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Cancer Fears Plague America’s Shale Gas Revolution

Cancer Fears Plague America’s Shale Gas Revolution

Courtesy of Vincent Fernando at Clusterstock/Business Insider

Shale Gas Basins USA

 

While drilling techniques for natural gas from American shale formations continue to appear safe overall, many are questioning the reliability and objectivity of current environmental assessments.

Statements such as the following only cause confusion and distrust:

Dallas News: Nearly one-fourth of the sites monitored in North Texas’ Barnett Shale natural-gas region had levels of cancer-causing benzene in the air that could raise health concerns, state regulators said Wednesday.

They emphasized, however, that gas companies have fixed the worst emission problems and are working on less-serious sites where the state still wants benzene levels to come down.

"We don’t have a widespread air-quality issue, at least according to the data," said John Sadlier, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s deputy director for compliance and enforcement.

Mayor Calvin Tillman of the tiny Denton County town of Dish criticized the study for not including enough tests in residential areas or enough long-term sampling. The town commissioned its own monitoring last year that found extremely high benzene levels.

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"I don’t think they want to find anything in a populated area, and I think their sampling reflects that," Tillman said.

The shale gas drilling (and frakking) safety tests of today will have huge ramifications for tomorrow, given that current drilling only scratches the surface of the U.S.’s potential shale-derived natural gas reserves.

Still, given the major commitments in American shale gas made by Exxon (via its recent XTO acquisition) and France’s Total (via its Chesapeake tie-up), it seems highly likely that shale’s environmental concerns will eventually be managed. In the end there’s likely a way to extract the gas safely without too much added cost, if it already isn’t safe enough. Note Total just closed its $2.25 billion Chesapeake joint-venture deal. Regardless, Chesapeake shares are falling.

The author owns shares in Chesapeake Energy (CHK).

 


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