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We’ve Been Fracking Since the 1940s?

Little is new about the process except the attention from environmentalists.

by
Patrick Richardson

Bio

July 27, 2012 - 11:40 am
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According to Bleakley, concerns about contamination of groundwater, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, are overblown. He says the water table is almost invariably hundreds or thousands of feet above the area where oil is found, and concrete “well casings” are required to surround the well from the surface to below the water table. Indeed, the first frack in Kansas in 1947 was done through the Ogallala.

Another tactic by the environmental left has been to raise the specter of earthquakes caused by the process. While there is some evidence the injection wells where the toxic wastewater from fracking is pumped back into the ground can cause minor earthquakes, there is controversy over whether or not this is actually the case. Groups like the Sierra Club have suggested such quakes could damage nuclear power plants and cause a Fukushima-type disaster. Indeed, Spease suggests that would be the case with the Wolf Creek plant in Burlington, KS, as a story by a Kansas City-area TV station suggested earlier this year:

Oklahoma geologist and man-made earthquake expert, Austin Holland, took a more measured stance.

“We have known for a long time that deep injection can cause earthquakes,” Holland said. “And there are some good classic examples, and some more recent examples of injection wells triggering earthquakes.”

Among those recent examples is a 4.0 magnitude quake in Youngstown, OH, as well as a 5.3 tremor in southern Colorado and a 5.6 event outside of Prague, OK.

Spease was one of the people making dire predictions if fracking continues near the plant:

“This would be a disaster like we have not seen in this country,” Spease warned.

Apparently, the geologist didn’t agree:

“I don’t believe there is an inherent risk, at that sort of magnitude,” Holland said. “That’s kind of alarmist.”

Wolf Creek spokeswoman Jenny Hageman backed up Holland’s assessment, telling KCTV5:

We are built to safely shutdown and to maintain the reactor in a safe condition in the event of a significant earthquake, especially for our area.

Hageman said the nuclear plant was built to handle a quake in the neighborhood of 7.0 on the Richter scale, a number greater than any tremor ever felt in Kansas history.

Bleakley agrees, saying this is all about shutting down an essential industry:

You get fearmongering among people. They don’t listen to the facts, or they don’t like the facts, or they don’t like certain industries.

Moreover, according to Bleakley, fracking is essential to production worldwide, particularly as it becomes more difficult to get to new reserves: “If you weren’t able to frack, you wouldn’t have near the production; we’d have a severe oil crunch.”

Bleakley says much of the controversy is politically motivated as well, noting the oil industry in general and fracking in particular have been heavily regulated for decades. Many states, Kansas included, have more stringent regulations than the EPA:

You could probably track concern about fracking by the changes in administration.

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Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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