Expectedly, it ruled that the EPA was wrong, asserting that the gas was naturally occurring. The ruling caused the feds to backpedal.

In the end, Lipsky not only lost his case, but also was countersued by Range, claiming he was part of a conspiracy to defame the company by providing a "misleading" video and falsehoods to the media. Wilson was named as a co-conspirator.

"It's such bullshit," she says. "All [Lipsky] did is send me a video, and it was over a month after the EPA made their ruling. Like most of the blog, I'm just linking to stuff that's already out there. This is how insane and aggressive this company is... Industry can go on and say never once has there been a case where it has been proven, blah, blah, blah. But on the ground, we know better. We know that when they frack, our water gets contaminated."

Where the science of fracking is concerned, engineer Tony Ingraffea and geologist Terry Engelder agree on almost everything except this: "Tony thinks fracking should stop, and I don't," says Engelder, a Penn State geologist credited with discovering the state's potential for fracking. "I believe that economic health has to come before environmental health is worked out. Tony is arguing for environmental health at any cost."

In 2006, Dominion Exploration and Production contacted Engelder, asking whether extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, which runs from Ohio to Maryland, would be worth its time. Engelder's calculations revealed that nearly 50 trillion cubic feet of fuel lay beneath the ground, making it the largest deposit in the country. "I kept looking at that number, thinking to myself, Merry Christmas, America," Engelder says.

But almost as soon as the fracking boom began in Pennsylvania, so did the disasters. The worst occurred in Dimock, a small town of 1,400 residents. In 2008, Cabot Oil & Gas began leasing land from residents. Even those who refused were told that gas would be extracted from under their land anyway, because Pennsylvania law allowed for drillers to capture gas from nearby properties.

Soon, residents complained that their water had turned brown. Nearby creeks ran bright red with contaminants. Families reported that their children were passing out in the shower. Livestock was dying.

Nearly 8,000 gallons of Halliburton-made "fracking fluid" leaked from faulty supply pipes, making its way into streams and killing fish.

Though Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection fined Cabot $360,000 for contaminating Dimock's water and failing to fix leaks, the federal EPA ruled in May that Dimock's drinking water was safe. The state, meanwhile, continues to insist that fracking isn't hazardous. "There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else," the DEP's Scott Perry once announced.

But while environmental regulators continue to see no evil, Cornell University engineer Tony Ingraffea is just as vigorous in warning of the dangers. "Four years later, the industry is still trying to figure out what to do with their crap," he says. "Bad things happened. And bad things continue to happen."

His biggest beef is with the industry's misinformation campaign. Despite all evidence to the contrary, gas companies claim it's impossible for fracking fluid to come in contact with drinking water.

"They are simply telling downright lies because they think people are stupid, but this is really street-smart stuff," he says.

One of Ingraffea's studies debunked the natural gas industry's claims of being green. Because fracking wells and holding tanks leak up to a trillion cubic feet of methane gas into the atmosphere each year, their greenhouse effects can prove to be even more polluting than burning coal.

The industry responded as it usually does — by paying handsomely to have his findings refuted.

One major study by MIT — "The Future of Natural Gas" — was funded by the American Clean Skies Foundation. The president of that group is none other than Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest producer of natural gas.

Ingraffea sees it as part of a pattern where the industry buys off the country's most prestigious universities "like MIT to do pseudo-science."

Meanwhile, the Natural Gas Alliance, an industry lobbying group, shelled out $80 million to Hill and Knowlton Strategies, the same PR firm used by Big Tobacco to argue there was no link between smoking and cancer.

"The whole goal is to put a little seed of doubt in people's minds," Ingraffea says. "And for those who believe that they can get rich from leasing their land, there is a willing suspension of disbelief. But the real question is: How many bad things can go wrong right in front of your eyes before you finally accept the truth that this stuff is nasty and extremely dangerous?"

While the gas industry is busy paying scientists and politicians to minimize the risks of fracking, it's also greatly exaggerating its economic potential.

Like most opponents, Deborah Rogers didn't pay much attention to the boom until Chesapeake was about to drill a well only 100 feet from her property. After working in finance for years, she quit her job in 2003 to open an artisanal cheese-making operation on land she'd inherited in Fort Worth.

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6 comments
jozy32k
jozy32k

For all in favor of fracking: Why don't you move your family to these areas and see what your grandchildren and great grandchildren have to say with their birth defects and cancer. Y'all must be ostriches with you heads in that so called "sand". You want to talk about green energy, let's talk about what God DID give us, like solar power, wind power, etc. None of which pollute the land or it's people. We are a killer race and the one's we are killing are ourselves. I'm sure I'll get a bunch of flack for these comments, but in the end, y'all will have to answer to God for what you have done to his gift to us. 

gladesman
gladesman

This all sounds real BAD AND SAD but we need sources of energy.

 

Environmental agencies organizations do their best to obstruct every oil drilling venture that is planned and have stopped many over the years and continue to do so.

 

Maybe fracking wouldn't have become so popular if these well intentioned zealots had foreseen the unintended consequences of their efforts to stop liquid oil production all over America.

 

It looks as though fracking companies foresaw potential environmental attacks and had laws passed ahead of time to protect (armor plate) their investors and investments from environmental extremists attacks.

 

Until a few politicians have their water faucets light up in flames there probably won't be much corrective action taken.

erikdenning
erikdenning

Absolutely. The idea that pumping endless gallons of high water pressure mixed with literally hundreds of chemicals underground in attempts to tear apart the earth and release pockets of gasses can't in any way be harmful. It's nature's way and god's will. Who needs a stable underground anyway?

krs0
krs0

Sorry, but old man Mayer is nuttier than a shithouse rat.

 

john_ellingson
john_ellingson

The attack on fracking is an attack by the woefully uniformed; driven by ignorance and emotion and completely lacking in any evidence.

nicademus69_us
nicademus69_us

 @erikdenning Except it isn't hundreds of chemicals they pump into the ground. It's river water and sand. Occasionally they use glass beads instead of sand. These reason this guys has NG in his water is due to a bad casing and cement job. It's understandable for you to be worried but if people knew a little more about geophysics they would know that 95% of these made up scenarios are impossible. Drilling engineers wish their fracks did what these loony people say they do.

 
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