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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Will Duke's Latest Attempt to Dig Up Something Against Fracking Have an Impact?

From Shale Reporter:
A study published this week found methane levels in drinking water wells near fracking sites in northern Pennsylvania are, on average, six times greater than those in wells further away.
The authors of the study are now in a safe house, hiding from the oil and gas industry.
Methane is naturally occurring, and eighty percent of the wells tested showed some level of methane, even ones not near gas operations. But out of the 12 homes showing dangerous methane levels (above the federal limit of 28 milligrams per liter), 11 were close to drilling sites.
Coincidence?
Read the rest of that article here.

If there is one thing about this study that keeps coming to mind as reason to question the findings, it's this point brought out by Energy in Depth:
Fact 4: Still No Random Sample? 
One of the quickest ways to undermine your own scientific findings is to engage in selection bias when establishing research parameters. This means, in the simplest terms, that folks attempting to craft a scientific argument should rely on random sampling, rather than carefully selecting one site over another, to remove any suspicion of deliberately using one set of evidence – to prove one particular conclusion – over another. 
Which brings us to the “Methods” section of the Duke II paper: 
“The samples were obtained from homeowner associations and contacts with the goal of sampling Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven groundwater wells across the region.” (p. 5; emphasis added)
Does this mean the Duke team consciously selected particular water wells (or areas with historically bad water) for the purpose of padding the stats a bit in buttressing their conclusions? Fact is, without knowing who these vaguely described “contacts” are, we can’t really make a determination about the validity of the sample itself. That doesn’t mean the researchers cooked the books and only sought out households that the anti-shale activists in the area identified for them as good targets for the study. But given the fact that Duke’s Nicholas School — the entity from which this study originated — is funded, in part, by the same organization that finances local “Gasland” screenings across the country, it’s hardly unreasonable to expect these researchers to tell us how they decided to choose one household for the study over another.
That's a pretty valid point when the key factor that's being cited is the frequency with which methane is showing up.  How were the wells for testing actually selected?  What was the criteria for selecting one instead of another?  Why wasn't it random?  These seem like fair questions.

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