Landmark Fracking Study Finds No Water Pollution

Avner Vengosh, a Duke University scientist involved with that study, just published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in an email that it appears the Energy Department report on the Pennsylvania site is consistent with their findings.

The leading industry group in Pennsylvania said the Energy Department study reaffirms that hydraulic fracturing "is a safe and well-regulated technology." Marcellus Shale Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer said in an email that the study reflects "the industry's long and clear record of continuously working to enhance regulations and best practices aimed at protecting our environment."

The Energy Department report did yield some surprises. It found that the fractures created to free oil or gas can extend as far as 1,900 feet from the base of the well. That's much farther than the usual estimates of a few hundred feet. The Energy Department researchers believe that the long fractures may have followed existing fault lines in the Marcellus Shale or other formations above it.

The department study also ran into problems with the manmade markers meant to track possible long-term pollution. The Energy Department said it was able to track the markers for two months after fracking, but then that method had to be abandoned when it stopped working properly.


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