Letters from engineers

March 1, 2012
Safety of fracking needs more study My perception of the controversy surrounding fracking is that energy companies have done an excellent job reassuring

Safety of fracking needs more study

My perception of the controversy surrounding fracking is that energy companies have done an excellent job reassuring regulators, lawmakers, and community leaders that the practice is safe and will bring much-needed jobs to those areas. The main failing of those companies has been to carry that message of safety and prosperity to the general public. They have underestimated the marketing investment required to secure this as a true long-term opportunity.

Whether or not it's actually as safe as the profiting companies would lead us to believe is another story. The public would benefit from a detailed government or independently sponsored study analyzing the safety and environmental impact of the technology. The public at large will not simply accept the word of a company making billions when they say that “x” (substitute “x” with the new process, material, or technology) is safe.
Tom St.Myer

Regulatory oversight applied unevenly

I just read your article on fracking, and I cannot tell whether you support it or not. You tout the obvious job opportunities and business growth associated with fracking for gas, but then throw up a red flag on the health issues if the EPA doesn't “catch up.” More recently, I read that natural gas production is at a level now that is driving the price down. In some cases, gas hit during oil exploration, a common occurrence, is burned off because gas networks cannot handle all of it. You mention a four-state region regarding the Marcellus Shale deposits. That's a big chunk of the country to be messing with groundwater. The fact that gas producers refuse to identify what's in their fracking fluid should be all the EPA or any other regulatory agency needs to reel in this method before it's too late.

Gas was produced before fracking, and it seems to me that this new wave of gas extraction is more about greed than supply and demand. I am employed in the nuclear power industry, being somewhat associated with one version of a commercial modular nuclear reactor. These units are capable of producing tremendous energy with far fewer environmental concerns than fracking. In my industry, nothing gets produced until it meets the requirements of some regulatory agency. This seems to be the opposite of the natural gas business approach.
Gregg Cadiero

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