New Study on Fracking Under Scrutiny

Well head
Image: Screenshot/Youtube
Well head Image: Screenshot/Youtube

A new study on fracking that was published in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) stated: “Drinking-water wells in Pennsylvania close to natural gas sites do not face a greater risk of methane contamination than those farther away.” But the study is now being called into question.

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Fracking well in western Pennsylvania. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The study is under the spotlight because of its methodology and the fact that it was undisclosed that it has ties to the energy giant Chesapeake Energy.

Chesapeake Energy hydraulic fracturing method:

The findings conflicted with recent studies that have identified a relationship between the proximity to natural gas wells and higher methane levels in water wells.

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Methane in tapwater from a home near a fracking operation igniting after being lit. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The new study analysed more than 11,000 water samples collected by Chesapeake and then provided to the researchers.

“We found no statistically significant relationship between dissolved methane concentrations in groundwater from domestic water wells and proximity to pre-existing oil or gas wells,” wrote the authors, led by Donald Siegel, chairman of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. “Previous analyses used small sample sets compared to the population of domestic wells available, which may explain the difference in prior findings compared to ours.”

New study looks at contaminated water and fracking:

Unsurprisingly, the Industry welcomed the new study. This was the largest-ever study to evaluate methane in water near a gas development, and is being used as evidence to the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

Because of the way in which Chesapeake had sampled the treated water and had used a methane sampling method that major water labs don’t use, scientists who were not involved in the study have reacted cautiously.

Further, the study authors failed to divulge the scope of their ties to Chesapeake, including fees the company paid to Siegel to carry out his research. One of the paper’s four co-authors, Bert Smith, worked for Chesapeake during some of the period when the study took place, which also wasn’t disclosed. Smith works for the company today. The paper only acknowledges that Chesapeake provided the dataset, Inside Climate News (ICN) wrote on their website.

Fracking ‘study’ funded by pro-fracking groups:

After being questioned by Inside Climate News, a spokesman for ES&T said its editors would review whether their disclosure conformed to its ethics guidelines. The peer-reviewed journal requires a paper’s lead author to submit a statement that describes “all potential sources of bias, including affiliations, funding sources, and financial or management relationships, that may constitute conflicts of interest.”

Siegel said to ICN that he thought the disclosure on the paper was adequate, and he was not influenced by Chesapeake. “I’ve done work for any number of environmental groups, and I’ve worked for industry,” he said. “I go where the science is. I have no hidden agenda here.” He declined to say what his fee amount was, other than to say: “I didn’t get rich.”

Landmark fracking study finds no water pollution:

“This struck me as problematic. In general, it’s unusual for academics to not disclose external funding sources, especially on controversial topics such as fracking,” said Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “We could argue it would have been good policy for him to mention that.”

The Siegel study was based on water samples taken between June 2009 and November 2011 from homes within a three-quarter-mile radius of Chesapeake’s planned new gas wells. Because the region already had so much gas development, in many cases an operating well was already nearby, the paper said.

Hydraulic fracking at it’s very best !! (Propaganda and Truth) by IronicNewsReport

In 75 percent of the cases, no methane was detected. The rest showed some methane, but no relationship to gas well proximity. The Chesapeake samples were gathered a few months before drilling.

They didn’t track the wells over time to see if changes occurred, said ICN.

I know how I feel about the new study; the conduct by the author is very questionable. It will be interesting how Environmental Science & Technology will handle this one.

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