I commend Tom Price Jr., senior vice president of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, for his willingness to discuss the toxicity issues of natural gas extraction ("Chesapeake executive responds to letter," Jan. 13, Oklahoma Gazette).
An honest discussion is needed to ensure that the method for extracting gas from shale (horizontal drilling/hydraulic fracturing) does not negate the lower pollution that comes from burning gas. Price stated in his letter that my Dec. 16 letter ("Gas problems") promulgated "either inadvertently or intentionally misleading information about the natural gas well-completion process called 'hydraulic fracturing.'"
I was taken aback by Price's assertions that I was providing misleading information as I was confident in my letter's validity. My information sources included congressional records, discussions with experts, Web sites and newspaper articles from the East Coast where the health issues associated with hydraulic fracturing are heated topics. Recently, Chesapeake stated it would not use the fracturing process in watersheds providing drinking water to the 10 million residents of New York City. When considering the risks (injecting 10 million gallons of water mixed with diesel fuels, carcinogens, embalming fluids, strong acids etc. per gas well, with a good portion staying in the ground and the other spilling out), I applaud their move. What about the drinking water for folks in upstate New York where Chesapeake still plans to use hydraulic fracturing?
Price asserted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed hydraulic fracturing to be totally safe. Surely Price is aware that the EPA is under a federal mandate to investigate pollution associated with hydraulic fracturing. He also should be aware that a bill to protect drinking water from fracturing is before Congress, the FRAC act, which stands for Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals. Does he support such a bill?
Price contends that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated anybody's drinking water. Drinking wells near fracturing activities in Pavillion, Wyo., were contaminated with a carcinogen used in the fracturing process, 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE). An independent water expert said there is a one in a million chance that the contamination did not come from hydraulic fracturing.
Natural gas companies ask others to prove their pollution, but where is their own proof that they are not polluting? According to a Wall Street Journal article, Chesapeake compensated a rancher in Louisiana for cattle deaths resulting from their hydraulic fracturing operations. Other gas companies cut corners as evidenced by the fines they have paid in regard to their fracturing activities. Shouldn't natural gas companies be held to the highest possible standards when it comes to our health?
Hanas holds a doctorate in biochemistry and is a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He conducts research in the areas of cancer, toxicology and regulation of gene expression.