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Eastern Ohio Sets Record For Shale Production

EPA releases new report on fracking

Photo by Casey Junkins Ohio shale drillers set new natural gas production records of 360 billion cubic feet from July 1 to Sept. 30, but industry leaders fear a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finding regarding fracking could endanger the future.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Falling temperatures create demand for the record amounts of natural gas Ohio shale drillers are pumping, while the release of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on fracking keeps the heat on the drilling technique critics believe contaminates water supplies.

Last year, the EPA stated that, despite an average of 9,100 gallons worth of chemicals used for each fracking job, the process does not create “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

On Tuesday, however, EPA officials said they “identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.”

“It is beyond absurd for the administration to reverse course on its way out the door,” said Erik Milito, who serves as upstream director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute. “The agency has walked away from nearly a thousand sources of information from published papers, technical reports and peer-reviewed scientific reports demonstrating that industry practices, industry trends and regulatory programs protect water resources at every step of the hydraulic fracturing process.”

As the fracking debate continues, Ohio drillers are smashing shale production records. From July 1 through Sept. 30, records provided by the state Department of Natural Resources show companies drew 360 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the period, which is up from the prior three-month record of 334 billion cubic feet set from April 1 to June 30.

Formally known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is the process by which drillers extract natural gas, oil and liquids from Marcellus and Utica shale. Officials estimate it takes anywhere from 1 million to 10 million gallons of water to frack a single well, along with about 4 million pounds of sand, in addition to a chemical cocktail.

Milito and other industry leaders believe fracking helps consumers save an average of $1,337 per household every year, helps curb carbon dioxide emissions because of natural gas replacing coal for electricity generation and supports millions of jobs.

“Fortunately, the science and data clearly demonstrate that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources. Unfortunately, consumers have witnessed five years and millions of dollars expended only to see conclusion based in science changed to a conclusion based in political ambiguity,” he said.

In January, Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will assume control of the EPA, sparking environmentalists’ concerns. Outgoing EPA Science Adviser Thomas Burke said Tuesday the agency believes there are connections between fracking and drinking water problems.

“The value of high-quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources,” Burke said.

Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near fracking operations. They range in severity from temporary changes in water quality to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable, EPA officials said.

“The EPA has rightly reported that fracking causes water contamination. For all of the Americans living with this tragedy every day, they are finally validated by the federal government,” Julia Walsh of the Frack Action environmentalist group said.

“Across the country, Americans have had their lives turned upside down as fracking has poisoned the water coming out of their faucets and has made their families sick. Now all of our federal and state elected officials need to take action to protect Americans by banning fracking. Water is life,” Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman added.

As the debate concerning the safety of fracking rages, Ohio drillers kept setting new records for Marcellus and Utica shale production during the third quarter.

The most productive well in the Buckeye State during the period was the Ascent Resources “Cravat” well in northern Belmont County, which yielded 1.59 billion cubic feet during the quarter.


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