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August 23 2011

03:05

Halliburton CEO Instructs Underling To Sip New Fracking Fluid At Gas Industry Conference

Halliburton Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar touted the safety of the company's new CleanStim fracking fluid during a keynote address at a gas industry conference in Colorado earlier this month. Lesar was so confident in the safety of CleanStim, he was willing to drink it. Er, not exactly. He didn't imbibe himself, but handed the fracking fluid over to one of his underlings, an unnamed Halliburton executive, who took a "swig" of the fracking fluid according to the Associated Press report filed tonight.

Although Halliburton acknowledges that CleanStim is “not intended for human consumption,” it boasts that the new fracking fluid is made with "ingredients from the food industry."

The "executive drinks own chemical" trick shows that Halliburton is clearly stepping up its PR game in the face of growing public concern over the controversial fracking process.

It is great that Halliburton has created a supposedly safe fracking fluid, don't get me wrong. But CleanStim isn't the formula that is in widespread use at gas fracking operations around the country right now. The public still has no clue about the exact formulas the industry is using currently (because the industry doesn't want the public to know). But what little information we do have is that most current formulas are likely to contain a laundry list of cancer-causing chemicals.

We don't hear about gas industry executives drinking the current chemical cocktail during PR stunts, yet they assure us that it is all safe, of course. Forgive the residents of communities whose drinking water has become tainted due to gas drilling operations if they don't take Mr. Lesar's stunt seriously.

As an EDF staffer put it in the Associated Press article, "a homeowner in Pennsylvania doesn't have the option of having an underling drink his water. He has to do it himself."

July 14 2011

02:02

Fracking Wastes Devastate Research Forest in Virginia

Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations poses a serious threat to national forests, according to a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service. Mary Beth Adams conducted a two year study of soil and vegetation health in West Virginia after more than 75,000 gallons of fracking wastewater were applied to a portion of forest set aside for research. 

The study, appearing in the July-August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality, tracks the effects of fracking wastewater on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest in the Monongahela National Forest. Adams monitored the effects of the land application over a two-year period.

Within two days, the contaminated fluids had killed all ground level plant life and within 10 days began to brown the foliage of trees. Within two years all of the trees showed signs of damage and more than half of the 150 trees in the test area were dead. The study notes a dramatic 50-fold increase of sodium and chloride in surface soil after the application, but, because the chemical composition of fracking wastes is protected as proprietary information, the full contamination effects could not be studied.

According to Adams, the case study demonstrates the need for further research to understand the full effects of fracking and fracking waste disposal. 

The whistleblower group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) argues that the study results demonstrate the need for tighter control over fracking fluids and wastes. “This study suggests that these fluids should be treated as toxic waste,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The explosion of shale gas drilling is the East has the potential to turn large stretches of public lands into lifeless moonscapes.” Ruch adds that historically the Forest Service “has drilled its head deeply into the sand on oil and gas operations harming forest assets.”

U.S. Forest Service scientists and researchers like Adams previously tried to intervene in unconventional gas exploration in the Fernow Experimental Forest, warning of potential long term environmental damage and harm to endangered species. According to a PEER investigation, Forest Service officials downplayed the specialists’ findings and blocked their attempts to gain legal advice from the Office of General Counsel. PEER called for an official review of the decisions made by the Forest Service, calling into question the office’s relation to private industry interest.

Despite the shocking results, Adams’ report may not have the impact it warrants. Mitigating the impacts of waste water disposal should be "high priority" according to Adams, but there is little to suggest official bodies like the Forest Service are prepared to step in. In the past 25 years the Forest Service has not placed any restrictions on private extraction, even in wilderness areas. The Forest Service, says Ruch, insists on adopting a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to issues like the environmental impacts of gas exploration. 

Photo Credit: Charleston Gazette

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