Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's Fracking got to do with Whatcom County?

Perhaps the controversy and contaminated groundwater that go with natural gas drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) seems like a problem for other people in other places. But it could be closer to home than you think.

Fracking (also often referred to as hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking) is a process in which a fluid is injected at high pressure into oil or methane gas deposits to fracture the rock above and release the liquid or gas below. The process and its aftermath has generated controversy because of harm to drinking water and health where it has been used, in Colorado and New Mexico [1], and more recently in expanded drilling plans in the Marcellus Shale in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states.[2]

Fracking -- which uses enormous amounts of drinkable water along with toxic chemicals and which also releases radioactive materials and other hazardous substances in shale deposits -- has raised significant environmental and health concerns.[3] In New Mexico, for example, similar processes have leached toxic chemicals into the water table at 800 sites.[4]

The industry lobbied the Bush Administration and Congress with its claims that the "fracking fluid" should be considered "proprietary" and exempt from disclosure under federal drinking water protection laws.[5] Led by Halliburton and aided by the former CEO of Halliburton, then-Vice President Dick Cheney, the industry obtained this exception in the law along with favorable treatment by political appointees and regulators in the "Environmental Protection Agency." As a result of the "Halliburton loophole" to the law, drilling companies have not been required to divulge the cocktail of chemicals that are in the fracking fluids used at each of the proposed or continuing drill sites across the country.

from: SourceWatch

There's gas bearing shale right here in Whatcom County.

As the supply of fossil fuels decline and prices continue to climb, even small deposits of natural gas will draw interest. As the map shows, there have already been lots of gas well permits issued here in Whatcom county. Some are exploratory wells, many are water wells that hit gas.

Here's something that explains how trapped methane is release when coal mining fractures the rock, with the 1895 Blue Canyon mine disaster as an example.
Explosion Hazards From Methane Emissions Related to Geologic Features in Coal Mines
Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

... Shales and siltstones rich in organic matter often contain
significant quantities of methane gas [Darton 1915; Johnson and Flores 1998]
and may contribute unexpected emissions into active mine workings. As their
permeabilities are typically low, the large amounts of gas stored in these
strata may not be released until mining-induced fractures increase their
permeability. In studying the gas content of U.K. coalbeds, Creedy [1988]
concluded that the porosity and gas content of coal measure rocks were small.
Nevertheless, he did allow that well-developed joint or fracture systems play
a role in gas release from adjacent strata. It may be assumed that under some
conditions certain organic-rich rocks adjacent to mined coalbeds have the
potential to release methane gas at or near the working face in quantities
sufficient to create explosive conditions.

Examples of disasters related to adjacent source beds include
the disaster at the Blue Canyon Mine, Lake Whatcom, WA, on April 18, 1895.
During drilling and blasting of bottom rock, an explosion occurred from "[g]as
[that] was evident in quantity and under pressure in the strata" [Humphrey
1960]. ...

An article from 1895 about the mine explosion:

Here's something more to think about:
April 11, 2011

Shale Gas Isn't Cleaner Than Coal, Cornell Researchers Say

Cornell University researchers say that natural gas pried from shale formations is dirtier than coal in the short term, rather than cleaner, and "comparable" in the long term.

That finding -- fiercely disputed by the gas industry -- undermines the widely stated belief that gas is twice as "clean" as coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The gas industry has promoted that concept as a way for electric utilities to prepare for climate change regulations by switching from coal-fired plants to gas.

But if both gas and coal are considered plentiful and cheap, utilities would have little incentive to switch.

The lead author of the study, Robert Howarth, had previously stated the idea that shale gas production emits more greenhouse gases than coal production (ClimateWire, April 2, 2010). But now it is being published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. [ continue reading the article: HERE ]

Switching from coal to natural gas doesn't sound quite so good, does it. Not only does Fracking contaminate our drinking & irrigation water sources, it also releases huge quantities of methane (a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2)

We're showing the movie Gasland this Sunday. Come learn more:
DFA - Gasland Movie Night
Sunday - Apr 17, 2011, 3:00 PM PDT
Whatcom Educational Credit Union
5659 Barrett Road
Ferndale WA 98248

3:00pm - 3:30pm - Welcome guests and mingle
3:30pm - 5:15pm - Watch Gasland the Movie

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Today was an amazing gathering of solidarity with brothers and sisters from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon coming together in unity. We arrived early and I started taking these pictures. We had a brief downpour, promised by the dark clouds in the first few photos, and then the sun came out and so did the people. It was a beautiful day. Thanks to all who worked to make this happen. We went Wisconsin!!


video coming.....