, reproductive health problems, ED and a list of other ailments. These chemicals will be in the natural system for decades and the health problems associated with them will only intensify. This issue is truly the Love Canal of our time, but on a continental level, not isolated to one part of the country. We’ve used this great hall to look at water-quality issues that directly affect New York City. The prospect of drilling for natural gas in the Catskill watersheds and the upper Delaware River basin, in clean, pristine, protected waters, is probably the most serious threat to New York City water resources and the New York City water-supply infrastructure that there has ever been. We are talking about compromising a sustainable source of water that supplies nine million people with clean, fresh, unfiltered drinking water for short-term profit and a very finite amount of fuel. Third, do we want to sustain a world that is desirable to live in? Aesthetics and beauty are part of the sustainability discussion. The industrial practices that are required for this natural gas development are especially destructive to the landscape. Vegetation is scraped off, evaporation ponds, drill pads, compressor sites, pipelines and heavy equipment roadways all must be built to support this industry. The aesthetic impact on the landscape is extreme. Sustainable economic functions such as agriculture, tourism, recreation and habitat protection all become unviable in the oil-patch landscape that is left behind when the drill rigs pull up. All we need to do is look at the Intermountain West to have confirmation of this. What’s happening in my home state of Colorado is heartbreaking and you’ll see some of that tonight. You know it’s interesting that some of the PR groups are out there are waging this campaign that wind turbines are eyesores. It’s amazing for me to think that in the complete visual corruption associated with these large-scale industrial drilling operations that the same aesthetic standard is not applied. There is also the reality that if we continue to structure regulation and tax codes in such a way as to provide decisive, competitive advantage to the gas industries, we will not be able to assemble the investment dollars that are so desperately needed to develop alternative energy choices. There needs to be a fair playing field.
Finally, and this was especially important to us when we selected this topic for examination, there is the question of whether we as a society are going to rely on hype, stakeholder propaganda, industry disinformation to determine what the impacts are or are we going to trust our scientists, our doctors and our PhD’s, the people that we turn out from institutions like this, to develop wellreasoned, thoughtful research conclusions. It is hype versus best-assembled fact that characterizes so many of the environmental questions we face. We are clearly on the side of supporting well-reasoned, well-studied fact. Institutions like the Cooper Union have an obligation to step in and assist the communities and grassroots movements in struggles like this. When I was talking to Professor Appleton, and you know a lot of people are discouraged about the magnitude of this problem, we were saying that a year ago a lot of people didn’t know about this problem. So the fact that we’re taking this on, at the Cooper Union, and it is, as Dr. Campbell said, a kind of willingness to take on controversial issues that characterizes the Cooper Union, we’re all here together. This is progress, this is very serious progress. It’s a time when you question domestic energy policy at all, you’re called unpatriotic. It’s a time when it’s American to drill, drill more, and “Drill, baby drill.” We are saying, “Let’s get the information, let’s get the larger picture, let’s try to make informed decisions,” so that we don’t spend decades trying to backtrack from mistakes that we make now. Before I get to the introductions, we’re just reminded that if the role of these heroic institutions was not as strong in society, we would live in a very different world. If Houghton Mifflin and the New Yorker did not stand up to DuPont fifty years ago, we probably would have never gotten Silent Spring published. It takes institutions with some clout to stand up to these big industries. DuPont, of course, tried to sue both of those publishing houses to prevent the publication of Silent Spring and it was the momentum that those institutions brought that helped make Rachel Carson’s voice heard. If I could introduce our three speakers here: first, Al Appleton. The basic format tonight is we have our keynote speaker and then Al Appleton and Michel Boufadel following. Al Appleton is an international consultant on sustainable development with interlocking expertise in water-resource and water-utility management, infrastructure, economics, public finance, land use and landscape preservation, the economics of sustainable development and the use of financial strategies such as Payment for Ecosystem Services to achieve mutually supportive economic-development and environmentalprotection goals. His most recent work includes designing a plan for the United States Forest Service to use strategies to restore nine million acres of California national forest and end the catastrophic forest-fire cycles in California, a program now moving toward implementation. He has designed a program now being successfully implemented to restore the Tisa River flood plain in eastern Hungary and is currently advising a network of Mid-Atlantic environmental civic groups, many of which are here and are dealing with the fracking issue. He has served as a member of the Alberto Water Research Institute, designing a blueprint for the future of sustainable management for Alberto’s water resources, redesigning the sewer systems of Shanghai and, most recently, working in Brazil to establish a market-based program of protection for São Paolo’s watersheds. Mr. Appleton is a member of the Katoomba Group, a worldwide network of experts on the use of market tools to promote sustainable development. He is also a senior fellow at the new Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design; we are thrilled to have him as part of our program. During the first half of the 1990’s Mr. Appleton served as the commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and director of the New York City Water and Sewer System, where his program innovations saved New York City billions of dollars, most notably
through the New York City Catskill Water Protection Urban-Rural Partnership, which successfully preserved the pristine quality of New York City drinking water and has become a model for watershed protection. We are also honored to have Dr. Boufadel participating in this discussion. Michel Boufadel is a professor and Chair at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is a professional environmental engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and he is also a professional hydrologist, accredited by the American Institute of Hydrology. His areas of expertise are environmental hydrology and eco-hydrology where he develops methods to account for changes in the environment due to natural and anthropogenic stressors. He has been the lead researcher on various projects funded by the Oil Spill Research Program within the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and he’s currently investigating the lingering effects of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. His team conducted field studies on various incidents of beaching and exploring remediation technologies for dealing with the twenty-year lingering effects of that spill. He’s conducted flood plain delineation studies for the Federal Emergency Management Agency using hydrological models developed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has also conducted vulnerability studies of watersheds in a project funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and he is associate editor of the Journal of Water Quality Exposure and Health. Finally we have our keynote speaker, Theo Colborn. Dr. Colborn is professor emeritus at the University of Florida Gainesville and is president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, based in Paonia, Colorado. She is an environmental health analyst and is best known for her studies on the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Dr. Colborn earned her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, minors in epidemiology, toxicology and water chemistry, an MA in science at Western State College of Colorado, freshwater ecology, and a BS in pharmacy from Rutgers University College of Pharmacy. Dr. Colborn received a fellowship from the Office of Technology Assessment from the U.S. Congress. From there she joined the Conservation Foundation in 1987 to provide scientific guidance for the 1990 book, Great Lakes, Great Legacy. She held a chair for three years, starting in 1990, with the W. Alton Jones Foundation and was given a three year Pew Fellow Award in 1993. She has served on numerous advisory panels including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Service Advisory Board, the Ecosystem Health Committee of the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, the Science Management Committee of the Toxic Substances Research Initiative of Canada, and on, and on, and on. Theo has received so many awards related to her work in environmental sciences that they’re impossible to list all at once. She is tireless. She is in the field. She is up in the face of regulators. You know the term “national treasure” is tossed around all the time: “Ah, Jack Nicholson, he’s a national treasure.” Theo Colborn is a national treasure who we should be happy to have leading this effort. Theo Colborn: What a lovely crowd, oh my goodness. I began to learn about methane, commonly called natural gas, in 2002 when government incentives to explore and develop natural gas extraction led a company to announce that it would be drilling on top of the Grand Mesa, one of the largest flat top mountains in the world, and what my county and other counties consider its watershed. At that time, natural gas operations had already increased significantly across the western half of Colorado, reflecting the administration’s desire to become less dependent upon foreign energy. Keep in mind that the natural gas industry has been exempted from practically every federal and environmental regulatory law. You cannot depend on the
Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, CERCLA (the Superfund Act), or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to regulate that industry. In other words, the EPA was told back in 2002, “Hands off.” Now I expect most of you in the audience tonight live in the New York City metropolitan area and are here because you are concerned about the water you drink, bathe and shower in, and you want to know what hazards natural gas production could pose to the quantity and quality of your water. So in order to do this I am going to share with you what I saw from the air and on the ground about natural gas production in Colorado and what my team and I have been able to put together about the chemicals that are used during production of the gas. Now keep in mind that my pictures were taken in a unique, arid, western ecosystem, just as your ecosystem and watershed are unique. I was born and raised in northern New Jersey and the last few years that I lived there until I moved to Colorado in 1964, we lived up in Sussex County. The Delaware River watershed was my tramping ground. When the natural gas industry really installs itself in this part of the country, modifications are going to be needed to best protect your life support systems, the water and air, your health and your welfare, under specific conditions here in the east. Here you see natural gas pads on each side of the Colorado River, the source of water for over thirty-three million people downstream. You can also see the four-lane, west to east Interstate 70. This picture looks to the east where you can see the haze over the mountains up toward Aspen. It is called “haze” in the country while it is called “smog” in the city. We will get back to smog a little later in the talk. Throughout my talk I will keep reminding those of you living in the Marcellus Region to not sign any agreements with gas companies until you find out exactly where the well pads are going to be in relation to your home. Start keeping track of the ground level airflow patterns where you live, which can shift several times a day. You should also take into consideration how often inversion howver over your home. Here the plane took a sharp turn to the left so that we could look down below more closely at the well pads: those white patches that look like pockmarks.
