Oral comments presented to the
Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel
December 3, 2015
I’m Sharon Wilson representing Earthworks, a nonprofit organization that helps people impacted by resource extraction.
Any fair reading of this report leads to the conclusion that hydraulic fracturing pollutes drinking water. And, despite EPA’s media efforts to suggest otherwise, the report also shows that pollution is both widespread and systemic.
My purpose is to address the problem of data gaps mentioned in the “charge” questions.
Industry obstruction, and aggressive use of non-disclosure agreements to gag impacted families and keep their proof of pollution hidden, both result in data gaps.
My comments today speak for some of those who cannot because of these NDAs.
During the initial scoping for this study, EPA solicited the public for locations to investigate.
Two Texas cases nominated included the Ruggiero property in Wise County and another in Argyle Bartonville .
1) Before drilling started on the Ruggiero’s property in Wise County, they obtained a baseline water test that showed their water was clean and safe. Six weeks after fracking, follow-up water testing found very high levels of MTBE, and BTEX chemicals. The lab said their water was unsafe to use.
The operator subsequently purchased the property and offered a settlement that required a non-disclosure agreement.
The rumor is the operator refused EPA access to the property for the purposes of this study.
The Argyle Bartonville area was also nominated for study.
2) Susan Sullivan’s water foamed like dishwater. Using her garden hose, she wrote HELP in foam, a YouTube video plea to the EPA. A lighter held to the water’s surface produced waxy plastic bits she could pick up.
The operator admitted using soap in their fracking solution for a well near her house. A letter to royalty owners explains why production at the well had fallen off: They used 300 barrels of water to flush the well and only recovered 10. The rest lost into the formation.
Testing found MBAS, a surfactant, in Susan’s water.
She is gagged under a non-disclosure agreement.
How many non-disclosure agreements exist or how much data they hide from the public is unknown.
This board should formally remark that a major source of data gaps results directly from industry obstruction, interference, and attempts to silence people who live with the pollution EPA intended to study.
In sum, the SAB should conclude that – in addition to water pollution – industry intimidation tactics are also widespread and systemic. Thank you for accepting my comments.
Because I only had 3 minutes I had to cut the following:
The entire Hallowich family, even their small children, were gagged. A Pennsylvania judge partially opened those records which revealed results from water tests showing acetone and acrylonitrile, as well as toluene, ethyl benzene, tetra-chlorethylene and styrene in their well water.
It is impossible to track all the non-disclosure agreements so no one knows how much data is hidden from the public.
Recently, an attorney in Karnes County Texas called about his client’s water that lit on fire, showed high levels of hydrogen sulfide and killed a grown horse. He was seeking a settlement for his client and declined to reveal a name or speak with media.
Two landowners in Texas are suing operators. But suddenly found thermogenic methane in their water. One when the well blew up and badly burned the family.
I could continue. If the EPA wants to look, they will find widespread and systemic contamination of drinking water from fracking.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Stan Scobie says
Good job; the 3-minute limit is pretty awful to work with and make a substantive statement.
I did a word count and got 402 words – less than nearly any OP-ED in any newspaper; It is an heroic job to pack as much stuff as you did in this small space.
We hope that the EPA will do the hard work required to make the important implications of their work so far entirely clear and convincing – so that the drillers will be forced to stop making the absurd statements like “the water is perfectly safe.”
Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY
Alberta Neighbor says
I agree with Mr. Scobie wholeheartedly, this is an excellent presentation and post. Great job Sharon, you did a lot with 3 minutes.
Clearly, not only does the EPA need to recover the ball they dropped on the widespread industry contamination front, but I am wondering when their Criminal Enforcement Department (apparently available, there for a reason, and highly touted in their youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAJlHxyapa0 ) will start zoning in on, hunting down, and charging dirty regulators, and others, with their blatant community threatening criminal activities.
“Public Herald 30-Month Report Finds DEP Fracking Complaint Investigations Are ‘Cooked’ & Shredded
… During the 2011 Atgas blowout investigation in Bradford County, Chesapeake Energy was allowed to dismiss their own pre-drill water test results to avoid liability for contaminating a water supply. This simple act by DEP ended up changing the background water quality data for the area, creating an artificial history of drinking water quality that could be used to dismiss other complaint cases.
In the recent report published at Public Herald, we uncovered a total of nine ways that officials at the DEP kept drinking water contamination across Pennsylvania, like the Atgas blowout case, ‘off the books.’
In Delmar Township, Tioga County, we found a single inspector cooked nine of 27 cases, a likely 33% increase in the total number of polluted water supplies. Some of these cases were cooked when the inspector ignored clean pre-drill test results to rule that oil and gas operations were not responsible for water damage. Or, the inspector would use a contaminated post-drill test provided by industry as if it was a pre-drill test.”
Clearly the EPA has much “catching-up” to do on all fronts. I hope they don’t wait too long, while more communities are being destroyed.
“I could continue. If the EPA wants to look, they will find widespread and systemic contamination of drinking water from fracking.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I think they should start by rounding up and calling on the mapping skills of all the industry contamination gag-pushing lawyers. Drawing up gag orders, and gagging people in the face of a known public health threat, seems more to me like aiding and abetting; it unscrupulously stops people from rightfully informing the public of the known danger, while secretly allowing the known danger to the public, to continue.
Water moves, even contaminated water – gag orders to conceal a public health threat, must be made illegal.
Yeah, I watched that video a while back and Laughed my ass off. Wonder when they last used their handcuffs.
Alberta Neighbor says
No kidding. But if they ever decide to step outside their youtube, I hope they stick with the handcuffs and stay away from the tasers … wouldn’t want to cause a spark.
I say go ahead with that taser.
Alberta Neighbor says
Oh … snap!