An Alarming Statistic From A Pro-Fracking Study

Dateline: 7 February 2012

I don't think it gets any clearer than this table from the Manhattan Institute For Policy Study's pro-fracking report. (click to see an enlarged view)

In my quest to better understand hydrofracking and how hydrofracking might affect the town of Sempronius I’ve done a lot of reading. I'm a voracious reader and I'll read both sides of this issue. One case in point is the pro-fracking report by the Manhattan Institute For Policy Research titled, The Economic Opportunities of Shale Energy Development (click to read).

The report is long and its conclusion is that hydrofracking will have a positive economic impact on New York. There are economists who disagree with that conclusion; they warn that the bust that typically follows any mining operation will leave hydrofracked areas economically worse off in the long run. But I’ll let the economists argue over that because, as I’ve said in previous posts here, my main concern as a town board member is if hydrofracking is safe or will it be a danger to the general health and welfare of the Sempronius community.

With that thought in mind, my reading of the report came to a screeching halt (metaphorically speaking) when I saw the statistic for how many “serious environmental violations” there were in Pennsylvania for the number of gas wells drilled between the years 2008 and 2010 (three years) Here is what the report says...

"In summary, for every 100 wells drilled, as indicated in the data over the past three years, about seven incur serious environmental violations, with most of these incidents involving cement and casing problems or leading to major spills For every 100 wells drilled."

Seven out of 100 is 7 percent. Seven percent is 1 out of 14. So, according to the actual statistics over a three year period, one out of 14 gas wells in Pennsylvania had serious environmental violations. Here, from the conclusion of this Pro-fracking report is a further statement about these violations...

“The environmental impacts of unconventional oil and natural gas development have received a great deal of public scrutiny. This study carefully reviewed the public records of environmental violations reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the period 2008–10. Of a total of 1,924 violations, 152 were serious, involving 72 cement and casing violations, 8 blowouts, 56 major spills, and 16 cases of stray gas.”

“Violations” is another word for accidents, and “serious environmental violations” means these were accidents that either harmed, or had the potential to harm people, and not just people working in the gas industry, but innocent people living in the communities where these accidents are taking place.

I know people who assert that no harm is being done by hydrofracking, and yet, according to this pro-fracking study the clear statistics from PA for three years show that one out of 14 wells have had serious accidents. 

A person has to shut their eyes real tight, plug their ears real well, and turn off their reasoning to not see that hydrofracking is a clear danger to any community where it takes place.

There are people who assert that everything has risks. That is true, but intelligent people do not engage in activities that are statistically proven to result in a serious accident in one out of 14 cases.

What the Manhattan Institute report does not point out is that, according to professor Anthony Ingraffea (an undisputed authority on hydrofracking), two thirds of the gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania thus far have not been fracked. They are drilled and ready for fracking when the industry wants to get the gas. And fracking is what has the most potential for serious accidents. What does that do when figured into the equation of 1 out of 14?  I’m sure it doesn’t make the statistic look any better!

Does the town of Sempronius want an industrial activity with that kind of track record?

You might be wondering to yourself... If the Manhattan Institute report acknowledges that  serious accidents are associated with 1 out of 14 gas wells, how could they come to the conclusion that hydrofracking is a good thing?

The answer is, very simply, that the report’s conclusions are NOT IN ANY WAY based on how hydrofracking affects people’s lives in the communities where hydrofracking is done.

The Manhattan Institute’s report looks at serious accidents as business expenses. Their conclusion is that the profits from high volume hydraulic fracturing of shale in New York State will be more than sufficient to pay the costs of all serious accidents that are caused in the process.

I dare say, it’s easy for the Manhattan Institute to look only at the numbers and come to their economic conclusions in favor of fracking a little rural town like Sempronius. It’s easy because the people who authored the report don’t live in Sempronius. Their families will not be victims of the serious accidents that will surely happen here if hydrofracking is allowed.

Statistics like this underscore the serious reality of hydrofracking, and it is statistics like this that convince me more than ever that a moratorium on fracking in Sempronius is the only responsible thing to do at this time