The environmental cost of fires and water contamination related to natural gas and oil drilling is simply unacceptable. Where we hike, climb, camp and bike are directly affected by the numerous toxic chemicals they use to extract the gas and oil, spills, improper run off and the resulting fires from ‘blow-outs’. Even more disturbing is the tax deductions for oil and gas companies and the cost of massive clean up and restoration comes out of our pockets.
Fires and blowouts are a common occurrences at natural gas wells. (http://ops.dot.gov/stats/stats.htm) Just for the sake of comparison, the Hayman fire cost the state of Colorado $40 million in damages, burned 133 homes and forced the evacuation of 5,340 persons. That was started with a couple of matches and a few pieces of paper. The damage, cost and impact of this fire is small compared to one caused by a gas line blow-out, which is not surprising considering the starting material.
Here are a few statistics:
In 2007 the damage to public property by Gas Distribution was $20,043,622 nation wide. (AKA: Your Federal Tax dollars)
2004-2007: 41 Public fatalities and 87 public injuries.
(http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/reports/safety/CPI.html?nocache=1744#_ngdistrib) and a second reference, just in case there’s any doubt: http://pstrust.org/resources/stats/index.htm
The Hayman fire has also provided extensive ‘study’ material for just how fire can affect the environment. This gives a glimpse of what to expect as more gas and oil leases are obtained and wells are drilled. Erosion is the most common and well known problem from massive fires, but what does that really mean? When a fire blasts through an area, the heat and damage to the soil actually causes it to become ‘water repellant’. The soil becomes more water repellant as the fire grows more intense. (http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_gtr114/rmrs_gtr114_204_219.pdf) The water can’t be adsorbed into the soil and this prevents revegetation. The chemicals involved in a blowout and any related spills will now ‘slide’ over the surface, go further and increase the contamination to streams and lakes. The vegetation in climbing and hiking areas is burned away, the soil is sterile and chemically contaminated. The resulting combination means increased risk of dangerous landslides that can last years after a fire has been in an area. Obviously, this is not good if you happen to be in the hiking or climbing in the immediate area. Go at your own risk.
It doesn’t stop here, there are countless water related issues. All drilling requires millions of barrels of fresh water. (http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/barnettshale/wateruse.php) Last time I checked, Colorado was a bit shy on water and is under attack on a legal basis from 2 states to increase the amount of water released. So not only are there legal battles to defend the water we have, now they want to use it for drilling. Once used for hydraulic fracturing it cannot (at least should not) be released back into streams or recycled, it's hazardous waste. “Tests showed benzene in his water, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission cited four gas operators, not knowing which one was responsible for the spill. Colorado state records show more than 1,500 spills since 2003, in which time the rate of drilling increased 50 percent.
In 2008 alone, records show more than 206 spills, 48 relating to water contamination.”(See http://www.propublica.org/feature/buried-secrets-is-natural-gas-drilling-endangering-us-water-supplies-1113 and http://s3.amazonaws.com/propublica/assets/natural_gas/doe_produced_water_2004.pdf)
Just for the record, Benzene is a known carcinogen with numerous and devastating health affects which target the kidneys, liver, lung, heart and brain. Benzene works on a cellular level by breaking DNA and causing chromosomal damage. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzene)
If you read the first paragraph carefully, you might have noticed the same thing I did: “... Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission cited four gas operators, not knowing which one was responsible for the spill.” That means the regulation is so loose that they can’t even track what operator or company is leaking Benzene all over the place.
I think this bears repeating:
“Colorado state records show more than 1,500 spills since 2003, in which time the rate of drilling increased 50 percent. In 2008 alone, records show more than 206 spills, 48 relating to water contamination.”
Do you know for certain you have not hiked or climbed in an area that was contaminated with Benzene? This stuff is NOT cleaned out by your water filters.
I recommend you research where the these spills have occurred. (Don’t be too surprised if you can’t find much information.)
This is a very abbreviated summary regarding the damage we can look forward to as the gas and oil industry continue to push their agenda.
Oh, by the way, anyone can sign up for a oil and gas lease from the United States Government through this company and others like it, right on line. (http://www.rcmichaelcompany.com/faq.aspx)
All that being said, the biggest impact is on those who love to be on the trails and rocks. We know first hand what the damage is and how long it lasts. We have witnessed the closed trails and miles of burned and desiccated wilderness that used to be beautiful vistas with crystal clear streams bubbling along winding, well loved trails. Those now only exist as snapshots and memories.
Links to stories about Colorado's "Water Wars":
(http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/105ORIG.ZO.html),(http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bottled-water2-2009apr02,0,6604404.story) and (http://www.ose.state.nm.us/newtstweb/PDF/ISC/BasinsPrograms/Colorado/1-TransmittalLetter.pdf )