The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has finally decided to do something about the lack of oversight regarding fracking fluids. A new proposal by the agency would finally require the fracking industry to disclose the chemical cocktails they are injecting into the ground at fracking well sites. The only problem with the proposal is that it would only require disclosure after the chemicals were put into the ground, meaning that the potential for contamination wouldn’t change a bit.
Now, the BLM proposes three new practices to protect public health, drinking water, and the environment. First, the agency proposes to require the public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking operations on federal and Indian lands after fracturing operations have been completed.
Second, the BLM proposes to require confirmation that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards. The agency says this would improve assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used in wells during fracturing operations are not escaping.
And third, the agency proposes to confirm that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fracturing fluids that flow back to the surface.
While the proposal to force disclosure on fracking fluid contents is a step forward, the fact that they would still be allowed to be injected underground without disclosure is a step backwards.
The occurrence of so-called “induced seismicity” – seismic activity caused by human actions – in conjunction with fluid injection or extraction operations is a well-documented phenomenon. However, induced earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface have typically been associated with large scale injection or withdrawal of fluids, such as water injection wells, geothermal energy production, and oil and gas production. It was generally thought that the risk of inducing large earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing was very low, because of the comparatively small volumes of fluid injected and relatively short time-frame over which it occurs. As the controversy over hydraulic fracturing has heated up, however, researchers and the public have become increasingly interested in the potential for fracking to cause large earthquakes.
But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Studies show that fracking practices in the 1970s had caused similar seismic activity in Oklahoma, according to E&E News.
To date, none of the quakes have caused any deaths or any significant damages, but Grist echoed a great point from Joe Romm: “Would we tolerate this sort of impact from any other sort of industry? Would we tolerate it from a renewable energy industry? The answer there is no.”
As the pressure heats up over fracking, these seismic events will certainly become a cause for concern, and possibly even litigation, for citizens who are already unhappy with fracking activities occurring in their backyards.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.