Note the spider web appearance of all the unpaved roads. If you look closely at each pad, you will see an open evaporation pit, something that the state of New York does not allow because the evaporation rate is so low here. In the west the production water has been ending up in open pits or holding tanks above and below ground, tanks that will have to be emptied on a regular basis during the life of the well. Lesson number one for this evening: never forget
that when natural gas comes up from the ground, under almost all conditions, it comes up wet. That water has to be removed and put somewhere and that’s going to go on for twenty to twenty-five years. Now here you can zoom in and you can see a closer look at that huge open evaporation pit in the earlier picture on the side of the mountain that services the well in that area. Large water tanks hold the water from the pits on the pads to here, where the water is unloaded at the top to trickle down over the tiered ponds, thus facilitating evaporation. You might even be able to see the misters, the little white dots, which increase the evaporation even more: they’re in that lower-bottom pit where there is still water. In New York the water might be trapped and re-injected underground onsite or pumped to a central injection site, which will require the construction of an additional pipeline, or it will go into a holding tank that will require the delivery of the water to the central injection pipe. New York State does not allow open evaporation pits like this because the humidity is too high in the east. So before I start talking about the products and chemicals used to produce natural gas, we will take a look at four stages of natural gas operations where chemicals are involved: drilling, where the hole is made to reach the gas; fracking, where the underground is disturbed to facilitate the release of the gas from the geological layer or formation in which it is entrapped; treatment, where objectionable materials are removed from the gas; finally, the handling and disposal of the waste fluids and solids containing chemicals. Landowners who choose to allow access to the natural gas under their property should never sign an agreement until every aspect of waste disposal is clearly defined and to their satisfaction. Let’s look at drilling. This well was being drilled on private land surrounded by national forest, not far from my home. The pit at the base of the rig is called a reserve pit and this one is lined with thick, white plastic to hold the cuttings from the drill pipe. Now we saw this about three years ago and we were very pleased to see this new white and thick plastic. On one end, it holds the fluids and the mud that surface during drilling and on the other side it holds the cuttings that come up. These pits below are supposed to be filled in by those reserve pits within thirty days after the well is completed, but if you look below the white-lined pit, you will see that larger pit is just being dug, which will hold the water that’s going to be stripped off the gas as it surfaces right there on the pad. This is a vertical well and that can take three to four weeks of continuous drilling around the clock. At night, the operation is lit up like daytime and the noise from the huge generators and equipment does not stop. This is a mature pad from Garfield County along Divide Creek, where a new well was being drilled. Now this is the creek that is mentioned in the Final Impact Assessment of Natural Gas Production in the New York City watershed report by Hazen and Sawyer. See the temporary reserve pit to the left, here? Again, you can see the cuttings and the fluids. That’s the reserve pit and it has to be closed after this well is dug. We were really surprised that any more drilling could take place on this pad because in 2004 methane began bubbling up in Divide Creek, the creek behind
it there, and in the surrounding neighborhood. Upon investigation it was discovered that the gas also contained high levels of benzene, ninety times the concentration of benzene allowed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Between operator errors, faults and fractures, the methane had migrated horizontally almost four thousand feet and vertically up two thousand feet to surface as a seep into the creek. So lesson number two tonight is that natural gas also comes up out of the ground with other gasses, some of which are noxious like benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene. For short, these are called BTEX and if you are around a gas patch you will hear that words all the time. These chemicals were right along with methane at various concentrations. The EPA had tried to do a study on this and came up with an estimate, but it ranges from about thirteen to maybe about two hundred parts per million coming up with the gas, depending on the geology, where you are and out of what kind of formation it’s coming. Now over four years ago we began to find large operations like this down in the canyons on the Roan Plateau, one of which is called Pion’s Basin, where the well pads now cover more than five acres. It was in this area where much of the latest technology was being tried out and it was supposed to be the most economically efficient way to produce gas. I expect that the large companies will be using this technology to extract gas from the Marcellus and other gas sites in the east. This is a horizontal, or directional, drilling operation and an investment like this would cost a lot more than a vertical well. There are two drill rigs on this site, using a diamond drill, or one of the newer bits that cuts drilling time in half. There are already ten wells on this pad, and you will be able to see them down here in the corner, and then the ten “Christmas trees” where the gas comes up out of the ground. Once drilling starts it continues day and night until finished. Keep this in mind, you can’t stop during drilling and you can’t stop during fracturing either, this would lead to all sorts of serious problems. The two doublewide trailers down in here are the man camps, where the laborers live one site. They work twelve hours off and twelve hours on. We were told that, eventually, there would be at least twenty-eight or thirty wells on this pad, and each well can then be fracked ten times. So easy math means that there could be two hundred and eighty or three hundred fracks done from this one well pad alone. Also notice that the size of the pad has gotten much bigger than what I showed you earlier, with the single wells. For economic reasons, it is common to have multiple wells on a pad. Now New York requires that all wells from a pad must be drilled within three years of the first well. So this means that well owners can expect heavy industrial activity on or near their property for up to three years once the drilling has started, I will show you later on what was accomplished over three years in Colorado from the beginning until when they stopped drilling on that pad. Now what is fracking? Industry has started to use the term “stimulation” instead of fracking for this operational stage. Smart public relations, right? Wells are fractured in order to crumble the shale layer and release the methane, thus increasing the productivity of the well. Fluids are injected under extremely high pressure down the pipe to various predetermined depths, where the gas is embedded, and then the latest state-of-the-art explosives are set off at each perforation in the pipe to cause what the industry describes as “mini earthquakes” to facilitate the release of the gas. Now in this stage, as much as a million gallons or more of fluids are injected under high pressure in Colorado, but in the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, according to estimates coming out of Pennsylvania and New York State, the companies are planning to use three to eight million gallons of fluid for a frack, with about eighty-three hundred tons of chemicals in those fluids. While
that’s a very low percentage, that’s still a lot of chemicals and especially toxic chemicals and they can be dangerous even at low concentrations. So fracking technology will differ slightly from location to location depending on how and in what nature the gas is entrapped. This is an artist’s simple conception of what fracking looks like. In the top-left you see huge compressor trucks that are used to maintain high pressure throughout the procedure, sometimes as long as thirty-six hours around the clock. The tanks represent the large volumes of diesel fuel that must be available at all times to keep the equipment running once a process starts. To the right, try to picture up to a hundred fracking trucks, which hold the fluids to be injected underground. These are on wheels, with lots of fittings for pipes and hoses, as large as a train car, with vents on top. The tanks also serve as receptacles for the flow back fluids when they come to the surface as compression is shut down, the pressure drops and the procedure is coming to an end. Then the pressure from down deep in the well pushes this material back up. So here you see the pipe inserted vertically into the ground, penetrating many geological layers. In western Colorado, gas is found at various depths from four thousand to twelve thousand feet. What you see here is vertical fracking and we are showing four different fractures extending from the pipe that can be every sixty degrees or less, depending on how the pipe was perforated and how it was designed before it was inserted into the ground. Each one of the vents made from that perforation can extend out two thousand feet and more, according to the literature, and may be only a couple of inches in height. So they would extend way out beyond the edge of the pictures here. Horizontal drilling involves gradually making the borehole bend after the hole reaches a predetermined depth. Engineers start bending the pipe when they are sure they are below any possibly usable water. Now under normal circumstances this bend would come and take as much as twenty-five hundred feet of pipe to make it reach the horizontal. They start bending the pipe when they are sure they are below any possible usable water and that, out here in the west, would have been about four hundred feet. The drilling equipment has to be changed at this point as the bend reaches the horizontal. Once the pipe is horizontal it can then be extended another two thousand feet, resulting in a pipeline of almost a mile in length. The advantage of this is that there has to be no equipment above ground from which the gas will be extracted, which could almost be a mile in any direction. Those of you who are going to be living in a gas patch, get a map, go to Google, find your property, then find the nearest well pad and draw a circle with a radius of a mile or more to see if your property ends up in the circle. Drilling it’s a noisy operation: compressors are running, it’s lit up around the clock and it can go on for thirty-six hours, nonstop, at a time. If you live nearby you might be able to feel your house jiggle at each explosive event. Large diesel trucks are driving around constantly and are needed for many purposes: there are dump trucks dumping sand, you will see dozens of fracking tanks at a tilt (the tank’s to hold the fluids for the frack and later to collect the fluids when they come back up to the surface), lots of pipes and hoses and there are forty-two gallon drums of chemicals sitting around on backs of trucks with chemicals ready to be mixed into the fracking slurry. According to estimates, 30% to 70% of the fluids injected underground during fracking are recovered. So far we have not been able to find a peer reviewed publication or study where actual volumes were measured or ingredients analyzed and quantified. The flow-back water can be re-injected on site, hauled off to be re-injected at a central site, or, as in the past out west, put in open evaporation pits. Just last month Congress mandated that the US EPA Office of Research and Development do a study on fracking. Whether the ORD can get a handle on the quantity and quality of the fluids injected, retrieved
