In the water, in the air, in the hills

A handful of recent events prompt us to offer a short response to environmental concerns related to the natural gas industry.

The first is the release of a Sundance Film Festival documentary film on HBO titled “Gasland.” “Gasland” spends most of its time and energy exploring the impact of the “fracking” process on drinking water. In the film’s climax, two Colorado landowners light their tap water on fire.
This concerned us as much as it would any reasonable person. However, some investigation showed that the landowner’s state environmental protection agencies tested their drinking water and showed the gasses present to be “naturally occurring biogenic methane gas in well and no impact from oil and gas activities.”

The second is a visit to Conway by the mayor of Dish, Texas.

The mayor’s visit was part of his nationwide tour to tout his experience and concerns with the natural gas industry. The mayor of Dish has gone the extra mile to explore what he believes are the toxic side effects of living in an active natural gas field. Thankfully, the Texas Department of State Health Services has also gone the extra mile.

Their most recent studies show that the residents of Dish, Texas, exposure to contaminants “was not greater than that of the general U.S. population.”
Finally, if it seems like there have been more and more earthquake reports lately, it’s because there have been more earthquake reports.
The cause isn’t natural gas drilling. The cause isn’t even more earthquakes. It’s more detectors and more reports.
This spring, the Arkansas Geological Survey (the earthquake counters) installed the “Arkansas Seismic Network.”
It is a series of six, state of the art, permanent detection stations located in State Parks close to areas of historic seismic activity.
Their goal is to “establish better and more uniform earthquake detection outside of the New Madrid seismic zone (NMSZ).”
That’s what each of these issues — water, air and land — need. Better and more uniform standards of reporting. The positive economic impacts of the natural gas industry are obvious in Faulkner County.

The positive environmental impacts of burning natural gas rather than coal or oil products is unquestioned. Electricity-generating facilities fired by natural gas produce half the green house gas emissions of coal-fired generators, natural gas is much cleaner burning than oil products such as diesel and gasoline, and natural gas is produced right here in America (including Arkansas) and does not have to be imported from foreign countries that don’t like us.

The environmental impacts of producing natural gas aren’t so easily seen.

Documentary films, speeches and tales spread by word of mouth aren’t how to measure the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling.
Scientific data, transparency and open communication are the only way we can measure the impact of the natural gas collection on our environ