Sustained Outrage

More questions about the natural gas boom

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In his big coal industry speech the other day, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller had some interesting comments comparing coal to natural gas:

Natural gas has its challenges, too – with serious questions about water contamination and shortages and other environmental concerns. But while coal executives pine for the past, natural gas looks to the future -investing in technologies to reduce their environmental footprint. And they’re working with others on ways to support the safe development of gas – and we will all be watching.

As he watched the natual gas boom, Sen. Rockefeller might want to check out a couple of interesting stories that came out this week.

First, there was a post on The Daily Beast about a Yale study concerning whether the boom is a positive or negative thing for our society, discussing the data regarding accidents at gas drilling and production sites. And then, there was a blockbuster from the great Abrahm Lustgarten over at ProPublic, Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us, reporting:

Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.

No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.