and left underground may not be possible with the limited about of money and time it has been given to do this study. We came upon a particular fracking operation while we were looking for the tunnel that had been drilled through a mountain to reduce the long trip to a county road and waste disposal sites. This is just one of the examples that you may think of when you think about how the physical landscape changes when natural gas activity moves in. With this kind of a major operation there’s a tremendous amount of destruction of the natural landscape. If you look to the left, there are thirty-five green fracking tanks, each about the size of a train car, nested side-by-side. We counted almost a hundred tanks on this pad and you can see the white cans of at least eight generator-trucks. During the procedure numerous chemicals, in various combinations, are added to the fluids that are injected underground and here we have them broken up by function. For example, biocides are used to kill bacteria because they can produce acids that corrode pipes and fittings, leading to serious accidents. Some bacteria can produce hydrogen sulfides that smell like rotten eggs and are highly toxic to the brain and nervous system. The bacteria near the surface can produce disagreeable black slime that fouls up pipes and certainly has no eye appeal. Bacteria can also alter the physical characteristics of some of the chemicals in the fluids and undermine their function, such as the gellants used to make water more viscous and heavy in order to add thrust to what is being injected underground. In order to reduce the friction and heat that can be generated by the slick, faster new drilling equipment, friction reducers are used as well as surfactants. For example, micro fine silica appears to be used more and more in many of the newer products that are coming on the market. There are proppants injected to keep the fracture open after the explosion that depend upon foamers and polymers, resins and acrylamides to produce tiny, beadlike plastics along with the sand, that act as ball-bearings to allow the methane to escape up the pipe. All the chemicals do not go into the solution together at the same time but are used in stages that are very carefully worked out by chemical engineers. The technology of fracking, like so many technological advances, is moving forward at a pace so fast that there has not been time to determine its full health and environmental impacts. Let’s take a look at this frack operation that’s going on because it gives me the opportunity to reintroduce the fact that water is not the only life support system at risk in the production of natural gas. First, you can see about a hundred frack tanks lined up over on the right and, to the left, you can see the diesel exhaust blowing up into the air where all of the activity is taking place. You have no idea about the amount of diesel that is used to keep all of this equipment going. Up until three years ago, air quality got little attention in the gas fields. Also, little attention had been given to the amount of methane, or natural gas, that escapes during production and the amount of diesel that is burned to produce natural gas. However, when you add up the exhaust from the labor force’s diesel trucks, the corporate trucks and the huge machinery needed to extract the gas. The exhaust begins to reach very high levels that contain nitrogen oxides, or NOX, as well as volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. When NOX and VOC’s float up into the air in the presence of sunlight, they produce what is called ground-level ozone, especially in areas of high production. We need ozone in the stratosphere to protect us from ultraviolet light, but at ground level it poses a very serious threat to all animals and plant life. One molecule of ozone can burn a hole in the deep alveolar tissue in our lungs. It is well documented that daily exposure to ozone leads to early aging of the lungs, causing them to become brittle and dry. Keep in mind also that the lungs cannot repair this kind of damage. Every exposure incident builds upon damage that was already done. Chronic ozone exposure can cause
asthma, Chronic Obstructed Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, and other pulmonary disorders. Children are especially vulnerable because their lungs continue to grow and enlarge until about age eighteen. As they mature in the presence of ozone, their alveoli production is reduced, resulting in small, brittle lungs like those of an eighty year-old by the time they’re only twenty-eight. Ozone was always thought to be only an urban problem caused by the exhaust from the gasoline combustion in automobiles and volatile organic compounds from gasoline fumes. The same VOC’s are now released from natural gas operations. We now have, in the west, a rural air pollution phenomenon that no one expected would happen. Since most of you are already living in an ozone noncompliance region of the country, any additional sources of ozone precursors should be taken into consideration when issuing permits for natural gas wells. The EPA is seriously thinking of lowering the level of ozone that counties and states should not exceed. In those areas that exceed the attainment level, the community will lose the opportunity to receive federal funding for schools, roads, health services, and other federal funds. Now I have a stack of peer reviewed, large-scale epidemiological studies sitting on my desk that I’ve been wanting to write into a technical paper or review for a journal, but these all looked at the effects of ozone on the human population that corroborate for every ten part per million increase in ozone over forty parts per million, there is a measurable increase in the number of babies born preterm with low birth weight and increasing odds that they will develop asthma. At the same time, at the end of life, aging citizens developed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and ended up in hospitals more often, leading to, in many cases, premature death. Around the world, hospital admissions reflect the ozone levels outdoors. So when the gas first comes up from the ground the water must be stripped off as soon as possible along with other gasses like pentane, propane, and noxious gasses that include the BTEX’s: benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. BTEX also, by the way, does come out of your tailpipe in gasoline driven cars. So before the methane moves into the local delivery pipeline it has to be dried and cleaned up. So here is a pad we visited recently where drilling has ceased, it just took about two and a half to three years from the start to the finish of this pad, but reclamation has not started yet. It took over two and a half years of steady, industrial activity from the first day of operations to what you see here now. This pad employs some of the latest, state-of-the-art technology, and you can see sixteen “Christmas trees,” those pipe like units, where the gas comes up from the ground from each well and each has its own solar panel. To the right, you can see these white “totes,” large plastic drums, each with a solar panel monitoring the air temperature. When the temperature gets near
freezing, methanol is released from these tanks into the gas, coming up out of the ground, to prevent the pipes from freezing and cracking. The reserve pit that was needed for drilling these wells was to the left of this picture and is now filled in. The camera will now swing to the right so that you can see where the water and VOC’s are stripped from the gas. These are called chemical treaters: there is one for every “Christmas tree” or well. You can see the cone-shaped apparatus where the BTEX’s that come up with the gas are vented off. Note the use of some solar panels to produce energy to keep all this equipment going. It is reducing the need for diesel to keep the process running, but if drilling and fracking are going to continue at this scale we need more green energy-based equipment like this. The natural gas is allowed to bubble up through a mixture of two glycols, which are liquids that are very thick, almost syrupy. Diethylene glycol and triethylene glycol have an affinity for water. The glycol mixture absorbs the water, thus taking it out of the methane as the gas bubbles up. When the glycols get saturated with water the heaters turn on and bring the fluids to the boiling point of water. Since the glycols have a very high boiling point they will not boil off but stay in the tank. The water vapors, then, are sent over and recovered in a tank called recovery water. During this process of heating at critical temperatures, oily substances that are in the gas are coming up, so the pipe switches over to allow for the oils to get blown off and over into a separate, condensate, tank. Let me show you here. There would have been the Christmas trees on the left and here’s a big gravel pile that I’m sure they’re going to work on to clean up this site. Here are the heater treaters and then this is where the activity takes place. These tanks are bermed so that if one should leak, as these are made from nothing more than corrugated tin, the leak can be controlled. They look like huge corrugated tin feeders the ranchers put out and are made out of this same kind of material. Earlier on and scattered across Colorado, a lot of these units were sitting open without any fencing. You could get in, the animals could get in and it was quite a problem. Now, however, they are well fenced. Let’s talk more about the tanks: if 75% of the fluid were to leak, it would be held there and there wouldn’t be any runoff. However, for the life of this pad, as long as it keeps producing gas, trucks will have to come on a regular basis and haul off these fluids coming from the heater treater and up here in the left hand corner, to the Condensate Tank and the other tanks that produce water. This will be trucked to a unit that will skim off the oils and then send what water’s left to an open evaporation pit or, perhaps, to an injection site. In Colorado, that water is going to have to be taken well over a hundred miles. What you see on this pad is called stationary equipment. Air pollution comes both from stationary and mobile sources, and you’ve got to keep this in mind. The vehicles that can service this stationary unit, then, will be referred to as mobile units. Also keep in mind that pressure is needed to keep the gas moving through the pipeline in order to get the gas from the primary delivery system into the large long-distance delivery system. The generators inside this building that move those huge fans are, again, producing nitrogen oxides and high levels of BTEX’s. Our mayor from Dish, Texas talked about this, this afternoon: he went out and he started measuring some of this stuff. They’ve got compressors down where he lives. Again, if we were to use infrared cameras, you could reveal the fugitive methane and the other volatile chemicals escaping, not only from these compressors but also from all of the equipment that I have shown you. There is technology available today, however, to build these as closed systems, capturing as much as 90% of the VOC’s that would come off. The original capital outlay is a little high but the larger corporations can afford this. Why aren’t they investing in this? These units can be very noisy also. Yet, when I visited one site in New Mexico, in a housing development about six years ago, it was silent. These companies,
