While it may not be a four-letter word, 'fracking' has become the new 'F' Word. And those in the 'anti-drilling' camp have taken full advantage of it.
Any time they want to manufacture some negative press for the oil and gas industry, all they have to do is make some exaggerated claim and blame it on 'fracking'. And they don't have to worry about whether their claim is true or not ... the media will regurgitate it regardless.
We've seen it locally, where 'fracking' supposedly caused water well contamination in Dimock and Towanda (it didn't). In each case the contamination (methane) was caused by improper cementing of the well casing - not 'fracking'! But that's not how the media portrayed it.
We've seen it elsewhere in New York State, where fracking was (without any proof) linked to a mysterious episode in Leroy, NY, where a small group of teenage girls were displaying symptoms similar to Tourette's Syndrome. Because there are gas wells somewhere on the local school's property, environmentalists (and the media) immediately began making the 'fracking' connection. Nevermind the fact that there were leaking drums of Trichlor-contaminated soil on the grounds, left over from a 1970's rail accident.
And we've seen it nationally, where 'fracking' has supposedly caused earthquakes in Ohio (it hasn't). Or where 'fracking' supposedly caused well water contamination in Parker County, Texas (it didn't). The earthquakes in Ohio may have been caused by the high pressures of an injection well - not 'fracking'! And in Parker County, TX, the secondary testing performed by Texas' own State Investigation found that the EPA got it wrong when they prematurely blamed Range Resources for the contamination (methane) of two local water wells there.
When the anti-drilling crowd presents their frantic tirade against 'fracking', they usually lead off with their tired description of 'fracking' fluid as, "a solution of toxic chemicals" or, "chemically-laced concoction". In truth, typically less than 1/2 of one percent of the 'fracking' fluid is chemicals. Most of it is plain old water and sand. And of the chemicals used, many are chemicals that we come into contact with on a daily basis in household products and/or over-the-counter products. Even the most toxic chemicals such as Benzene and Toluene are right there in the gasoline we put in our cars and in the heating oil we pump into our fuel tanks, many of which are underground tanks. But, the anti-drillers don't want you know that. They want you to be misinformed, afraid, and against gas drilling.
Misinformed? Yes. While the anti-drillers maintain their war against drilling by brandishing the 'F' word and painting mental images of evil Oil & Gas Companies wrecklessly polluting our aquifers, there has not been one proven case of chemical contamination due to 'fracking'. In places like Dimock and Towanda where water well contamination has occurred, it was due to methane contamination - not 'fracking' chemicals! And again, that contamination was caused by faulty cementing jobs - not 'fracking'!
In case you you haven't heard, methane contamination of water wells is something that occurs naturally in this area. One long-time water well driller from Pennsylvania was quoted as saying, "I've been lighting kitchen faucets on fire for 50 years, long before gas drilling ever started". This is not to say that methane contamination is nothing to worry about - natural gas in your water obviously presents a safety risk. It does not however, pose a risk to your health if ingested. And it does not ruin your water supply forever. Methane contamination is relatively easy and inexpensive to remediate with the proper add-on filter system.
So, the next time you hear about some dangerous condition that exists as the result of 'fracking', please remind yourself that it is the new 'F' word ... a tool used by the anti-drilling crowd to turn public opinion against drilling for natural gas ... the same natural gas that could help solve many of our jobs, energy, air pollution, and national security problems. It makes you wonder how many times these anti-drillers can 'cry wolf' before they're finally recognized for what they are ... fear-mongering propagandists who do not want you to know the truth.