From the Associated Press:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The final report from a landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, found no evidence that chemicals or brine water from the gas drilling process moved upward to contaminate drinking water at a site in western Pennsylvania.The Department of Energy report, released Monday, was the first time an energy company allowed independent monitoring of a drilling site during the fracking process and for 18 months afterward.
After those months of monitoring, researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas stayed about 5,000 feet below drinking water supplies. Scientists used tracer fluids, seismic monitoring and other tests to look for problems, and created the most detailed public report to date about how fracking affects adjacent rock structures.
A separate study published this week by different researchers examined drilling sites in Pennsylvania and Texas using other methods. It found that faulty well construction caused pollution, but not fracking itself.The results of this study are not particularly surprising. Shoddy well construction -- not migrating frac fluid -- is the source of most of the problems with water contamination.
These studies don't tell the full picture of the environmental impacts of natural gas development. Air emissions -- and particularly methane leaks -- are a huge concern and must be addressed. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas and, absent adequate controls, methane leaks across the natural gas supply chain could undo many of the potential environmental benefits natural gas can have over other fossil fuels such as coal.
The bottom line is that we must address the areas of highest risk if we are to prevent damage to our land, air, and water. Tackling both methane emissions and well integrity issues is a must for Pennsylvania.
Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets @RexBainbridge.