though, are still building these cheaper, unbelievably noisy ones. Now we come to the processing plant. The gas has to be polished once more before it enters the interstate commercial delivery system and here you see a picture of a treatment plant in southwest Colorado that releases huge volumes of foul smelling nitrogen and sulfur-based volatile compounds. Because gas production is so high in this region of the state, British Petroleum came in and built another plant within several miles of this one, which we could not see from the road. This plant takes water out of the local river to wash the gas after the noxious substances have been removed. So in your planning you need to take into consideration where a unit like this will be needed. Your organization should be alert and watch for notices of intent to build one of these units. For economic purposes they will most likely be built near a major pipeline and where clean water is available. Let us now get into the waste handling. Waste fluids and sludge are handled in a number of ways and the following pictures are shown only to remind you that as long as the well is producing and paying royalties, water will come up with the gas and it must be dealt with. Again, before mineral rights owners sign any contracts and permit the industry issue to drill, they should demand a copy of how the liquid and the waste is going to be handled or disposed of. This is the evaporation pit for that wash water plant that we just saw, and here you can see the cannon-like apparatus used to shoot the water in the air. I want you to notice the earthen berm around this pad that has actually begun to corrode. The only reason I went to see this is because they were asking for a permit to extend this over sixty more acres, apparently not having enough space there. Now a pit like this will service a large number of wells for one operator. Plus, we happen to know that Halliburton was involved, as we saw their service trucks constantly at the site. If you look closely you should be able to see a unit like this, which is another source for NOX and VOCâ€™s. There was no netting, by the way, over these pits. Now this facility accepted truckloads of fluids from wells that were up to fifty miles away or more. It would be impossible to collect samples and test for what was in those trucks before the fluid was released. No sampling or accounting for the chemicals in the incoming fluids took place at this unit or any other disposal unit we looked at. Theyâ€™re not measuring the material thatâ€™s going into the earth. So when the pits dry out and become a little oily, the residue is then land farmed and buried in the soil under the assumption that it will biodegrade. However, the biocides and toxic chemicals used during drilling and fracking would undoubtedly make the land incapable of producing much vegetation and making bio-degradation particularly difficult. Quite a few of the products on our nation-wide list contain finely ground silica, which, when it dries, will readily blow around as dust. Silica dust can cause silicosis, a serious lung disorder that can lead to a rapid and lethal form of lung cancer. Fine dust particles increased smog or haze effects of ozone as well. This
facility, by the way, was shut down because ground water containing benzene was found seeping from this facility toward the Colorado River, which was only a mile and a half away. Water trucks are now taking their loads west, one hundred miles one way, into Utah, to a new, open evaporation pit and they’re driving on a highway where the cars drive eighty miles per hour. If you leave western Colorado and drive into Utah on I-70, you will pass a water truck coming back every minute, there’s that much water being hauled into Utah right now. Plus, it’s certainly no fun driving on the highways at those high speeds with those big trucks on the road. Now, let’s take a look at what we know about the chemicals used to produce gas. Tedex’s involvement in this started in 2003 when the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, called OGAP, began sending us material safety data sheets, or MSDS’s. They had been able to acquire, in a number of ways, lawyers who were able to get documents like this through the states who were involved in accidents and spills. OGAP wanted to know what we thought about the quality of the material safety data sheets and the health effects of the chemicals in the products. Now OSHA, that’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, provides a boilerplate outline of what it suggests should be on an MSDS, however the MSDS’s are not sent back to OSHA for approval, so there is no real evaluation of what you are getting from the companies. What appears on the MSDS is solely the responsibility of the project manufacturers. First we only looked at products from Colorado, but then the sheets started coming in from six other western states. Over the past two years they began coming in from across the country, when people like you started getting in touch with us when OGAP initiated working with your local municipalities. Whether we broke the chemicals out by state or whether we lumped them nationally, we kept getting the same pattern of the possible health effects of the chemicals based on fourteen toxicological categories used in government documents and standard, peer-reviewed studies. With what follows, you must keep in mind that we looked only at those products for which we were able to get MSDS’s and, most importantly, many MSDS’s did not provide the complete information of what was in the product. Now the MSDS’s ask for a manufacturers name, a list of hazardous ingredients, identity information, physical and chemical characteristics, fire and explosive hazard data, reactivity, if there is any, and health hazards. Usually, there is a call for eye protection, mask wearing, using respirators and other precautions for safe handling. However, these documents were never completely filled out. We very seldom got one where every single category was filled out. For instance, now there are nine hundred and forty-four products on our multi-state list. Of these products we know between 95% and 100% of the ingredients in one hundred and thirty-one products, or 14% of the products. We know between 51% and 95% of the chemicals in two hundred and eighty-three products, or 30%. We know between 1% and 50% of the chemicals of one hundred and twenty-three products, or 13%. And we know 1% or less of the ingredients in four hundred and seven products, or 43%. So for almost half the barrels, or totes, we end up knowing nearly nothing. Currently there are no laws requiring companies to put everything in a product on a label. What surprised us was to find is that 37% of the products on our list contain endocrine disrupting chemicals. These are chemicals that can interfere with the development of individuals before they are born and they cause irreversible lifetime changes to their health and how they function. An egg laying species has proven to be sensitive to chemicals of this nature at concentrations already found in the environment, starting at the lowest level in the food web. Out of the nine hundred and forty-four products, we ended up with the names of six hundred and thirty-two chemicals, and of those chemicals we were able to specifically identify three hundred and fifty-three
with chemical abstract service numbers, or CAS numbers, that allowed us to trace the chemical to all of its synonyms and search the literature on these health effects. Now information about the other two hundred and seventy-nine chemicals was too inconclusive, ranging from providing only the chemical class, its function, such as a biocide or a foamer, or its ingredient classification as “proprietary”, “blend,” or “mixture.” What you see here is a multi-state assessment of the possible health effects of the chemicals and products for which we had CAS numbers. First let’s look at the two hundred and six chemicals that were water-soluble. The height of the bars tells you how often a certain health category is associated with all of the chemicals on the list. If we go over to the left we’ll see the statistics for skin and eye irritation and sensitization. 95% of the products have that warning. Respiratory problems, over here, pertain to about 89% of the products. This begins to give you a handle on what we were able to find. If it wasn’t on the MSDS sheet, we found this data through peer reviewed literature. So remember now, a chemical can have fourteen health effects, and I’ll walk you across that bar graph in a minute, but it turns out that those health categories were vital systems most often associated with the chemicals starting from the left to the right, including the skin, eye and immediate sensitization. Then immediate and delayed chronic respiratory problems are second and gastrointestinal, brain and nervous system problems are third. Now these effects, in many cases, would occur shortly after exposure and would not be brought to the attention of medical doctors because they would seem minor. These indicator symptoms would include itching, burning skin, burning eyes, sore throat, nausea, sinusitis, flu-like symptoms, nagging cough, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling in hands, arms, legs and feet. If severe reactions were to occur as a result of direct contact to the eyes or chemical burns on the skin, the person would be brought to the emergency room right away. So the adverse health problems, continuing on from left to right, include a variety of systems: immunological, kidney, cardiovascular and heart, cancer and immunogenicity. Then the developmental, reproductive and endocrine processes are all affected. These diagnoses would not be declared immediately but could turn up as chronic health problems months or even years later, which are then impossible to be traced directly to industry exposure. Now the other column includes things like bone disorders and outright death. The ecological damage reflects chemicals that can also adversely affect the organisms in our waterways at the lowest end of the food web. For example, there are now hermaphroditic fish in a lot of our rivers and streams. Here you see the profile for the hundred and twenty-six chemicals that were volatile, showing up with greater frequencies and more chemicals linked with the chronic, long-term disorders. These are the chemicals that if they came out of your faucet, you would be exposed to them not only through ingestion, but also through inhalation and absorption through your skin and eyes. If you’re taking a shower, you really are getting a dose. It is important to point out here where cancer sits on the graph, at about 38%. If you compare that to the 80% of chemicals that can cause brain and nervous system damage, gastrointestinal and liver damage, and skin and eye effects, so it would seem that the chronic health anomalies should be given equal or more attention than cancer, when determining the health risks proposed by those chemicals used in this industry. However, most government safety regulations are primarily based on the risk of cancer. So for a long time we really didn’t understand the greater risks of drilling and believed that drilling processes were benign until we got an urgent request to see if we had any information about the products for which the MSDS’s were being FedExed to us from Wyoming.
