WV Group Studying Regional Impact of Fracturing
The State Journal
21 January 2013
By Taylor Kuykendall, Reporter
A West Virginia-based environmental consulting group announced two
new projects Jan. 21 looking at the controversial practice of
shale gas development and the associated practice of hydraulic
According to an e-mail from Downstream Strategies, the
organization will take part in a study made possible by a grant
from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation to study the
effects of fracturing in the eastern U.S.
Earthworks, an environmental advocacy group, will also join the
Hydraulic fracturing is a process used by natural gas companies to
allow porous shale formation to more easily release natural gas
into wells where it can be collected at the surface. Much of the
water used in the process is returned to the surface where it must
be treated, recycled or disposed.
"Researchers will develop a life cycle analysis of hydraulic
fracturing waste water that can be used by local and state
officials in their efforts to regulate drilling," Downstream
Strategies wrote in its e-mail. "This life cycle analysis will
assess the risks of environmental pollution and groundwater
contamination from hydraulic fracturing."
The oil and gas industry has insisted that the process of
hydraulic fracturing is safe. Various researchers have reached
different conclusions about whether fracturing is safe, though
most agree frac fluid can be harmful if accidentally spilled on
the surface before or after it is returned.
The study will focus on analyzing the full life cycle of water
that is used in the hydraulic fracturing project.
The project also proposed to examine emissions of greenhouse gases
associated with drilling. While burning natural gas emits less
carbon, questions have been raised about how much methane (a more
potent greenhouse gas) is leaked in the drilling and transport of
Downstream Strategies also announced a partnership with the West
Virginia University Extension Service and the West Virginia Food
and Farm Coalition to "develop a new web-based application that
links producers, consumers, distributors, and other major players
in the West Virginia food system." The organization hopes to aid
in the expansion of local food markets, creating jobs "while
circulating wealth throughout local economies."