In an interview with former Navy chaplain turned conservative activist Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, Colorado state senator Randy Baumgardner (R) dismissed concerns over methane from fracking operations posing a risk to water supplies by saying it’s a natural occurrence.
“I’ve been to a lot of the fracking seminars,” Baumgardner said.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that also happens to be highly flammable. But, according to the state senator, methane in water supplies actually served to benefit Native American tribes. “They talk about methane in the water and this, that, and the other,” Baumgardner told Klingenschmitt, “but if you go back in history and look at how the Indians traveled, they traveled to the burning waters. And that was methane in the waters and that was for warmth in the wintertime. So a lot of people, if they just trace back the history, they’ll know how a lot of this is propaganda.”
While methane occurs naturally in groundwater in multiple places across the U.S., scientists and watchdogs have recently warned that fracking operations may pose a greater threat to drinking water supplies than previously thought.
Baumgardner repeated a common industry talking point in his recent interview, saying, “since the 1940s when they first started fracking, there’s never been one recorded incident” of fracking contaminating drinking water. A new study released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists, however, found that oil and gas companies are actually exploring at shallower depths than commonly assumed, “sometimes through underground sources of drinking water,” the LA Times reported.
The study examined two Wyoming formations and while they did not find direct evidence of water contamination from oil and gas exploration, they did find companies using both acid stimulation and fracking procedures at the same depths as the deepest water wells in the area.
“It’s true that fracking often occurs miles below the surface,” said Robert Jackson, professor of environment and energy at Stanford and study author, said in a presentation Tuesday. “People don’t realize, though, that it’s sometimes happening less than a thousand feet underground in sources of drinking water.”
While the Stanford research is ongoing, the professors pointed out the lack of regulation regarding the potential threat fracking operations pose to groundwater supplies. “The extent and consequences of these activities are poorly documented, hindering assessments of potential resource damage and human exposure,” wrote Dominic DiGiulio, the second author.
That sentiment echoes the findings of a recent study by the congressional watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its oversight of fracking-related operations that put public drinking water supplies at risk.
“Every day in the United States, at least 2 billion gallons of fluids are injected into over 172,000 wells to enhance oil and gas production, or to dispose of fluids brought to the surface during the extraction of oil and gas resources,” the report said. “Because much of the population relies on underground sources for drinking water, these wells have raised concerns about the safety of the nation’s drinking water.”
The GAO analysis pointed out that the EPA hasn’t updated its guidance regarding which activities are essential for oversight since the 1980s and doesn’t have adequate resources to inspect and monitor the rapidly increasing amount of fracking occurring in the U.S.
With oil and gas exploration booming across the state, fracking and its potential impacts on human health and quality of life is a highly contentious issue in Colorado. A recent compromise between Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Rep. Jared Polis (D) means two proposed fracking-related measures will not appear on the November ballot, despite having the support of a solid majority of voters. One would have required drilling rigs to be located 2,000 feet or more from homes, and the other would have inserted an “environmental bill of rights” into Colorado’s constitution. Instead, a task force will be created to look into potential conflicts between residents and industry over oil and gas operations in the state.
HT: Right Wing Watch