There had been a serious blowout during a routine drilling operation. This was a new well, where the drillers had got down to a depth of about eight thousand feet, and something went wrong with the casing near the surface. At extremely high pressure, the well began to blow back out. There were two major cracks at the surface from which drilling muds and noxious gasses flew up into the air and ooze came out of the road cuts that then ran down the county roads. It took fifty-seven hours to get this explosion under control. Now this was adjacent to a housing development, so the company involved agreed to give the local authorities the material safety data sheets for the products used during the operation. These MSDS’s are required by law to be attached to products that contain hazardous chemicals. So the product manufacturers were asked to name the ingredients in the products, especially those that have toxic effects and cause serious damage in order to alert those handling the products, but also the first responders in the case of accidents and spills. Well we ended up with MSDS’s for forty-two products from which we were able to identify thirty-two chemicals. We looked closer at the fifteen chemicals among them that were water soluble and found that all of them could cause mild to serious respiratory, eye, skin irritation, sensitization or allergic reactions. 80% of just those fifteen could cause gastrointestinal problems, ranging from nausea as an immediate reaction, to long-term liver damage. Now you see the problems caused by the eight volatile compounds and it was not surprising to hear that the people living in the area had to be evacuated using respirators. Ultimately, they had to stay away from their homes for days because of the air pollution that the blowout created. After this event we were sent the test results from six New Mexico evaporation pits by the New Mexico Gas Association, which they gave to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Commission. Bill Richardson was getting concerned because there had been active gas fields in the southwest and northwest corners of New Mexico for years and they were starting to dry out. He wanted to know what was in the pits, as they were very depleted wells and were scheduled to be shut down in the near future. Now the health effects of the forty-two chemicals and metals that were detected produced a health pattern even more hazardous than the patterns of the chemicals found in our spreadsheet for the state of New Mexico. In addition, some chemicals were found in extremely high concentrations, well above New Mexico and federal safety levels. However, only eight chemicals detected in the pits matched the chemicals that companies reported using in New Mexico. Upon looking at the chemical testing protocols, I said, “What’s going on here, what did they test? Send me the protocols that they tested these chemicals with.” We found that, except for seven toxic metals and naphthalene, the laboratory did not test for the other chemicals that we have on our list and are being used in New Mexico. So we need to look carefully at the kind of information we are getting, trace the information back to the source and really figure out where that information was coming from. Then we went on and found that over 90% of the chemicals reported in the pits were on the Superfund list of toxic chemicals. Now this is the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Reliability act of 2005, that’s CERCLA, and EPCRA, which is the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, list of lists of 2006, which raises questions of how did these Superfund chemicals get into the pits. Just before I close, I want to remind you once again about air pollution. In 2009, scientists with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, reported wintertime ozone in the Wyoming Jonah Pinedale Anticline gas field rising to more than one hundred and forty parts per billion. Prior to
that, Pinedale and the Jackson Hole area hit a hundred and fifty-five parts per billion on another occasion that winter. Jackson Hole had to shut down its ski areas and children had to stay indoors. Your city and your watershed lie in what EPA has already designated a non-attainment area for ozone. Keep in mind that ozone plumes can extend as far as two hundred miles or more from the source of the NOX and the VOC’s. Similar to the alveoli in our lungs, the stomata in the leaves of deciduous trees and conifers suffer ozone burns. Reduced growth rates, increased susceptibility to disease and early death have been attributed to groundlevel ozone. The poor growth of the evergreen forests, commercial tree species and food and forage crops across the United States can be attributed to levels of ozone starting at fifty parts per billion. Possibly most importantly, all of our trees are the keepers of our water. Where I live, they make it possible for us to have water almost year-round by slowing down snowmelt and runoff. Not only does ozone pose a direct threat to human health, but it can also pose a covert threat to our shrinking freshwater supplies and forests by weakening our trees. So we know now that wherever natural gas is going to commence or increase, air pollution must be treated as seriously as water pollution. Downwind effects on agriculture and those living in rural areas must now be taken into consideration in the expansion of natural gas production. I am sure that you are here tonight because you are concerned about the possible hazards posed to your drinking water but you may find that the quickest and most efficient way to get a handle on those hazards is indirectly through the federal ozone compliance regulations. In closing, as technology has enabled the size and the scope of natural gas extraction to increase over the past decade, so the number of chemicals has increased, putting our air, water and citizens at risk. From a public health perspective, the time has come for full disclosure of everything in products used for extracting and delivering natural gas. We need to watch the new legal language closely and better understand the recommended revisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act, often called TSCA, that was released today. I haven’t had the chance to read the one hundred and ninety pages yet but there’s a section in TSCA called CBI, Confidential Business Information. I have been working with many big box stores, with the people who are selling the products, but have no idea what is in those products. Most importantly, however, is that the people want to know and be able to choose what kinds of products they sell to their neighbors. In working with these people we had hoped that we could get a strong section in the Toxic Substances Control Act. Tomorrow, I want you all to go to your computers, pull down that law and read it because I have an awful feeling. It is so general and I’m afraid that we’re not going to get full disclosure in TSCA. I need to show you the people who have supported our work and I do have to tell you that there are a lot of people in the EPA who wanted to do as much as they possibly could. Through an environmental justice grant, I was able to get the money to continue working and bring in someone part-time. That grant, of course, has expired and there’s no more money from EPA, but these are the kind of people that’s helped us. This
is our website: www.endocrinedisruption.org. If you go there you will get a lot of this information: we put our data online and anyone can have it. We have a section called “Natural Gas.” Open up that tab and you’ll be able to review a version of this lecture on the website. Lastly, we’re counting on you to lead the way because we’ve struggled in the west. We haven’t made much progress and we’re all counting on New York and New York City to lead the way and protect our wonderful life-support systems. Thank you. KB: Hold on, before some of you start screaming out, we’re going to hand the microphone to Michel Boufadel. We’re running a little late here, but you’re all welcome to stay. We’re then going from Michel to Al Appleton. Thank you Theo, it was an incredible address. Thank you for all your hard work. MB: I’m going to talk about the comprehensive evaluation of environmental and health effects related to natural gas extraction. Here’s the problem: when I started investigating this topic, I could not find enough literature or studies conducted by independent entities, whether they were universities or research centers. Most of the studies that I found were funded by industry. So that’s one of the biggest problems we’re dealing with here. The main idea is that we need to conduct a risk assessment study and to go over something called the precautionary principle, which reads as follows: “when human activities lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, action shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.” What I was going to talk about at length is that we are not going to continue with the idea that there should be no risk in any activity. We are currently comparing to existing risk. The question is, “Does the precautionary principle apply in the context of natural gas extraction?” and the answer is yes. Then, what does this mean in terms of regulations, environmental and health risks, and the natural gas extraction process? In essence, there is a basis for conducting a risk assessment study and it is not an issue of freedom of information, otherwise we would be conducting studies on every topic that comes to mind. Now how does one conduct a risk assessment study? There is a guideline given by the Agency of Toxic Substance and Disease Registry outlining what I am going to go through in five steps. Just one thing to note: sometimes when you hear the words “public health,” it still has to be distinguished from “children’s health” because children are affected to a greater extent by external contaminants than adults. Something that is viewed as not affecting public health could still be damaging to children’s health. The first thing to do is to figure out what are the comparison values of the chemicals you are dealing with. There are guidelines for these values; in this case here I mentioned what’s called the maximum concentration limit, the MCL, that’s commonly used for drinking water. The next thing to do is to figure out the exposure pathways. In this case you go over what is the source of contamination,
