AC Alert for September 26, 2011 Not Every Fall College Contest Is On The Gridiron!

Sep 28, 2011 12:30 PM ET

AC Alert for September 26, 2011 Not Every Fall College Contest Is On The Gridir…

The fall college football season has arrived and millions of loyal fans from all across the country are flocking to stadiums each weekend rooting for their favorite teams. Numerous rivalries between colleges will once again be the order of the day. Some long-term rivalries will be hard-fought, of course.  However, the football gridiron isn’t the only place where colleges can agree to disagree.

For example: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh released a study earlier this month on greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) produced from the practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits).  This study challenges a similar study published by Ithaca NY's Cornell University in May.  The Carnegie Mellon study estimates that greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas is lower than emissions from coal burning by as much as 50 % -- while the previously--released Cornell study said greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas were greater than coal emissions by 20 %. (Source: Cornell Daily Sun)

How could these studies by two renowned institutions of higher learning come to such different conclusions? Many reasons – but the studies sure have energized the ongoing debate in New York State over fracking -- the extraction of natural gas from wells drilled deep underneath the ground whereby a chemical mixture is pumped into shale rock at high pressure to break apart rocks and release natural gas to be brought to the surface. 

One of the authors of the Cornell study, Professor Robert Howarth, explained the contradicting conclusions of the two studies by bringing attention to Carnegie Mellon’s use of data, which he called “internally inconsistent and poorly documented.” Carnegie Mellon researcher Professor Chris Hendrickson said their data use was standard for climate change modeling. Chances are they won’t be seeing eye-to-eye on the issue anytime soon. Nor will the advocates and opponents of fracking.

A Long Road Ahead for the Fracking Debate
The controversy over this process seems headed for a long ride. As a growing number of energy companies pursue this process to get to formerly unavailable energy deposits deep in the earth, a like amount of communities are responding negatively to the practice. The controversy is in part about oil and gas companies showing up with drilling rigs, pumps and the like on private property. To be sure, some landowners are happy to accommodate drillers and enjoy a cash stream of royalties. But many other individuals and community leaders are not looking favorably at the presence of oil and gas drilling on their land and in their community. 

Lately with media stories looking more in detail at fracking the liquids pumped into the ground under pressure are raising alarm – these include hazardous waste chemicals, diesel oil and other unwanted liquids.  Questions have also been raised about the potential impact of fracking on water quality and thereby on human and animal health, on agricultural products -- including grape vines and other deep-rooted plant life.

The public debate on fracking now involves state regulatory officials, members of congress and other elected officials, public health professionals, environmentalists, industry oil and gas executives. AC editors have been following this controversy very carefully over the past several years. We have a special Hot Topics Section dedicated solely to The Truth About Fracking.  Here are some recent excerpts from that special section:

Fracking residue poses concerns in Falls
(Source: Buffalo News) The Niagara Falls Water Board views the treatment of polluted water from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," as a potential economic boon;
environmental advocates and some city residents are concerned about the impact of the process.

Despite probe, US SEC says not regulating fracking
(Source: Reuters) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission wants to ensure drilling companies are not misleading investors about their natural gas reserves but it is not cracking down on the actual practice of hydraulic fracturing itself.

Future in fracking? Lawmakers say NC sits on natural gas goldmine
(Source: Gaston Gazette) State lawmakers say tapping North Carolina’s rich natural gas reserves could bring thousands of jobs, millions of dollars and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

New York State Outlines Fracking Rules
(Source: New York Times) The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a draft report laying out the potential risks of a fracking. Public comments are invited until Dec. 12 on the document, which outlines proposed rules governing the process.

Who Are America’s Top 10 Gas Drillers?
(Source: Pro Publica) This article contains a list of the top 10 drillers in the country, ranked by their daily natural gas production. It also includes key facts about their operations

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.