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Open Letter To President Obama-DOE's Committee To Make Hydraulic Fracturing Safe Should be Disbanded, and A Independent Committee With Citizen Stakeholder Representation Put In Its Place

Dear President Obama:

The DOE has recently formed a committee whose stated purpose is too make Hydraulic Fracturing safer, its unstated purpose seems to be a feeble attempt to placate members of the public who are up in arms over a industrial technology that is not fully understood, nor properly investigated and approved through scientific study. Secretary Steven Chu invited closer scrutiny of the legitimacy of this committee with three early signals that telegraphed the intent of the rewrap hydraulic fracturing in a way that makes it appear safe when in reality it is not.

1.  The time frame given to the committee to complete its work, and craft their recommendations...three months, with another three months to finalized their recommendations for a industry that intends to extract Natural Gas using Hydraulic Fracturing from over 350,000 square miles of our lands...most of private lands, or protected state and federal parks.

2.  Naming as Committee Chair one Mr. Deutch-director of Cheniere Energy, which operates a major liquefied natural gas terminal in Louisiana.  Could you place a more biased person in charge of this committee...someone who has a vested interest in seeing the expansion of Natural Gas extraction here in the United States.

3.  Look at Texas and its Barnett Shale play, or Pennsylvania and New York with our own Marcellus play. Look at the numerous citizen stakeholder groups such as CCSE (Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy) who are working diligently to have our voices heard on this important issue to our communities...yet, Steven Chu and the DOE in formation of this committee CHOSE not to give us a voice in the process.  One has to wonder what it is that the DOE and the White House want to hide from us?  The biased and pre-determined direction of the committee, or perhaps instead the committee will see documents that show hydraulic fracturing to be even more dangerous than we as citizens are currently being led to believe?

These three glaring facts as relates to the committee should be more than enough for you Mr. President to disband this DOE controlled committee, and instead form a Blue Ribbon Hydraulic Fracturing Committee to study the issue, give them ADEQUATE TIME to do their jobs, and summit their report...think 911 Commission.  However, there is much more, and even a cursory investigation of the facts shows the DOE is vested in the Natural Gas industry moving forward at all costs.  They show disdain for public health and protection of the environment, but instead are out touting proudly their involvement in the industry, pretty well taking credit for Modern Day Hydraulic Fracturing...this claim can be verified on their own website, looking at their own chest beating and credit taking.   Skipping over their horrible 1969 Atomic Fracturing experiment, we instead visit a page posted this year wherein they spell out their involvements in moving the Natural Gas industry to where it is today. (Link)

DOE's Early Investment in Shale Gas Technology Producing Results Today

Washington, D.C.A $92 million research investment in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is today being credited with technological contributions that have stimulated development of domestic natural gas from shales. The result: more U.S. jobs, increased energy security, and higher revenues for states and the Federal Government.

More than 30 years ago, fears of dwindling domestic natural gas supplies pushed researchers to examine alternative sources of natural gas such as Devonian shales, coals, and low permeability or "tight" sands. Recognizing the need for research and development to quantify these unconventional reservoirs and to develop ways to produce them, DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy invested in Devonian shale research from 1977 through 1992, matching technology to complex geology for various geologic settings.

Through programs focused on Eastern gas shales, Western gas sands, and methane from coalbeds, DOE developed and stimulated the deployment of advanced exploration and production technologies. These technologies recovered new gas supplies from unconventional gas resources by increasing per-well gas-recovery efficiencies and lowering unit development costs. 

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) employed a detailed resource characterization and technology development approach that geologically partitioned each natural gas resource and matched technology to geology to chart a path for resource development. More than 25,000 feet of oriented core and well log data from 35 cored shale wells provided the basic core and geologic data used to prepare the first publicly available estimates of technically recoverable gas for the Huron shales in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In 1986, DOE collaborated with industry to achieve a significant milestone: the first air-drilled 2,000-foot-long horizontal Devonian shale well in the Appalachian Basin. This also marked the first recovery of core from a horizontal air-drilled shale well and the first successful use of external casing packers in an air-filled wellbore. Through 1992, DOE also worked with industry to complete three additional 2,000-foot-long horizontal wells containing multiple hydraulically fractured zones and to develop more efficient downhole tools, such as electromagnetic measurement-while-drilling and directional air hammer technology, both of which are currently used by the oilfield service industry.

Another example of early DOE leadership in the development of technologies applicable to shale gas development is fracture mapping—techniques for using seismic responses to identify the orientation and extent of hydraulically created fractures. Today, a number of companies successfully map hydraulic fractures, including many in the major shale gas plays. \
In a recent paper entitled Thirty Years of Gas Shale Fracturing: What Have We Learned?, DOE research is recognized for enabling several technology breakthroughs in shale gas development. Presented at the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ 2010 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, the paper reviews more than 350 technical papers and presentations on shale-specific well completions, fracturing, and operations. The paper’s author, George E. King, Global Technology Consultant for Apache Corporation, credits DOE for its early leadership in the development of several key technologies that are driving the current growth in shale gas production, including reservoir characterization, horizontal drilling, and multi-stage fracturing and slick water fracturing.

DOE’s leadership in shale gas development is receiving similar recognition from others. According to Dr. Terry Engelder, Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University, DOE’s Eastern Gas Shales Research Program "helped expand the limits of gas shale production and increased understanding of production mechanisms . . . It is one of the great examples of value-added work led by the DOE." 

This article from the DOE website leaves no doubt...the Department of Energy is the MOTHER of modern day Hydraulic Fracturing, today's natural gas extraction means of choice THEIR BABY.  It is impossible for the DOE to be impartial in this debate, impossible for any committee on Hydraulic Fracturing created by them to be unbiased....they  are going to protect their baby that they have nurtured and moved forward for a period of over 30 years.  The DOE WANTS HYDRAULIC FRACTURING to move forward AT ALL COSTS, and the committee in its current make up has but one job...placate the public, trot out some false assurances, and put the petal to the metal when it comes to letting Hydraulic Fracturing move forward at full bore.

It is imperative that (in your words) we get this RIGHT when it comes to Hydraulic Fracturing, that the proper SCIENTIFIC (emphasis added) investigation of the processes involved in Hydraulic Fracturing gives us the assurances we need.  Let science lead the way forward, let science tell us that our Safe Drinking Water Supplies will not be compromised, let science tell us that our health will not be compromised by the use of carcinogenic chemicals deployed in the process.  Let a committee be formed that A) has one third of its make up average stakeholder citizens, B) one third from the science community (half from industry, half from the opposing spectrum) and C) that last third made up with equal parts government officials and industry types.  The number of members of this committee should be 18.

So Mr. President, I implore you...end the dog and pony show, disband the DOE's biased and prejudice committee that has been stacked in favor of the Natural Gas Industry.  Declare a Presidential Moratorium on the practice of Fracking for a period of at least 24 months, disband Steven Shu's biased committee and put together the Blue Ribbon Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing.

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