which are these toxic contaminates, and we know that the frack water, as Dr. Colborn has explained, contains toxic chemicals. We know that these chemicals exist in the frack water, such as benzene and heavy metals. The medium of exposure could be leakage from the water pits or groundwater flow during transportation. Mind you, that’s just the water, you could also have issues related to air quality. Then you deal with what is called the point of contamination, whether it is a drinking water well, water supply or a river, and then the exposure route, whether it is ingestion or skin contact. Then you must consider the susceptible population: local residents or any population that is served by this contaminated water. Then you conduct what’s called the dose of exposure. For example, you start with a dose (for a child, it would be about milligram of the contaminants per kilogram) per day. Then you take the concentration that you found, you multiply it by the estimated weight of the child, say twenty pounds, and then you multiply that by two liters per day, say half a gallon per day. Based on this analysis you could obtain the comparison to other chronic reference doses. Everything I discussed is typically done by environmental engineers but the toxicology review requires the expertise of physicians. There are some guidelines: the no observed effect level and the lowest observed effect level. The point that I’m stressing here is the fact that risk assessment is just not something where we say, “Let’s evaluate the risk out of the blue.” There are very clear guidelines to do so and they are not very difficult in principle. The last part is, what are the implications and then, what should be done for limiting exposure? In talking about the pathways, if the five elements exist, then you have what is called the Complete Pathway. If one or more is missing, but could reappear, then you have what’s called Potential Pathway. If you’re lucky, you get what’s called a Limited Pathway, meaning there is no impact. As Dr. Colborn explained, we don’t understand the potential impacts of about 50% of the chemicals that exist in that water. There were no studies conducted to see what the toxicological impacts are. In addition to that, if you know the effect of one compound, you might not know the effect of that compound when it is mixed with another compound. So you don’t know the combined effects. What we proposed is an experiment with indicator organisms. This is similar to the canary in the coalmine concept, but we like canaries so instead we used the Daphna magna.You don’t have to kill it: when Daphna magna is exposed, its genes light up based on the stress to which they are subjected. Based on these readings and micro-toxicity results, you would detect what is causing the stress on these micro-organisms, be it toxicity, endocrine disruption or any other stressor. In terms of pathways, I was going to talk about the air pollution, groundwater and streams. In introducing air pathways, I want to just mention this study conducted in Southern Methodist University for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They found that the amount of NOX and VOC emissions obtained from all mobile sources, such the cars that are regularly driving, is about two hundred seventy-three tons per day. The amount that is due to the oil and gas operation is almost the same; so just by having gas drilling in your area you are doubling, instantaneously, the amount of air pollution in your area. Now the impact of air pollution is generally local as you have a growing exposure to NOX that could lead to a host of problems. It could also lead to asthma and other developmental disorders. However, there are also regional effects. Essentially, as these chemicals migrate, they will interact with other chemicals and an area may develop smog or aerosols. These are small dust particles that could enter the lungs, causing severe pulmonary problems. Therefore, the affect on air quality is not only local but can also have widespread, regional effects. This is what we proposed: we believe that there should be detailed models to account for the movement of an air mass along with the interaction with existing air masses. There should also be a
model to trak the resultant smog and aerosols. Now let’s look at groundwater. Here is a brine solution from a sample of ground water that was extracted along with the natural gas. You can also see that when they get this water out from the ground, it is contaminated with toxic chemicals. Now what do we know about the water that we get back from the ground? We know that it contains hazardous chemicals. We know that it contains naturally occurring radioactive matter, or NORM. We know that the brine is six times more saline than seawater and we know that it is about 20% heavier than fresh water, whereas seawater is only about 2% by comparison. So what happens? Existing conceptual approach for dealing with groundwater pollution does not account for the high density of the brine. This location, here, is the pit and this dashed line is the water table. Here you have what’s called monitoring wells and you place these in an area to ensure that there will be no pollution of site. Now the top slide is the traditional model and the lower one is what really happens. After one year, you expect the pollutant to move with the groundwater gradient, from left to right. Well, you can see that it’s sinking and it continues to sink for two years. You would expect it to actually hit your monitoring well, here. But in reality, it’s moving away from it. After seven years, you’re surprised that your well is not affected because you expected the pollutants to hit it. After ten years, you say, “Ok, there’s pollution in this well.” However, by that time it’s too late and your aquifer is completely contaminated. Everything is happening deep below the surface. So when we hear the expression that we need more inspectors on site, I don’t know what they’re going to do with such a spill. Now you have this well on the right-hand side, it’s contaminated, whereas the well in the middle is not. Now you think that the neighbor at the right has a problem. You think that the pollution’s coming from the righthand side and not coming from the actual source. Therefore, there needs to be more advanced models for reading such pollution data. Keep in mind that all this analysis is after fifty years after the initial contamination. After two hundred years, you still have contaminants in the aquifer. The top one is the fictitious scenario, the bottom one is what could happen. After a hundred years the contaminant is still in the aquifer and that’s the major issue. It’s not about monitoring. Sometimes we will be lucky if there is contamination because we know then to take action but we’re dealing with a situation where the company could pack and leave. Twenty years later, you have a pollution problem and you don’t know who the liable entity is. I’m going to talk about a case briefly where there was a spill at the site called Robson Well. What happened here was, during the construction, something went wrong. This brine water had escaped the containment ponds and was killing the trees in its path. The companies tracked the water’s motion by using electrical conductivity, as brine water is much more conductive than fresh water. However, we already know that brine is not going to stay near the surface; it’s going to sink deep. So we would take a slice of the terrain, through the pad, and simulate how the contaminant might move. You can see that the contaminant is moving; a big part of it is deep below the surface, about thirty feet deep. There’s only a small amount on the surface so it is easy to underestimate the extent of the pollution. Think about it like an iceberg: you know that the visible tip doesn’t tell the whole story. This simulation is in days and you can see that it takes about a year for the polluted water to clear out of the aquifer. However, we must ask, where is it going? It’s going to the river, so let’s now talk about rivers. Here is the Delaware River. It’s edge and banks are pretty smooth, whereas its surrounding streams have very rough bathymetry. This is a study conducted by one of our students and you can see what are called dead zones. The water is coming from this direction and you have some sort of a pond here on the
left but this water is not highly connected to the main channel water. Here I will show a simulation of a spill that occurred over two hours in a straight channel, which behaves like a major river. The top of the graph is how many hours it takes for the contaminant to dilute to a safe level. After the injection stopped, you can see that the system would clean itself out within five to six hours. So if the bathymetry of the river or stream is pretty smooth it will clean itself within a short period of time. Then imagine that we have a pond with a dead zone or stagnant zone on the edge of it. What would happen? Initially we see that the pond area gets filled up with the contaminant and then after two hours there are no more leaks. Now you have a system where this pond acts as kind of contamination reservoir that keeps bleeding over a very long time. Whereas in the other case, the river cleaned out in maybe five to six hours, here you could go up for forty-eight hours and every now and then you can see a pulse of contaminants seeping out. These are the challenges when you are dealing with spills in small streams. Now the next thing I’m going to do is show you an illustration at the bottom of this stream. I’m going to compare the straight channel to this one for us to learn what happens. Here is a plot of the concentration of the contaminant as function of time, in hours, at the same location. In the straight channel, you can see that the concentration goes higher where there’s less dilution because the pond was able to absorb some of the intensity of the pulse. Based on this, where the concentration is lower, you might say it’s good news. Let’s keep watching. As time progresses, the concentration in the real system doesn’t drop very quickly to zero. So, whereas in the idealized case, the concentration drops down to zero within, let’s say, a week, in the real case, it would actually be there for as may as ten weeks. Ultimately, in the case where the concentration of contaminants appears lower and is assumed to be more benign, in actuality it’s lingering effects cause greater long-term problems for the ecosystem of the waterways. In conclusion, what we propose is something called risk maps. Now we are all familiar with floodplain maps. These are maps for indicating where the hundred-year flood could hit. We propose developing such maps for the water and air sheds. We could then go to a community and tell them, “Ok, the chance of having this particular risk in your area maybe one in ten thousand.” We could tell the policy makers and let the citizens make the right decisions with all the information that we can provide. Another issue is the cumulative impact study, which is not really a novel concept. These studies exist for estuaries and other natural systems, plus there is the concept of TMDL’s, Total Maximum Daily Load, which means that any company that is going to be installed in that region would be required to not exceed a certain level of pollution in that body of water. We need to do the same thing in terms of the density of wells. If we decide that drilling can be tolerated, then we could say ok, there can be no more than one well every ten miles. We need strict guidelines for communities. I do believe that monitoring is not sufficient, it’s like waiting for the crime to happen. You need to take a proactive approach and conduct aggressive risk assessment studies to help us look at the long-term effects. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Sandeep Shah and my graduate students. I would also acknowledge the fruitful discussions with the Damascus Citizens folks, Barbara Arrendale and Jeff Zimmerman. Thank you. KB: Ok Al, we’re going to ask you to wrap it up. It’s a real testament to how committed everyone is that they’re staying through all of this. It’s all yours. AA: When I talk to natural gas executives, they look around and say, “This is a trillion dollar new industry. It’s energy security for the United States. It’s new jobs in poor, rural areas. It’s less pollution than if we were burning coal.” So I say, “If this industry is going to produce such infinite oodles of money,
