Oil, black gold ,Texas Tea. The U.S is the middle of an oil rush. The Energy rush has created boom towns. six of the nation’s top 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas are in or near the Great Plains. This includes oil towns like Odessa and Midland in Texas, as well as regional centers like Bismarck and Fargo in North Dakota.
Looking for a job? Try North Dakota. In a new recruiting campaign to be rolled out in May, the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation is aiming to fill more than 20,000 job openings.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the foundation of this old rush.
What is Fracking?
Studies estimate that up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing to properly complete well setup.
In a hydraulic fracturing job, “fracturing fluids” or “pumping fluids” consisting primarily of water and sand are injected under high pressure into the producing formation, creating fissures that allow resources to move freely from rock pores where it is trapped.
While 99.5 percent of the fluids used consist of water and sand, some chemicals are added to improve the flow. The composition of the chemical mixes varies from well to well.
In January, USA Today reported four states confirmed water pollution from drilling . And while the confirmed problems represent only a tiny portion of the thousands of oil and gas wells drilled each year in the U.S., the lack of detail in some state reports could help fuel public confusion and mistrust.
Some people who rely on well water near drilling operations have complained about pollution, but there’s been considerable confusion over how widespread such problems are. For example, starting in 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection aggressively fought efforts by the Associated Press and other news organizations to obtain information about complaints related to drilling. The department has argued in court filings that it does not count how many contamination “determination letters” it issues or track where they are kept in its files.
A Mess in Texas (Bloomburg)
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared that a group of Texas homes near a gas-drilling operation didn’t have dangerous levels of methane in their water, it relied on tests conducted by the driller itself.
Now, independent tests from Duke University researchers have found combustible levels of methane in some of the wells, and homeowners want the EPA to re-open the case.
The previously undisclosed Duke testing illustrate the complaints of critics who say the agency is reluctant to sanction a booming industry that has pushed down energy prices for consumers, created thousands of jobs and buoyed the economy.
The U.S. Geological Survey says water containing more than 10 milligrams per liter of methane is unsafe. Again from Bloomberg:
Range’s consultants found 4.2 milligrams per liter of methane in [one resident’s] water in a test taken in mid 2012, and 20 milligrams in November 2012. Duke’s tests a month later found a value of 54.7.
The newly disclosed findings have the Natural Resources Defense Council calling, again, on the EPA to properly investigate the contamination of water supplies and protect water from frackers. From a blog post by the NRDC’s Amy Mall:
EPA should reopen its investigation and follow up on all of the IG’s recommendations without haste. Unfortunately, this case in Texas is part of a larger, troubling trend we’re seeing at EPA; the agency also dropped high-profile fracking investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania. EPA needs to re-open these cases also.
Obama is a fan of fracking, because it’s helping the country meet more of its own energy needs. But at what cost? The EPA should at least be trying to find out.
Fracking in California?
California lawmakers have unveiled a new bill that would halt fracking and other controversial oil extraction practices in the state until a comprehensive review of their impact is complete, reigniting a legislative debate that fracking opponents lost last year.
The bill, introduced by state senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco, would put the brakes on fracking until the completion of a multi-agency review of the economic, environmental and public health impacts.
The bill, whose submission was first reported by Reuters last week, would also halt the use of acids to dissolve shale rock to increase the flow of oil into wells until the report is finished.
Reports of contaminated wells and polluted water isn’t likely to make the evening news ,the government doesn’t want to slow this boom, even if polluted water makes its way into homes.