The Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods commissioned a team of scientists and experts versed in drilling emissions and pipeline issues to study air quality around natural gas drilling sites near Fort Worth, TX schools and make recommendations. The study found significantly high levels of the pollutant carbon disulfide, which can travel over two miles from the source and is known to cause neurological, cardiovascular, behavioral and psychotic abnormalities. They also found thousands of new sources of pollution (e.g. wellheads, tank batteries and compressor or processing sites) contributing to a steady flow of toxins. Benzene and carbon tetrachloride were key hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) at each site. Benzene is six times more likely to cause cancer in children than adults (a study conducted by the University of Texas School of Public Health in 2008).
The industry paints a rosy picture of the vigilant monitoring of activities and an unwavering commitment to safety, yet several recent revelations expose the fact that they continue to operate in the dark.
The Fort Worth study mentioned above discovered that there is no known pipeline impact radii (PIR) used when placing pipelines in communities. The PIR is the zone or area around the pipeline which will be impacted should an explosion occur. This is obviously crucial to calculate so no school falls within a potential PIR.
The early warning system failed when a 20,600-barrel pipeline spill in North Dakota was discovered by a farmer in his field. Apparently it went undetected by safety sensors that the industry often cites to reassure the public that pipelines are monitored 24/7 for even small drops in pressure that could indicate a break in the line or that oil has begun to seep out. The owner of the pipeline, Tesoro didn’t respond to questions about whether monitoring equipment was in place and working correctly on this pipeline. It took 11 days to alert the public of the spill.
In Oct. 2013, Range Resources admitted in a court filing that it doesn’t know the full list of chemicals used in 51 of the 55 compounds in its fracking fluid that is alleged to have cause contamination in Washington County, PA. When a judge ordered Range to provide a comprehensive list of the substances they use during the drilling process, they were able to procure the necessary information regarding chemical makeup for only four out of the 55 products they use.
As part of an ongoing investigation, A Pennsylvania judge ordered Range Resources to disclose the full chemical composition of its fracking fluid. As it turns out, this isn’t an easy task. Range sought data from suppliers of 55 fracking-related products, but only four were able to provide the necessary details.
“You’re talking parts per billion of different products that are used to make a specific additive,” Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said, explaining the delay. He called it “unfair” to single out the oil and gas industry. This is an about-face from Mr. Pitzarella’s previously reassuring tone regarding full discloser. In a letter to the editor published in the Observer Reporter on Apr 23, 2013, Pitzarella shames the author of a previous letter who questioned Ranges' openness in regards to its lobbying activities and the contents of its fracking fluid. He attempts to minimize the public’s fear regarding the contents of fracking fluid by insisting “Range was actually the first company to voluntarily disclose fracturing fluids on a per well basis in the entire United States back in 2010.” [read more]
His statement leads many to ask, which is it Range? Are you proud to “voluntarily disclose the composition of each of the hydraulic fracturing components for all the wells operated by Range Resources with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) completed in the Marcellus Shale” as you have repeatedly claimed in the past or is it "unfair" to ask you to know what you're using on site?
So if they don’t know what a safe distance is from operations, they don’t know when leaks occur until it is too late, and they don’t know what chemicals they are using, how can they guarantee the safety of those who live, work, or attend school near a fracking operation?