why can’t you invest in this kind of inquisitive science.” “Oh, well that’s over regulation. That’s not the American way. That’s not the free market.” Well that’s 20th century thinking and we have got to move quickly into a 21st century frame of mind. What we’ve got here, and I want to go back to what Kevin said when he introduced this program, is hype; we have, “this is the new energy economy of the future, this is the transition fuel to global warming, this is the fuel that everybody is for, expect of course for some anecdotal incidents of trouble for a small percentage of people. They’re zealots, these environmental people who don’t know how to balance the environment and the economy.” Well perhaps, but something doesn’t add up here. Something does not add up in this political debate about what is going on. More importantly, the money does not add up. This trillion dollar industry is only a “trillion dollar industry” because it’s not counting all of the costs. It’s not counting all of the costs that Theo talked about, it’s not talking about all of the costs that Michel talked about, it’s not counting all the costs that some other very good people in this room talked about. Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, Texas, for example, is struggling with more air pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that most people in the nation. None of these costs are being counted, and once you add up the total costs some different results emerge. In upstate New York, the Chesapeake Natural Gas Company, which prides itself on, what it claims is, an exemplary environmental record, proposed to build a deep-injection well half a mile from Lake Keuka, the heart of the Finger Lake wine country and a multi-billion dollar industry. This was the area where they decided to dispose of much of their waste water. An enormous public outcry drove them away from that position as just an enormous public outcry drove them away from the first place they proposed to draw water from: the Delaware River, probably one of the most environmentally sensitive areas you could pick. As I told a different gas company, you couldn’t pay for this kind of stupidity if you were engaged in a political campaign to try to get a more balanced approach to these issues. That is essentially, as Theo was telling us, an industry that depends on the use of chemicals. I have to make it clear, however, that this chemical use is intentionally antagonistic, they’re not doing this in a nasty way, but they do need the sand and the liquid to break the shale, and if you put sand in the water, sand sinks. They have to have something to hold the sand in the solution while it’s going into the crack and being jammed into the shale. It turns out that all of the materials that have the right specific gravity to do the job are these very nasty chemical compounds you saw on the screen earlier. When we don’t count these costs, when we don’t count the costs of air pollution, we get a different equation about natural gas fracking and it’s that equation that is increasingly becoming the hype of the national-political debate. As the kind of science you saw tonight has been put up on the screen, as the kind of stories are played out in the movies Gasland and Separate Estates, as these issues move into the public consciousness, we get a very different analysis run by these costs and this is a particularly important analysis for us. This is an industry that grew up in the inner-mountain west under the protective wing of Dick Cheney, who essentially exempted them from all sorts of environmental requirements. It’s amusing to me that the natural gas industry does not have to comply with the environmental regulations that your neighborhood drycleaner has to comply with as does virtually every other business in the United States. But under Cheney’s wing they grew up. They grew up in a countryside that was flat, arid, lightly populated, mostly publicly owned, at least in respect to the mineral rights, and politically conservative. These are the kinds of communities that do not have the kind of organize-at-the-drop-of-a-hat culture that we have in the
northeast. They brought the same industry culture, the same political slogans, the same promises to us. We who live in rural areas that are hilly, that are wet, that are densely populated, that are mostly privately owned, and that do believe in organizing to defend our rights and are confronting the industry in a different way. This should not be seen as just a battle between the environment and the economy because the economic subsidies that the externalization of environmental costs gives to this industry are essentially a huge factor in choosing your energy future. The industry likes to compare its pollution impact, its energy signature, to coal, and many environmental and community institutions quite frankly have been taken in by this argument because they hate coal so much. You know, they think coal is the ultimate villain in the global warming, great energy debate, with images of the mountaintop mining in the Appalachians and the mercury emissions. There are issues of coal, there’s no doubt about it, but the single definitive question, the question that I personally believe is going to settle debate nationally, is that the right comparison with natural gas fracking is actually with green energy. I want you to think about green energy for a minute: green energy is producing the same thing that oil and natural gas is. It’s producing electricity and home heating. Green energy is the competitor for natural gas. Now how does this issue get dealt with by the fracking gas industry? I mention fracking gas specifically because we’ve got a bad vocabulary here. Conventional natural gas, which gave natural gas its good reputation, has a much different and much smaller sweep of environmental consequences, so I’m going to call this contemporary issue fracking natural gas. Fracking natural gas is competing with green energy and green energy strategies. Every dollar we use to subsidize, directly or indirectly, fracked gas is a dollar that does not go to green energy. Every time Boon Pickens goes down to Congress and says, “I’ve got this trillion dollar industry and all we need to make it happen is you have to pay me and my friends to set up a new natural gas industry” because somehow, when it comes to this immensely profitable industry, they still need oodles of federal subsidies, somehow this immensely profitable industry has to fight royalty bills in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and New York so that these immense profits are not going to be shared by the public. Every dollar that is used to carry this industry is a dollar that does not go to green energy and that’s the ultimate choice here, the choice that we cannot allow to be ignored. What is natural gas a transition fuel to? Where is natural gas going to actually transition us? The British, to meet environmental mandates established in Kyoto, converted all their coal burning plants to natural gas. They got one big emissions reduction and since then nothing else has happened. In that classic British phrase, “it was a one off.” It didn’t build anything for the future. Black energy, energy that burns carbon, is the past. Green energy is the future. If he we heed the messages of the scientists, if we heed the messages of the energy economists, if we heed the messages of the atmospheric sciences that say,” Natural gas is better compared to coal when you’re burning it, but when you’re producing it, and we do a total carbon accounting, we got a lot of different stories, starting with the fact that the methane that, including when leaking from natural gas drill sites, is twelve times as potent a greenhouse emission as carbon dioxide. What is going on here is a battle between a past, in which the hydrocarbon industry was carried in the 20th Century by the externalizing of costs, which has culminated ultimately in global warming versus the future. We are going to try to have an energy source that lives with the limitations of the planet and this is an enormous transition. For the first time people, like Theo, like Dr. Boufadel, like a hundred other people across the country, are standing up and saying, “How do we cost this thing?” Does this word “sustainability” mean anything? Sustainability is the idea that what we do for the economy is good for the environment and what we do for the environment is good for the economy.
Ultimately, this started off as an environment versus an economy issue. My involvement with this began after two things happened: when Kevin Bone said, “You know, I’ve got a partner and he’s got a little problem up in Wayne County. Could you have lunch with him?” It also started because fifteen years ago in an act I remain immensely proud of, I led a campaign to save the New York City watershed and created the watershed campaign. I find it incomprehensible that this sustainable resource that has supported this city for a hundred and sixty years, and which many of the individuals who built this institution fought for successfully in the 1840’s against the shortsighted, the stupid and the “we cannot afford to do it right” crowd, I find it incomprehensible how people are actually proposing, as Kevin said, for the sake of a resource we can replicate elsewhere, to destroy resources like the New York City watershed, like the Delaware River Basin. Maybe, as Michel reminds us, we’re not talking about destroying them, maybe we’re just talking about risks. Then what level of risk is acceptable when we’re talking about the drinking water of nine million people? Does the preventative precautionary principle mean anything to us at all? What level of risk is acceptable in the Delaware River Basin Commission. I don’t know, there are many people in this country who want gas fracking; I think they’ll become millionaires because of it. I’m not prepared to say that we should shut down all those hopes, but what I am prepared to say that if we don’t pursue those hopes in the context that Theo and Michel have laid out for us yes, then, we need to shut this industry down. We do need, before we subsidize this industry, to put this money into green energy. I was testifying in front of Congress last year and a Louisiana Congressman asked me, “Well, does this mean you want higher energy prices,” because I was talking about, you know, green energy and safe energy and he said, “Well I’m not sure my constituents would like this.” It was only courtesy to the chairman that I did not say back, “Well I don’t think that the shrimp catchers in southern Louisiana who are losing their wetlands from the channels that Exxon has dug out might have the same view of this particular problem.” The key to understanding the concept sustainability is cost. Not just environmental cost against the economy, but making the costs of the economy work for the environment. The challenge we face is a health challenge, an environmental challenge, a resource challenge, an infrastructure challenge, but above all, it is a debate of fact against fantasy. The fact of the matter is, if we are dealing with industries, if we are dealing with coal-bed methane and tar-shale and tar-sands oil, that cannot afford or do not want to do this kind of science as a preparation to using their resources, then I think that says something. I think that says what our other speakers have said this afternoon and evening. I think it says that we have to think about this and that this choice, whether we like it or not, is the choice that is going to determine whether or not we head out on a green future or whether or not we are willing to abandon the black energy of the past. On behalf of Cooper Union, which I am now proud to be an adjunct faculty member, I would like to bring back Kevin Bone to close the evening. KB: That was fantastic. You know, Mayor Tillman traveled up from Texas on his own dime to be a part of this, and we had people coming from all over: Josh Fox, Deborah Anderson. The commitment by the community is huge. The grassroots effort by Damascus Citizens, by NYH2O, and Joe Levine has pushed this battle forwards. As Josh said when he showed his film clip this afternoon, once this impacts people it becomes their lives. From the moment the drilling came to their ranches their life was forever changed. It became their occupation to try to seek fairness. We appreciate all of you staying over two hours here tonight. Next Thursday night we have the incredible Helena Norberg-Hodge coming to lecture in this auditorium, so we invite you all back then.Theo, Michel, Al, thank you very much for a great evening.
