Gary Jacobucci, Wells P&Z
Fracked in Elko County
The open communications forum on fracking hosted by the Bureau of Land Management at the Red Lion March 14th proved to be a love fest between the BLM and Nobel Energy.
Gary Johnson, the BLM Deputy State Director for Minerals, was there to tell us how much money had been brought in from fracking operations nationwide and to assure us that the BLM was going to monitor surface disturbances. Jeff Schwarz was there from Nobel Gas was there to tell us that we didn’t need to be concerned about the contamination of our ground water and could go back to sleep.
Schwarz presented a list of chemicals they were going to be using in their hydraulic fracturing operations along with a listing of how these chemicals were already used in other household products; implying that because they are already in use, that putting them into our drinking water was OK. Schwarz made reference to the FracFocus website, saying that there was transparency in what chemicals they were going to be using.
But when asked if he could assure Elko County that BTEX compounds, and known carcinogens, like known carcinogens were not going to be use in the drilling process, Schwatz hesitantly responded yes, but quickly added that there are proprietary chemicals that will be used. Proprietary, meaning secret.
This lack of disclosure of what chemicals are actually going to be injected underground is known as the Halliburton loophole and makes the listing of chemicals on the FracFocus website both deceptive and meaningless. The Halliburton loophole refers to the Halliburton legal team finding a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts fracking operations from having to disclose what chemicals they are injecting underground.
Elko County Commissioner Chairman Jeff Williams attended the forum and asked his usual puff ball question in wanting to make sure the sage grouse habitant was not going to be effected. Always one to support anyone that will bring money into the county, he also defended the use of chemicals in fracking, saying that he puts chemicals into the ground himself.
According to reports, “Shale fracking operations can produce as much as 8 million gallons of contaminated wastewater per well. The chemicals that are used in a fracking fluid cocktail can include: Benzene, a known carcinogen, Toluene, Ethyl benzene, Xylene, other toxins.
Some of the chemicals get trapped beneath the ground during the fracking process. These toxic chemicals pose a dangerous health risk, as they can seep through crevices in the ground and reach the nearby water supplies. Residents in the surrounding communities are at risk of ingesting the dangerous chemicals in their drinking water. Tainted water can result in serious health problems, including cancer, respiratory disease, reproduction problems, skin problems and more.”
Schwartz emphasized that they were only using a 2% chemical additive to the water, but even if they are able to limit the water usage to the 800,000 gallons per well that they estimate will be used during testing, this still equates to 16,ooo gallons of chemicals injected per well.
The Halliburton legal team also found a loophole in the Clean Air Act that exempts fracking from having to control what chemicals are being released into the atmosphere. Although there were two bills introduced in Congress to eliminate these loopholes, they are going nowhere.
If regulators know what chemicals to look for when they test drinking water, they can hold oil and gas companies accountable for their pollution. That’s why it’s crucial that oil and gas companies come out of the shadows and tell us what chemicals they’re shooting into the ground. The problem is there is no effective regulation.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns that the chemicals used in fracking could contaminate drinking water, they say their hands are tied and blame the lack of information about the contents of hydraulic fracturing fluid on the 2005 Energy Policy Act because it exempts hydraulic fracturing from federal water laws.
With the fracking issue looming in our near future, I’ve considered applying for the single citizen position open on the Elko County Resource Advisory Board, but my experience as the only citizen member attending the County Local Emergency Planning Committee for two years makes me wonder if it is worth the time and effort.
In both LEPC meetings, and to the County Commissioners, I made the case to revise the nonsensical charter provided by the DHS that disallowed any discussion of food, power or water preparation for an emergency situation. The charter also placed authority over, and training of, our first responders in the hands of the DHS. One thing became clear; if you’re working for a government agency, your opinion is determined by the agency that employs you and no thinking outside that box is welcome.
Do I think that I can change the tide as a citizen member amongst representative of various agencies at the Elko County Regional Advisory Board? Not a chance in hell. We live under the illusion of the power and authority of those that have money. The marriage between the agencies and the money that NGO’s and multi-national corporations bring to the table is defining government in our country; public opinion be damned.
People living in area affected by fracking should have a complete testing of their water wells because you can be sure Nobel will dodge any responsibility if and when contamination occurs. A legitimate website describing the effects of fracking on families and communities is EarthJustice.com.