Breaking: Fracking in the Valley?

Geologists have discovered natural gas in the Pioneer Valley; activists fear environmentally dangerous drilling will ensue.

Comments (9)
Friday, November 16, 2012
American Ground Water Trust
Natural gas has been discovered beneath the Hartford Basin

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Late this summer, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that it had located several new veins of natural gas in the eastern U.S. One, known as the Hartford (Connecticut) Basin, extends well into Western Massachusetts.

And so the possibility of fracking in the Valley arises. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method widely used to extract natural gas. Water containing chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and benzene is pumped into the natural structures, such as shales, that house the gas, creating pressure that releases it.

In states where a great deal of natural gas extraction has been done, fracking has been shown to cause devastating environmental effects, including pollution of air and groundwater. Landowners who signed leases with gas companies wanting to extract gas on their property have had serious problems; well pollution, odors, and leases that renew themselves automatically so the landowners find themselves unable to terminate their dealings with the extractors, are only the short list.

On December 13, a conference organized by a group of engineers and industrialists calling itself the American Groundwater Trust will be held at UMass to provide a venue for discussion of what may happen when natural gas companies begin extracting gas from sites in this area. The American Groundwater Trust has staked out a position that the extraction of energy sources should not cause environmental problems, and that all “stakeholders” need to come to the table and let their concerns be known. A hint about the group's character comes from this statement on its website: "'Fracking'" has become the lightning-rod word of choice for the media whenever shale-gas development is in the news, even although [sic] the actual deep hydraulic fracture process is rarely if ever to blame for environmental problems.”

Meanwhile, the Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party and the Western Massachusetts chapter of Progressive Democrats of America have organized an event entitled “Beat Back Fracking” to be held at 7 p.m. December 6 at Christ United Methodist Church, 271 Rocky Hill Rd, Northampton. For ongoing information, check

Comments (9)
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This article is so full of absolute lies the author should be ashamed and reconsider being a journalist or propogandist.

Isn;t it funny that multiple major University studies, and long term EPA studies show, that fracking, done for decades, has no known negative effects. The author must be ridiculed for using non scientific hysteria in the over the top statements. This entire artivle is just one long environmental extremist screed.

Posted by Larry on 11.18.12 at 9:23

It's not funny that multiple major university studies and the EPA have shown that hydrolic fracturing has no negative environmental effects because there is a large class of real people who have no "environmental extremist" agenda (i.e., they live in red states) who claim many negative problems with their groundwater and health after leasing their land to gas companies. This disconnect between the studies by large, organized and completely purchasable institutions and the hundreds of little people gives me enough pause to oppose any and all such extraction in our homeland until these issues are fixed. From what I understand, the contamination occurs in at least three ways. 1) Although the toxic substances are injected below the water table, some of it seeps up around the outside of the drill. They try to seal off the space between the drill and rock with collars but it's impossible to make a water-tight seal. 2) The natural gas itself intermingles with the groundwater. 3) Poorly trained, apathetic gas workers from out of state are careless at best with the toxic wastewater that returns from each well site.

There is no reason to rush into something that provides only individual lessors who sign away their mineral rights a lump sum in exchange for potentially ruining the vital resource of water, owned by everyone, here in the Valley. It's not an environmental, treehugging, save the spotted owl issue. It's a public health issue.

Posted by Better Planning on 11.18.12 at 18:19

hmmm... multiple major university and EPA studies vs. a "large class of people ... who claim many negative problems with their groundwater."

that said... completely predictable from the advicate and this writer specifically.

Posted by k on 11.19.12 at 4:43

Watch out Connecticut! The landmen (paid sales people for oil and gas industry) will come in and very smoothly (like snake oil) tell you that you will be rich, that the thousands of people all over the world fighting fracking are eco terrorists and that nothing will happen to your air or water by allowing them to buy your mineral rights and frack your land. They lie. Remember what we say where fracking is happening: "If their lips move, it's a lie." Hundreds of families have lost their water, many are fleeing for their lives from beautiful homes because they are getting sick. Children are waking up with nose bleeds, headaches and heavy metals in their blood. In a trip to most of the shale areas in the U.S., I witnessed bad water in anyone within sight of a gas well, the horrendous smell, 24/7bright lights and noise, ruined roads from intense truck traffic, spills of chemicals and loss. Loss of everything. A lot of the chemicals used are endocrine disruptors. An average of 5 million gallons of fresh water is used for each frack. You must have your water well baseline tested before fracking starts. Then test it again after fracking. This will run you around 1500.00 dollars, not once but probably 10 times as they frack repeatedly. Silica sand is mixed with the water and chemicals. This sand is being mined all over Wisconsin, using up valuable farm land. It causes lung disease and cancer if exposed for just a short amount of time. Fracking was invented by Halliburton. It is a flawed technology. If it was a drug, it would have been taken off the shelves years ago. But it's the oil and gas industry and they were exempted from every environmental law by Cheney and Bush.

Please research carefully. You will fight this! And do not sign a lease to drill! You will lose and so will your neighbors!

