Attorney: Legal Claims Based on Idea of Dangers From Fracking Don't Have Legitimate Scientific Support

Many studies conclude that
fracking can be called safe
From the King & Spalding Energy Newsletter:
The scientific foundation has continued to shift in favor of expanded energy exploration by professional operators. Scientific inquiry into hydraulic fracturing has increasingly demonstrated that expertly built and operated fracking operations pose few new environmental dangers. One late-2014 study, in particular, should be consulted when faced with a plaintiffs' attorney seeking to undermine the case for the safety of hydraulic fracturing: A comprehensive examination of 130 drinking water wells near natural gas operations in Pennsylvania and Texas. The study, which was published in September 2014 and conducted by scientists from Duke, Ohio State, Stanford, Dartmouth, and the University of Rochester, found eight instances of contaminated water wells near natural gas projects - seven in Pennsylvania and one in Texas. The study found no evidence that this water contamination was due to fractured shale; instead, flaws in the cement and steel tubing used to seal the outside of vertical wells at shallow depths were to blame for the contamination in each case. 
Dr. Thomas H. Darrah, the study's lead author, told the New York Times that the contamination at the test sites was generally due to disruptions in the shallower gas-rich pockets above the shale. In a press release, Duke University gave specifics: "In four of the affected clusters, the team's noble gas analysis shows that methane from drill sites escaped into drinking water wells from shallower depths through faulty or insufficient rings of cement surrounding a gas well's shaft. In three clusters, the tests suggest the methane leaked through faulty well casings. In one cluster, it was linked to an underground well failure." 
According to Dr. Darrah, as technological developments continue to improve well integrity, gas exploration companies can "probably eliminate most of the environmental problems with gas leaks." Investments by energy companies in improved well casings and tubing are likely to pay dividends in the future by protecting citizens from water contamination, and protecting investors from future lawsuits. 
In the short term, the study's findings are most valuable for efforts to advance hydraulic fracturing projects through regulatory processes and defend them against opportunistic litigation. The study provides a ready-made rebuttal for assertions that water well contamination is specifically due to hydraulic fracturing.
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