The Uncertainty Factor in Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas

Health Effects of Fracking for Natural Gas Need Study, Says CDC Scientist – Bloomberg.

With oil companies  bound  to close refineries in the Northeast and rather importing gasoline, the price of fuel for New Jersey motorists may increase substantially this summer and the oil and natural gas industries may renew their push to extend the drilling tentacles into New Jersey territory.

With offshore drilling for oil, I just have to remind everyone what happened in the Gulf of Mexico last year. A similar episode on the New Jersey shore would ruin the tourist industry and send coastal property values down in a dive.

We should be placing windmills rather than oil platforms offshore. That is my position and it will not change.

With natural gas (methane) hydraulic fracturing, the picture is a bit more blurred and the industry is doing what it can to sell the practice as safe and benign. But a top scientist at the CDC in Atlanta is calling for an exhaustive study on the potential health effects of the technique. However, unless that study cover multiple sites with a variety of rock formations and strata, we may get a distorted verdict which could err by defect or excess.

My point is that the dangers in hydraulic fracturing, HF, do not come only from the solutions injected at high pressure in the ground but on the substances that those injections may release from their natural state in different areas. Take for instance arsenic. It is a poison which occurs naturally. Some rocks have more than others. HF solutions will dissolve it at different rates and there is no question that those solutions will sooner or later migrate into aquifers through the soil like water expands into a sponge. HF solutions will be injected for years or decades. Their aggregate amounts will be enormous.

What is true for arsenic, is true for every other naturally occurring substance out there. Their concentrations vary. The damage they can cause is directly proportional to those concentrations. Arsenic, up to a certain level, I believe just causes hair loss. At some other level, it can kill. We can not gauge accurately the impact with one limited study.

It is because of those uncertainties rather than certainty on a quantifiable potential damage that I am opposed and will remain opposed to HF in New Jersey.