Industry has the gift of ‘deniability’

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In response to Mr. (Frank) Splendoria’s “groupthink” opinion, I would like to offer a few thoughts.

First: whenever we’re citing a university study, no matter how prestigious the source, it is important to understand that universities rely on funding from various outside sources, including corporate benefactors. The report cited by Mr. Splendoria was written by a department within MIT whose founding members are all major oil and gas players, as is a large percentage of their sustaining, associate and affiliate members. Not too surprising, therefore, that a report issued by this group would find that fracking is benign. They certainly don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

Second: In fact, it is too early to determine whether or not fracking itself will be a source of pollution, since computer models tell us it will take years for any contaminants to migrate through the various layers. “No evidence at this time” does not mean “no evidence ever,” although if the oil/gas extraction industry is lucky, such pollution will become evident only after they’ve ceased operations, allowing for their continuing denial of causation. There is, however, absolutely no dispute that high-pressure well-casing failures can, do, and have caused pollution of drinking water supplies. Remember the Deep Water Horizon well disaster in the Gulf? The exact same type of accident can and does happen on dry land, and in fact, a blowout of this type has polluted an aquifer in Wyoming.

The pollution plume continues to grow and has yet to reach any domestic water wells, but it is drifting slowly towards them and when it does reach them, those wells will no longer provide water usable for any human purpose — except, perhaps, for more fracking. Nor will drilling another water well help, since it will be drilled into the same damaged aquifer. This is a matter of record, and is not subject to “groupthink.”

To my knowledge, the company responsible for this blowout has yet to determine how to stop the flow of pollution, nor has it discovered how to clean up the contaminated aquifer. This type of technology apparently does not exist at this time. How many aquifers can we afford to lose in San Miguel County?

The problem with all of these “studies” is that there exists no baseline measurement of water quality — or for that matter, air pollution — prior to the commencement of exploration/extraction activities. This enables the oil and gas industry to make the claim that contamination has “never been proven.” When you don’t know where you started, how can you know what has changed? Not requiring baseline measurements prior to the commencement of oil/gas activities is simply a gift to the industry: the most valuable gift of deniability of causation.  

It is not “groupthink” to implement an ordinance that forces oil and gas developers to be good neighbors. Recent experiences in other communities have proven that they won’t be good stewards of our drinking water and air quality unless they are forced into it by a strong local ordinance. After all, if we don’t care, why should they?

Kate Daniel