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Rabbitbrush Rambler: Fracking, unsafe at any depth

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 2nd, 2012

Remember consumer advocate Ralph Nader? He has warned that fracking should not be allowed because it “poses threats to: drinking water sources, air quality, worker health and safety, wildlife, vegetation and property values” (PRNewswire-USNewswire, August 29, 2012).

In his letter, Nader also asserts, “Scientists and environmentalists are extremely concerned about the long-term public health impacts of fracking and the diversion fracking constitutes to pursuing a clean, renewable and safe energy future.”

Nader said 50 years ago that the vehicles we were driving were unsafe at any speed, and he was right.

He was right about nuclear power plants, too, as we have seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi.

At present, protests about fracking are taking place in Eastern states. They should be happening in the San Luis Valley, too, because fracking may happen here, or anywhere in this state.

Colorado’s O&G-friendly Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have passed new regulations about taboo chemicals used in fracking, but that does not stop fracking. The commission is considering new rules about “setbacks” of wells from buildings, but that is not enough.

Although Interior Secretary Ken Salazar mentions the need for caution, he asserts that fracking can be done safely on public lands, an opinion not shared with Ralph Nader. Wake up, Ken!

A candidates’ meeting on October 4 in Monte Vista should give voters an opportunity to hear and to voice opinions about fracking in Rio Grande County. This subject has been a big concern on the west side of the Valley, where oil companies are active.

We do not know yet whether any fracking will take place at the Dan A. Hughes property, which is within a residential development on San Francisco Creek Road. Or even whether the Bureau of Land Management’s field office will grant final permission for his company to drill, but BLM usually goes along with O&G. If Hughes’s exploration suggests the viability of further development, fracking could follow.

L.G. Mosley’s Faith Energy Exploration once had a conventional operation on Old Woman Creek, where it still was leaking not long ago. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission lost faith in Faith and charged the corporation with various violations in the 1990s, but Mosley is now back again with another application, and who knows what he would try.

Fracking is the hydrologic fracturing of nonporous rock, usually oil shale, which releases shale oil and/or shale gas through cracks that are made with great pressure and heat. Drilling not only goes downward vertically for thousands of feet but then may extend horizontally for a mile or two in big “plays.”

This process requires a lot of water. Water and sand are 99.5 percent of what goes into the well.

Where would this water come from? And where will the contaminated liquid end up? In our area, we already worry about our over-appropriated, shrinking, underground and surface water.

If an operation goes as planned, a well brings up gas (and/or oil), which gets further treatment at the site or is transported to a facility elsewhere, like Cortez for instance. The liquids go into holding ponds or are dumped into holes.

When the operation does not go well and casings fail, leaks can contaminate land and domestic wells, surface water, and groundwater. Among other issues are methane gas, air pollution, truck traffic, construction and reclamation at sites of pads and drills, access, noise, possibly small earthquakes, and impacts on wildlife and human health.

At successful or unsuccessful small “plays,” these activities usually do not offer many jobs or permanent enhancements to communities. Companies bring in their own crews, who do their work and move on when production fails or ends.

Just say NO to fracking.

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