Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Miami Dade's role in the fracking of America ... by gimleteye

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing; the extraction process that is delivering massive amounts of gas and oil to consumers. For industry, fracking constitutes the biggest energy boom in the continental United States since the oil fields of Texas were discovered in the 1920's. Fracking involves the uses of thousands of wells. It is also a boom for wellfield equipment suppliers like Halliburton. Each well is injected first with a toxic brew; millions of gallons of water and chemicals, including diesel fuel, are injected under pressure thousands of feet underground before the layers yield oil and gas.

One of the claims against fracking is that it exposes drinking water aquifers to toxins. The documentary "Gasland" triggered public awareness and push-back from the domestic oil and gas industry. Here is segment from the film showing a neighbor's water faucet catching fire.

That ought to be illegal, right? The U.S. EPA is charged with protecting drinking water aquifers. Here is where Miami-Dade comes in, in a tangential but important way. In the 1990's Miami-Dade County could no longer cover up that municipal wastewater injected to deep so-called confining zones, just like fracking fluid, was leaking toward the region's drinking water supplies.

At the time, EPA headed off a citizen's lawsuit by initiating a rule change of the Safe Drinking Water Act at the urging of Miami-Dade and the State of Florida. Florida's city and county governments, anxious to serve cheap growth and welded to politics using campaign contributions as electrodes, petitioned the US EPA to change its "non-migration standard". Miami-Dade County lead the way because its sewage treatment facility in South Dade at the edge of Black Point Marina and Biscayne National Park was the nation's largest non-point source polluter in the U.S.

The connection between fracking and municipal disposal of wastewater is underground injection wells that are supposedly "controlled". Controlled by engineering and controlled by law. But there is nothing "controlled" about them. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. EPA simply looked the other way. In Florida, at the direction of then governor Jeb Bush, the state proceeded to accommodate construction and development by shoving billions of gallons of day of scarcely treated municipal waste water into deep zones through so many wells that a map of state injection wells looks like Swiss cheese. (Read "Deep Well Infection" by former Miami New Times and recent Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jake Bernstein, here. As a Sierra Club leader at the time, I hoped common sense would prevail and that government would not speed the weakening of aquifer protections. But it did happen, and with a favorable ruling by Bush appointees on the federal bench.)

The latest news from the New York Times is that a former Bush EPA official, Ben Grumbles, now says that the Bush administration's assurances that fracking was safe "have been exaggerated for years". Now what? Changing our politics that allows the destruction of aquifers through deep wells is like removing a tattoo a thousand yards deep. For that, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will provide no help.


David said...

I long for the days of candles and whale-oil powered lanterns!

Oh, I forgot; we'd have to kill animals for tallow and whale oil...jeez, maybe we should just shut down society when it gets dark.

Is any power source other than those thst are not economical on a commercial scale acceptable?

No oil, no gas, no nuclear, no coal.

Solar- battery technology is not available to support commercial operation.

Wind- costs twice as much since 30% capacity facors require equivalent alternate fuel source built, staffed, and in stanby to pick up base load during the 70% of the time there isn't enough wind to turn a wind turbine. If you can't base-load wind power, it's useless. You can't have peaking units whose operation is dependent on whether or not the wind is blowing.

Let's face it...until something as yet undiscovered comes along or we find efficient ways of converting solar heat energy to useful work energy efficiently, it's going to be nuclear, natural gas, and coal.

It's either that or don't expect your computer to turn on every time you flick the switch.

Anonymous said...

Imagine my surprise last year when I received a call from a company wanting to buy my partial interest in my 2nd great-grandfather's oil and gas reserves for a large tract of land which he purchased in the 1930's and later sold. The land is located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, an area that has extensive fracturing sites.

Having read numerous articles in the last two years about people who have sold or leased their land to the extraction companies, as well as articles about the extreme environmental damages resulting therefrom, I declined to sell my rights.

Many people in South Florida are unaware of this oil extraction process, so I am glad you have written about it. Keep up the good work! (Wish Emilie and Paula were still with us, so they could have read this.)

Hope you saw the excellent 60 Minutes segment a few months ago on this topic.


Anonymous said...

This really sucks for people who make aroma therapy candles. I am thinking that their market is shrinking. I joke, but I am really pissed off about this and I feel so sorry for these people.

The Real AnthonyVOP said...

Bellow is a list of all the studies that have proven the contamination of groundwater from Fracking.....

Any Questions?

Seth Platt said...

Since many of you neocons are too stupid to actually grasp an issue here are some movies to explain it to you. Hydrocarbons bad, renewables good.


David said...

My brother Seth;

I understand there are problems with fracking, and they must be addressed and overcome.

Here is the question that environmentalists never want to answer...Until "greener" technologies are commercially viable, what do we do in the meantime?

The answer is, we burn oil, natural gas, coal, and smash uranium atoms.

No one is opposed to green power generation replacing traditional sources IF IT WORKS ON A COMMERCIAL SCALE. What is unaccepatable is to reduce traditional generating capacity below the point that supports our standard of living until and when that day comes.

I have faith that American ingenuity and technology will find a way.

Larry Thorson said...

When was it ordained that the present standard of living shall be eternal? These things change all the time. If it's not sustainable, something else will emerge. Especially if we're smart enough to see the need for change. And what's wrong with trying to clean things up? Injecting waste into aquifers is the very opposite of smart.