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April 21st, 2011

Pickens Thinks New Yorkers Don’t Understand Fracking

By Rich Bindell and Emily Wurth


Yesterday, the nation saw another example of the cost of doing business with the natural gas industry when a natural gas well operated by Chesapeake Energy blew out in Canton, Pennsylvania.

According to T. Boone Pickens this week, New Yorkers need an enlightened, “intelligent” leader on energy … like T. Boone Pickens.

On the subject of fracking (about 39 minutes into the video), Pickens said…

“Western New York is concerned about it. They now have said, ‘You’re gonna frack these wells in the watershed? What? The Watershed! They don’t even know what the watershed is. That’s where it rains. It rains in the watershed and then runs into a lake. And you’re not gonna frack a lake or the watershed or whatever. You’re fracking down 10,000 feet, two miles under the surface. But my God you say that to people, in New York, they don’t know what’s gonna happen to their water. Well what they need is somebody intelligent, a leader to say this is what the deal is. Don’t worry. Just watch what I’m telling you, listen to what I’m saying and check the facts. That’s all you have to do. It’s not complicated It’s very simple.”

This “reassurance” from a representative of the natural gas industry came courtesy of Pickens while he and Ted Turner were guest speakers earlier this week at the National Press Club event promoting his Pickens Plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and invest in alternative fuels and natural gas in particular. It sounds like Pickens wants residents of New York State and even President Obama to trust him and the rest of the natural gas industry and not concern themselves with any of the details of fracking.

Before implying New Yorkers were incapable of grasping what a watershed was, he glossed over the fact that vertical fracking is currently taking place in Western New York using dangerous chemicals and the state’s water supply to extract methane from shale and the industry is poised to expand drilling in New York when the current state moratorium on horizontal fracking expires. The toxic chemicals used in fracking are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act thanks to the artful politicking of Dick Cheney and the “Cheney Loophole.” Shale gas drilling has rapidly expanded across the state of Pennsylvania in recent years.

38:30 into the video…

“If you notice, all the complaints are coming from Pennsylvania. And that’s in the Marcellus. How long have you been developing the Marcellus? About three years. You’ve been…I drilled over 800,000 wells in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and fracked those wells. And I do not know of any lawsuit or any complaint or anything else about that.”

But there is a distinction in the type of natural gas drilling that’s going on in the Marcellus Shale. The hydraulic fracturing that’s used to extract methane in shale formations is a much more water intensive and dangerous process than in many of the conventional natural gas sources out west. Shale rock formations are much more dense so it takes much more water and pressure. Regardless of how many wells Pickens claims that he fracked safely, clearly there are problems right now in Pennsylvania and New York and that’s where much of the natural gas industry has turned to lately.

As Bryan Walsh at TIME wrote this morning in response to the unfolding disaster in Branford County, Pennsylvania, “You don’t have to fear the contamination of underground aquifers to worry about the impacts of shale gas drilling.” Accidents at the surface can release toxic fracking fluid into local streams and onto agricultural fields. Since the fracking wastewater cannot be treated by standard treatment plants, it could potentially make its ways into drinking water supplies.

The Pickens Plan is really a plan to frack America. The Food & Water Watch plan is to fight for a ban on fracking.

Meanwhile, we’re following these blogs for their good earlier coverage of the Pennsylvania disaster:

DeSmog Blog (Emma Pullman)
Grist (Tom Laskaway)
The Hill (Andrew Restuccia)

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