Posted by Annie Lenihan on 11.24.12 at 9:00

Anyone who believes the monopoly of powerful mega gas corporations have environmental or societal issues in mind over monetary issues and profit are mislead at best and stupid at worst. 100 years of learning after the fact about the impact and pollution and death as a by product of industry up to this day and still people believe in vain. I personally don't need any study to tell me that pumping thousands of gallons of liquid comprised of dozens of chemicals into the ground followed by millions of gallons of fresh drinking water per well, and thousands of wells placed together it is good for the environment or our health. Just go visit an area where they have drilled and see for yourself. Fact is, they say they drill deep, it wont affect nothing, but any scientist would say we really cannot be assured of any future results of mega-fracking since the bulk of the hundreds of thousands of wells drilled here were drilled since 2004ish. Why are they mostly exempt from the EPA and Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act...I have not found any proof of how they are required to comply...maybe they do and wont say what? Even if they are, the EPA is widely known to make many issues worse in their attempts to regulate safety via static law on a page. If they are regulated then why from a satellite pic on GoogleEarth do sites look like messy, unkempt, frankly completely disorganized sites? Why all the medical problems near them? Why not disclose what chemicals they use? Hell I have to post a Materials Safety Data sheet for my carpentry business for every single chemical I use. Why don't the companies post 'after' pics in their commercials showing how life improved for citizens whose communities choose to allow NG wells? Technical issues aside, I am 100% against the most fundamental result...hundreds, if not thousands of tanker trucks carrying caustic, toxic, poisonous chemicals through the streets of my community at all hours. I urge further education.

Posted by william philip on 11.27.12 at 11:59 have any referencies to these "major University studies, and long term EPA studies"? I cant find any. Also unsure by what you mean "long Term"..... how long? The recent fracking boom started only a decade ago.

Posted by william philip on 11.27.12 at 12:03

Larry - are you referring to studies done by the University of Texas and Cornell University? Is that the 2004 EPA studies that you promote? Please, don't let facts interferred with your point of view. Google can be your friend.

Posted by Tam on 11.28.12 at 6:20

All of the vitriol above aside (seriously, folks, cite your references and back up your claims), this article by the Advocate does get a major point wrong: The Hartford Basin *is not* one of the basins the USGS identified natural gas in in their report ( In fact, if you read the report, they go out of their way, on their map and in a table on page 2, to say "Hartford Basin: Unassessed." It's a very far cry from saying that the USGS has discovered shale gas here, and the Advocate is errononeous in making that statement.

There are 150+ years worth of scientific literature regarding the geology of the Connecticut Basin, and the USGS report can be misleading to those who aren't well versed in that body of literature, or who don't have a lot of experience looking at USGS oil/gas assessments. Amongst that literature are several papers from the late 1980's / early 1990's, by researchers at U-Mass and the USGS actually addressing hydrocarbon potential in the Hartford and Deerfield basins:

USGS Bulletin 1776: Studies of the early Mesozoic Basins of the eastern United States (1988): Specifically, the papers by Pratt, Shar, Burruss, etc... on pages 58-80.

Hubert et al., 1992, The Triassic-Jurassic Hartford Rift Basin, Connecticut and Massachusetts: Evolution, Sandstone Diagenesis, and Hydrocarbon History: AAPG Bulletin, V 76, n 11, p 1710-1734

Kruge et al., 1989, Organic Geochemistry of a Lower Jurassic synrift lacustrine sequence, Hartford Basin, CT, U.S.A: Advances in Organic Geochemistry, Vol 16., pp 689-701

Kruge et al., 1989, Biological Markers in Lower Jurassic synrift lacustrine black shales, Hartford Basin, CT, USA: Org. Geochem, Vol 15, n 3, pp 281-289

All of these are available with a Mass. state borrower's card from the U-Mass library. Or you could call any one of the dozens of geologists that teach or do research at the local colleges or universities (full disclosure: I am one of those geologists).

Yes, fracking is something to most definitely be concerned about. But the cumulative body of scientific knowledge about the Hartford Basin strongly implies that the probability of shale gas in the Valley is quite small, actually. It's probably why we don't already see oil derricks here or have people lighting their water on fire because they drilled a water well into a gas-bearing unit.

Which begs the question-- why is this being drummed up as an issue in Western Mass when it's not? What's to be gained, and who benefits, from drumming up fear about this?

Regarding Larry's claims-- there's a lot of empirical evidence out there that people are getting sick near fracking sites, and that is something to take seriously.... *AND* many states, when they go in to investigate claims of water contamination, etc..., can't find any actual evidence (see fact sheets published by the American Groundwater Assocation or the Association of American State Geologists). There are studies showing both contamination and lack of contamination, and I think it's safe to say, at this point, that propaganda by both the oil/gas industry and anti-frack groups are full of shlock-- much falls apart when subjected to scrutiny / vetting. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Posted by AnonymousGeologist on 11.29.12 at 22:08


National Geographic:


The Economist:

All of these sources review some of the big downsides of fracking.

And AnonymousGeologist, thanks for the thoughtful and thorough response.

Posted by Will Szal on 12.10.12 at 8:03



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