US Energy Department panel endorses shale fracking, suggests pumping ground with millions of gallons of chemical water will help save environment

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: shale fracking, environment, health news

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(NaturalNews) Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," for the purpose of extracting natural gas from the earth involves flooding it with millions of gallons of chemical-laden water, a practice that by all estimates is damaging the environment to some extent.

But a US Energy Department (ED) advisory panel, which happens to be padded with members connected to the natural gas industry, insists that fracking is safe, and even contends that it will help to lower the carbon dioxide emissions allegedly responsible for so-called climate change.

A recent report in The Washington Post (WP) explains the ED panel's notion that, despite continual outcry over fracking operations polluting rivers and groundwater supplies, natural gas fracking can safely continue as long as fracking companies agree to be more open about their actions, and comply with monitoring requirements that track environmental impact and make this information publicly available.

But in an industry that is already knowingly hiding the truth about its polluting activities -- and secretly dumping its toxic waste directly into the environment, for instance -- it is naive for ED committee members to purport that simply telling drilling companies to be more forthcoming is going to have a substantially beneficial impact.

Fracking, no matter how closely monitored, pollutes the environment in devastating ways.

In order to release oil and gas from shale rock deep underground, giant machines must force large amounts of water, sand, chemicals, and radioactive elements deep into the earth's upper crust in order to crack the rock that potentially holds this valuable fuel. But in the process, the resultant radioactive chemical cocktail seeps into water tables, wells, rivers, and lakes, as well as the various drinking water supplies to which these sources are fed.

Even if the fracking industry suddenly decides to be more open and honest about the fact that drilling fluids are severely contaminating soil and water, the only thing that will change is that now everyone will be aware of it.

Thanks to an energy bill passed by Congress back in 2005 that exempts the natural gas drilling industry from having to comply with the US Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), fracking operations are free to pollute as much as they please -- they just might have to disclose this fact at some point in the future.

The Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SGS) which put out the recent report endorsing fracking does not even address this SDWA exemption. As a result, its recommendations are meaningless in all practical terms, as they will do absolutely nothing to stop the tide of environmental pollution being spewed by the fracking industry.

Current water purification techniques are unable to capture methane and radon, for instance, both of which come from fracking. Consequently, drinking water supplies throughout Pennsylvania, which is a fracking hot spot due to its location in the Marcellus Shale Formation region, are becoming increasingly toxic with no end in sight.

So as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its ongoing investigation into the environmental impacts of fracking, the SGS committee comes along and makes a few useless recommendations that it says will address the problems with fracking, but that in reality will do absolutely nothing to solve them.

At least six SGS committee members have ties to the natural gas industry

The mindless recommendations made by SGS in support of the fracking industry make a lot more sense, however, in light of the industries to which many of its members are connected. According to a recent report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), at least six SGS committee members are known to have connections to the oil and gas industries.

Signed by 28 scientists from 22 universities and institutions in 13 states, all of whom object to the SGS panel's recommendations, the EWG report explains that Chairman John Deutch, Stephen Holditch, Kathleen McGinty, Susan Tierney, Daniel Yergin, and Mark Zoback all have financial ties to the oil and gas industries, a blatant conflict of interest for a committee that is supposed to offer unbiased counsel to the ED.

SGS Chairman John Deutch, for instance, currently serves on the board of the natural gas firm Cheniere Energy. According to the WP, Deutch was paid more than $1.4 million by both Cheniere and Schlumberger, another oil and gas firm, between 2006 and 2009. And Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who was appointed directly by President Obama, chose Deutch for the SGS Chairman position knowing full well his connections to the oil and gas industries.

So just like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is filled with officials connected to the pharmaceutical industry, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is filled with officials connected to the biotechnology industry, the Energy Department, is filled with officials connected to the oil and gas industries.

And so it goes in the "land of the free," where special interests run the government and its powerful regulatory agencies. Driven by greed and an insatiable lust for power, corporate snakes have quietly infiltrated the very agencies that were designed to protect the interests of the people, and have restructured them to serve corporate interests instead.

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