Then covers up its mistakes. Sound familiar ? Even before HVHF was invented, the DEC was unable to adequately regulate gas drilling. Much less actually protect anyone from the problems that occur. As retired geologist Brian Brock details, being totally inept and covering up mistakes is not new to the Division of Mineral Resources at DEC, in fact, it’s a family tradition :
“Back in the 1980s, western New York experienced a boom in vertical drilling and fracking of the Median Sandstone for gas. One result was a boom in reports of polluted aquifers, as detailed by Thomas J. Knudson of The New York Times,
Note that during this bungling cover up, the agency responsible for environmental oversight was the Division of Mineral Resources, headed by Greg Sovas – who later retired to be a full time shale shill. You don’t have to be a gas industry suck-up to work at the DEC, but it does not appear to be a deterrent to career advancement. The gas industry picks their spokesman according to their ability to prevaricate. Or, in Mr. Sovas’s case, prevaricate and chew gum at the same time :
In 1983 numerous water wells in a gravel aquifer in the Towns of Ellicott and Poland, Chautauqua County were suddenly contaminated by gas. Despite six years of investigations by scientists hired by the DEC that showed that the gas in local resident’s water was from nearby industry gas wells, the Director of the DEC’s Mineral Resources Division, Greg Sovas, evasively concluded in 1989, “All the work we have done suggests that gas exists in the area, but I can’t say one thing is causing it or not.”
After Sovas retired from the DEC he went on to work for the gas industry and is presently a principle in two industry service companies. Three or four years ago he was invited to speak to the Chenango County Board of Supervisors and loudly proclaimed in his speech the old industry saw that “there has not been one instance of water contamination.“
As Bob Thomas reports, the fact that the gas was not “swamp gas” is no secret, as the following report indicates. National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation has a Virtual Museum of Ground Water History. Among their holdings is a radio carbon study that shows the contamination was from formation gas, mobilized by gas wells, not “swamp gas.” But it took a full-blown investigation, involving the AG and the USGS to get the DEC to admit the cover up.
* First DMR just claimed in a letter to the Shorts that the pollution gas was “swamp gas”
* When forced to do more investigation and a formal report, DMR did some chemical analyses of gas. Despite the gas having ethane, propane and butane, they concluded it was swamp gas — except that the combustible fraction of swamp gas is almost pure methane.
* After the Short’s consultant came to the opposite conclusion, he got the AG involved in a joint investigation. The USGS Albany office suggested using C14 dating to identify the gas. With the results of that dating, DMR had to admit it was petroleum gas, not biogenic.
A note to out-of-state readers:
DEC = New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
DMR = Department of Mineral Resources
Note that in most states, the minerals management agency is separate from the environmental agency
In New York, the Dept of Mineral Resources (oil & gas leasing) is in the environmental agency (DEC)
This means that the state environmental agency has been completely co-opted by the oil & gas industry. As this story from the ’80’s indicates that situation is decades old.
Carol French hoists a mason jar of Fracksylvania’s Finest