TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Frack You!

After some reading and TV reports on the relationship between fracking and earthquakes in oil county, I’m concerned.

Studies have shown that oil extraction by hydraulic fracturing is behind a number of earthquakes in areas not usually associated with seismic activity, especially Oklahoma. There are two forms of man-induced earthquakes. One is clearly related to fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of water and other additives deep underground, where the pressure causes cracks to form in the shale rock. The resulting pressure is intense enough and lasts long enough to influence nearby faults and produce periodic earthquakes that can last for months.

While the quakes diminish once fracking stops, any fault remaining under fluid pressure is still subject to persistent quakes in the weeks and months that follow. Fracking operations can trigger fault slips up to six-tenths of a mile away.

In terms that I’m more familiar with, the fracking process can be compared to placing a lubricant (most likely WD-40) between two flat pieces of rock and pressing on them until one slides over the other.

So what has triggered my growing interest in fracking? Consider this.

Assume, for the moment, you have a lake cottage or home on a nearby Minnesota lake. Assume, further, that you live near a public access — one that’s used by thousands of people each year. (Yup, it’s a pretty big lake!)

You’ve been on this lake for many years. Many of your neighbors are senior citizens. There are businesses that depend on you because they sell groceries, gas and other necessities. The lake is great for fishing and other recreational activities year-round.

Now then, let’s pretend that over your objections the government agency that oversees oil well site permits grants permission to erect an 11-well unit … within just 800 feet of your public access in an area where many, many families have summer and year-round lakeside homes.

Sure, the oil company promises to insulate the drilling pads with the most updated equipment and do its best to protect your quality of lake life. Don’t be angry with the oil company itself that’s doing business legally with the state — but ask yourself this. When does profit trump your quality of life?

Well, Minnesota friends, we can relax. This isn’t happening in our own lake country. But this is exactly what is occurring right now on the Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota. Slawson Exploration has already begun construction on an 11-well site 800 feet from the ramp at Van Hook Recreation Area with the blessing of the state, which granted the permit.

I cannot fathom the thought process within state government that would tolerate and allow this scenario to go forward.

Now, these are known facts: Fracking can, in fact, cause earthquakes. Fracking will be used at every well site. Fracking-related water pollution is a real possibility. Pipes leading from the ground to storage can rupture, leak or explode, and the resulting petroleum or fracking liquid can make its way to the lake.

What possible justification can there be for creating, allowing and legally permitting such a venture — well-drilling pads within 800 feet of that heavily used public access! Just try to tell me now that money doesn’t talk.

It’s interesting that the oil companies are capable of drilling miles down and sideways. Yet somehow they figure they’ve got to install their pads so close to lake residents and the public access.

I guess the thinking must be that because the Van Hook situation doesn’t adversely impact the masses in North Dakota, those who do live there and use the lake can be sacrificed. But that simply calls the entire process into question. Those who should have looked out for the Van Hook welfare … did not.

This is so much like what is happening on the national scene. Money talks, and people haven’t counted ….

But we are counting now. We North Dakotans and Minnesotans are also Americans, and we will not forget. Amen.

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