Industry: Fracking study based on ‘outlandish’ assumptions

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Spokesmen for the oil and gas industry have questioned the validity of a new study claiming that living near gas wells during the hydraulic fracturing phase could be a health hazard.”To understand the flaws in the outputs, you have to take a close look at the flaws in the inputs,” said Energy In Depth spokesman Chris Tucker. “And the modeling exercise at the core of this paper is based on some pretty outlandish inputs.”Energy In Depth, launched in 2009 by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, bills itself as “a research, education and public outreach campaign focused on getting the facts out” about the oil and gas industry.The author and lead scientist for the study, Colorado School of Public Health research associate Lisa McKenzie, stands by the research and conclusions reached. The report warns that those living within a half-mile of gas wells being hydraulically fractured, or “fracked,” are being exposed to potentially toxic chemicals.Fracking involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock formations and ease the flow of oil and gas to the surface.The report, issued Monday by the Colorado School of Public Health, has undergone “rigorous peer review” and will soon be published in the scientific journal, “Science of the Total Environment,” said McKenzie.”If this is to be discussed further,” she said, “we would prefer to do that in a scientific forum.”She suggested a science-based forum, or simply leaving the debate in the realm of scientific literature. The industry could issue its own study, she said, or write a letter to the editors of “Science of the Total Environment” seeking clarifications or corrections.And while the report cites support by the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), the county’s environmental health official, Jim Rada, said neither he nor the BOCC were aware of the impending publication of the study, nor had they sanctioned it.McKenzie declined to comment on Rada’s remarks, other than to say, “I don’t know what his motivation is.”David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, issued a statement that member companies in WSCOGA have “reduced air emissions through improved operating practices and emission controls” instituted over the last couple of years.”WSCOGA agrees that oil and gas operations must be protective of public health and the environment,” Ludlam wrote.Ludlam, along with Energy In Depth, an industry advocacy group, have criticized the study for using old data that does not take into account changes in the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission’s rules concerning emissions from gas wells.McKenzie said the study used data gathered by the Garfield County Public Health Department and by the Antero Resources drilling company. The data, according to her report, was gathered over a three-year period of monitoring gas well emissions, from January 2008 to November 2010.Ludlam argued that McKenzie’s work was part of a Health Impact Assessment in 2010 which, after being heavily criticized in comments from the industry and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, was scuttled by the Garfield County Commissioners before it was completed.”The report is basically a restatement of data already proven to be weak on supportive data and void of critical proper context,” Ludlam stated.He also said his organization would, “in the coming days, [be] expanding our analysis and will provide a formal response to the report.”

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