Opinion: Something about ‘fracking’ smells funny


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‘Fracking’ just can’t catch a break.

First came wild speculation that hydraulic fracturing was to blame for the magnitude-5.6 earthquake and a swarm of aftershocks that hit Oklahoma in November.

Now -- and much more credibly -- the EPA says the controversial procedure used to extract natural gas from deep underground probably contaminated well water in Wyoming.


As The Times’ reported Thursday:

The EPA’s new draft report found dangerous amounts of benzene in a monitoring well near the town of Pavillion, in central Wyoming.

Of course, this is far from the final word on the issue:

The EPA is conducting a comprehensive study about the possible effect of ‘fracking’ on water resources, but initial results are not expected until late 2012. As a result, the Pavillion report may not give either side in the fracking debate the conclusive answers they seek.

Still, you can expect the usual political suspects to start weighing in immediately, if not sooner.

The anti-EPA forces of the Republican Party will probably portray this as another job- and energy-independence-killing move by an agency the party’s presidential candidates want to do away with.

Environmentalists, already concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline, will add this to the list of threats to America’s water supply.

And President Obama will be caught in the middle as he attempts to navigate between the need for jobs and energy and protecting the environment.


Regardless of where you stand politically, though, you have to be concerned reading this from The Times’ story:

About a decade ago, people in Pavillion began noticing an odd smell and taste to their well water and new illnesses in livestock, said Deb Thomas, an organizer for the Powder River Basin Resources Council, a landowners group. The EPA began the study in 2009 after about 20 well owners asked the agency to study their groundwater. ‘It smells like a cross between something dead and diesel fuel,’ Thomas said by phone from Wyoming. ‘It’s a very chemical bad smell.’

Sure, the U.S. needs jobs, and it needs energy.

But human beings need water to survive, and that water shouldn’t taste like -- and certainly shouldn’t contain -- diesel fuel.

So let’s not get too sold on this fracking thing.

After all, we don’t all want to end up like the folks near Pavillion -- who now get their water trucked in.


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--Paul Whitefield