FOLLOW UP June 1 Green Buildings & Perverse Incentives From the Sallan Foundationâ€™s News and Views By Albert F. Appleton Though hard to do, the key to creating a sustainable world is easy to state. Currently, our economic system regards environmental protection as a cost center, as a burden on wealth creation. But the truth is that protecting and restoring the environment is the ultimate profit center; one that can provide the wealth needed to create a sustainable planet. The biggest obstacle to building such a sustainable economy is perverse incentives. Incentives, generations of economists have demonstrated, are what drive economic behavior. Perverse incentives are those that reward economic behaviors that are environmentally destructive, destroying more wealth than they create. Perverse incentives do this in several ways. They produce under-priced products, encouraging overuse. They allow those who profit from a product to displace the costs of using it on someone else, reducing net wealth. They undermine competition and innovation by making it harder for new and better products and services to succeed. As society is trying to redesign its economic systems to reward sustainable behavior, perverse incentives encourage the public to continue to act in unsustainable ways. Perverse incentives riddle the American economy. Attempts to keep development out of disaster prone coastal zones and flood plains fight low cost householdersâ€™ insurance and government built infrastructure. Recycling fights against a Federal tax code that promotes the use of virgin materials. The property tax system promotes sprawl and undermines local agriculture. Perverse incentives are a major obstacle to green buildings. Most practitioners recognize that a builderâ€™s incentive is to buy the cheapest possible appliances and heating systems, thereby keeping his sale price as low as possible, even though such utilities are invariably the most wasteful and expensive for the building purchaser to operate. Building codes and industry guidelines preserve norms that once represented cutting edge building practice, but now
clash with green building ideals. Even systems like LEEDs can become bureaucratically clumsy and formalistic, discouraging innovation and constraining the ability of green buildings measure to lower total building costs. Two obstacles green buildings face deserve special discussion. The first is the American cultural bias in favor of making new stuff, instead of better managing what is already there. Many have argued that cultural bias is not strictly a perverse incentive. But one need not take sides in that theoreticiansâ€™ debate to recognize that the consequences of cultural bias and perverse economic and regulatory incentives are basically the same. If, out of a cultural bias in favor of the new, one opts for a non-sustainable course of action, the result is the same as if that choice was driven by a perverse economic structure. At least one recent study has suggested that many LEED building have not obtained their anticipated energy use savings due to failures of routine building systems management. Sophisticated managers know that many small operational changes consistently pursued often add up to more savings than facility retrofits, and are easier and faster to implement. They also know that supposedly cutting edge technologies must be designed with an eye to ease of operation. But making something new too often seems more exciting than making something existing work better. The second obstacle is, by any definition, a perverse incentive. Green energy and energy conservation are at the heart of societal hopes for green buildings. But they directly compete on price against black energy, the various forms of hydrocarbon combustion. Black energy sources all benefit from a large array of perverse incentives, including the greatest perverse incentive of all, externalization of pollution costs. The more the costs of black energy are lowered by perverse incentives, the harder it is to make green energy economically viable, even with its own subsidies. Where this is of the most immediate concern for the New York green buildings industry is in the support the New York State government is currently giving to the development of what the natural gas industry calls unconventional natural gas sources meaning natural gas obtained by new technologies of shale fracking. Unfortunately, unlike conventional natural gas sources, shale fracking comes with major environmental costs, in damage to water resources and rural landscapes. This gives natural gas from shale fracking (and 90% of future natural gas drilling is projected to be shale gas fracking) an enormous price subsidy, one that represents nothing less than a stab in the back for green energy, and thus for green buildings. For New York State to be promoting shale fracked natural gas obtained at the price of water resources such as the New York City watershed and rural landscapes such as the Finger Lake wine country is an extraordinary example of perverse incentives. The green buildings industry needs to recognize this and, as a matter of pure self-interest, join in the battle to stop pollutionexternalizing shale fracking. For if shale fracked natural gas succeeds in fighting off the current efforts to halt its externalization of its pollution costs, its artificially low price will drain the economic viability out of the green energy that is an essential component of green buildings, ghettoizing it as a sideshow incapable of reaching critical mass for decades. The green buildings movement needs to devote the same level of intensity it currently focuses on technological innovation to addressing these issues of perverse incentives. No amount of technological ingenuity will enable green buildings to succeed if they must compete against pollution-subsidized shale fracked natural gas energy or the forces of perverse incentives and counterproductive cultural biases.
EPILOGUE The struggle continues but an incredible movement has taken root in challenging the efficacy of natural-gas fracking. Al Appleton is at the front of the hydro-fracking discourse. On June 1st, in Philadelphia’s City Hall, Professor Appleton spoke at the campaign launch by American Rivers, a national environmental organization based in Washington D.C., to protect the Upper Delaware River. He discussed the consequenes of hydro-fracking and the potential danger it poses to our watersystems. Assemblyman Jim Brennan is tirelessly pushing for new legislation in the New York State Assembly to regulate natural-gas operations. Current bills include Bill A01322, which establishes a moratorium on the issuance of permits for the drilling of wells and prohibits drilling within ten miles of the New York City water supply infrastructure; Bill A060801, which relates to the completion of an annual energy plan by the power authority of the state of New York and the Long Island power authority; Bill A08346B, which requires those responsible for submitting budget proposals to report on the consumption of energy and the projected consumption of energy; and Bill A08748, which is an act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the regulation of the drilling of natural gas resources. This last bill will ensure that the exploitation of shale natural-gas resoures is conducted in a manner that is consistent with and supportive of New York State’s commitment to development, energy and environmental policies. Theo Colborn continues to push her own research of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in relation to natural-gas fracking and has been leading the continuing discussion of these issues through cooperative groups like Democracy, Now!, National Public Radio, and Planet Green. Gasland, Josh Fox’s groundbreaking documentary, premiered on June 21st on HBO and his voice was heard throughout television and radio, bringing these critical issues into homes around the nation. Josh appeared on WNYC’s “Leonard Lopate Show” and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” to discuss the possible hazards of domestic natural-gas drilling. In providing legal counsel to Damascus Citizens, Jeff Zimmerman was able to help in the filing of multiple legal notices against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for failing to review “exploratory” or “test” wells within the “Special Protection Waters” of the Upper Delaware River Basin Watershed. The legal notice includes a request for a regulatory hearing to address this lack of review. These legal actions are intended to prevent the DRBC from granting blanket exclusions for “exploratory” and/or “test” wells.
This issue has consistently been in the news, prompting a greater awareness of and dialogue around the consequences of natural-gas fracking. On June 21, 2010, Vanity Fair printed an article entitled, “A Colossal Fracking Mess: The Dirty Truth Behind the New Natural Gas,” which explored the imminent threat to the Delaware River and it’s prisitne watershed. Vanity Fair also went into detail about the devastation of communities, such as Dimock, Pennsylvania, as a result of natural-gas fracking. One June 20, 2010, The Times-Tribune pubished an article outlining, in detail, the processes and consequences of natural-gas drilling and hydro-fracking in the Marcellus Shale, entited “Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling: Environmental Woes Could Linger.” One June 16, 2010, Scientific American printed an article entitled, “The Drillers are Coming: Debate Over Hydraulic Fracturing Heats Up.” This piece outlined the energy potential of the Marcellus Shale region and the consequential risks of watershed and aquifer contamination. One June 3, 2010, The Nation printed an article entitled, “The Next Drilling Disaster?” that exposed the current conditions in Dimock, Pennsylvania, where the natural-gas industry has concentrated a lot of its activity. The article outlined the various fracking processes and risks of such procedures.
Link Archive ALLARM: Alliance of Aquatic Resource Monitoring www.dickinson.edu/about/sustainability/allarm American Littoral Society www.littoralsociety.org Appalachian Voices http://appalachianvoices.org ARM: Alaskans for Responsible Mining www.reformakmines.org C-SAW: Consortium for Scientific Assistance to Watersheds http://pa.water.usgs.gov/csaw Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy www.catskillcitizens.org Catskill Mountain Keeper www.catskillmountainkeeper.org Damascus Citizens www.damascuscitizens.org Delaware River Keeper www.delawareriverkeeper.org Earthworksâ€™ Earthblog www.earthblog.org Gasland Official Webite http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/gasland/index.html Hazen and Sawyer Final Impact Assessment Study www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/natural_gas_drilling/12_23_2009_final_ assessment_report.pdf Manhattan Borough Presidentâ€™s Office: Kill the Drill www.mbpo.org/release NRCS: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service www.nrcs.usda.org NYH2O: Defending Water for All New Yorkers www.nyh2o.org OGAP: The Oil and Gas Accountability Project www.earthworksaction.org/oil_gas.cfm Pennsylvania Lake Management Study http://palakes.org
Protecting Our Waters https://protectingourwater.wordpress.com Skytruth: Independent geographic documentation www.skytruth.org Stroud Water Research Center www.stroudcenter.org TEDX: The Endocrine Disruption Exchange www.endocrinedisruption.org United States EPA Watershed Initiative www.epa.gov/owow/watershed USGS: United States Geological Survey www.usgs.gov
Western PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation www.wpcamr.org Wilkes University Center for Environmental Quality www.water-research.net