Response to May 2nd fracking article

To Whom It May Concern:

My professional background is in water quality issues, and I hold a Ph.D. in aquatic entomology. I currently teach environmental studies a small college in upstate New York. Although I no longer live in Rockford, I consider it my home, and I try to keep up with what’s going on there. Your article highlighting Rich Collins from Trendwell Energy, I think, begs a response.

First, to say that Mr. Collins, Vice President of Trendwell’s Land and Business Development, doesn’t have a dog in the fight is perhaps going a little too far. Like any gas man, Mr. Collins profits more when the public sees what he’s doing as palatable or even helpful. Your article did him a great service in this regard. Clearly, he has a dog in the shale gas fight, which stands to lose a lot of opportunities if public opinion on hydrofracturing goes sour as it has here in New York.

Furthermore, Mr. Collins’ likening of fracking fluid as being just as safe as laundry soap is a point I’ve heard from all the gas company websites. The truth, however, is that this isn’t quite true. Reports from the Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the NY Times cite neurological toxins, carcinogenic compounds like benzene, and radioactive elements like radium in ‘spent’ fracking fluid. Even if this doesn’t leak into our groundwater, something must be done with it, and most wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to handle this type of toxic waste. Perhaps Mr. Collins could use it to do his laundry.

Most importantly, accidents do happen. Recently, in Washington Township, PA, a faulty hose came loose at a Carrizzo Oil and Gas site, spilling fracking fluid on nearby farms. A simple internet search of fracking accidents brings up many other examples to contradict gas companies’ claims that hyrdrofracking is accident free. Tony Ingraffea, a former gas industry insider and professor of engineering at Cornell University, points out that the highest risk to water is the when the fracking chemicals are on the surface being transported, stored, and pumped down for fracking, and notes that studies from Pennsylvania indicate that six to nine percent of new wells drilled in each of the past three years are structurally compromised, and that over 30 years, these number can reach up to 50 percent. With 10,000 wells from Gaylord to Alpena, these are not insignificant numbers—they constitute significant risks to the public. Some people can take their money and run, but others will be stuck with degraded infrastructure, potentially poisonous water, reduced quality of life, and worthless property just so we delay the inevitable need for renewable energy.

And that brings me to my point. Very few people stand to benefit from this. …we need investment in clean energy now, and according to Mark Jacobson from Stanford University, the only thing stopping us from moving to an energy economy based solely on clean renewables like wind and solar is political will. According to a recent article published in Energy Policy, Jacobson and colleagues determined that if all the true costs of dirty energy like coal, oil, and natural gas are factored into our electric bills, it would be economically feasible for New York State to move to 100% clean energy in 17 years. In other words, if, for example, the healthcare cost associated with coal and the air pollution costs associated with all fossil fuels are factored into the actual costs of dirty energy and not externalized so that tax payers foot the bill, these ‘cheaper’ sources of energy actually cost more than solar and wind. This paper highlighted the feasibility of such an effort in NY State, but there is no reason Michigan could not do the same.

As soon as we figure this out, we will garner the will to ask our leaders for this change. When we see that we can all benefit from this shift to a clean energy economy, we will demand it. This is why people like Mr. Collins are so desperate to make their dirty business look clean. Don’t believe it. Clean water, soil, and air are worth more than money. Period.

Kelly J. Wessell

Ithaca, NY

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