No Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Found in Streams, Study Finds

A new federal study found no evidence oil and gas production in northern Pennsylvania has contaminated the State Forest Service’s rivers and streams, Kallanish Energy reports. The study, published in February in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, concluded there were no signs wastewater from hydraulically fractured wells had entered any of more than two dozen streams running through the Marcellus Shale.

“This study hypothesized the existence of a quantifiable relationship between the intensity of disturbance from Marcellus Shale gas development and changes in water chemistry, microbial community structure, and macroinvertebrate community composition in headwater streams in the Pennsylvania state forests system,” the study overview details.

The study concluded: “No quantifiable relationships were identified between the intensity of O&G [oil and gas] development, water composition, and the composition of benthic (bottom-dwelling) macroinvertebrate and microbial communities. No definitive indications that hydraulic fracturing fluid, flow-back water, or produced water have entered any of the study streams were found.”

The study’s authors included representatives of the Bureau of Forestry, a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources., and the Division of Water Quality, an agency of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Rebecca Oyler, Pennsylvania legislative director at the National Federation of Independent Business, told Pennsylvania Business Report the study shows hydraulic fracturing can provide affordable energy for the state’s economy without significant environmental risk.

“The study just released by PNAS confirms what we’ve known all along. The responsible development of Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources is not incompatible with protecting our environment,” she said. The study results were also welcomed by an energy industry currently being pummeled by low prices for its produced products. In addition, more than one presidential candidate has come out against hydraulic fracturing, specifically U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), while another, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has touted 100% “clean” energy.

The study was led by the U.S. Geological Survey and was partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. It monitored the waters in 25 rural streams on State Forest Service lands located in the Marcellus play. The research team collected water samples from headwater steams over a two-year period.

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