VPIRG takes fracking case to VTGas’ doorstep

SOUTH BURLINGTON — The Vermont Public Interest Research Group released a report Thursday on the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing in an effort to build a case against Vermont Gas Systems’ proposed pipeline expansion.

The report was released during a news conference outside Vermont Gas’ South Burlington offices Thursday, marking VPIRG’s latest move against the 43-mile, $86.6 million natural gas pipeline that would pass through Addison County if approved by the Public Service Board.

The pipeline would be used to distribute natural gas to customers of Vermont Gas, which derives some of its supply from natural gas wells outside the state that use “fracking” techniques.

The Sept. 30 report (attached below), titled “Fracking by the Numbers,” was written by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, an environmental research group. The report quantifies the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

Fracking is a procedure that forces a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into bedrock to crack open a vein and release its natural gas. Part of the opposition to the proposed pipeline centers on the environmental consequences of this process.

Paul Burns, executive director for VPIRG, said using natural gas in Vermont would only export the “environmental nightmare” outlined in the report to the communities hosting the fracking wells elsewhere.

“If fracking is too dirty and dangerous for us here in Vermont, then we must admit that it is not acceptable just because it’s taking place in Alberta, Pennsylvania or anyplace else,” Burns said.

Vermont banned the process of hydraulic fracturing within the state in 2012 when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law Act 152, making the state the first in the nation to ban this process.

Burns said natural gas distribution in Vermont is inconsistent with the state’s environmental mission to be 90 percent dependent on clean and renewable energy sources by 2050.

He said Vermont Gas does not have the interest or capacity to stop sourcing its natural gas from fracked wells.

Steve Wark, director of communications for Vermont Gas, spoke after the news conference in an effort to defend the need to use natural gas as a bridge from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.

Wark said VPIRG’s campaign against natural gas is taking a choice away from Vermonters who currently rely on dirtier sources of heating fuel, such as propane or oil.

“VPIRG seeks to deny Vermonters access to a cleaner and more affordable fuel,” Wark said. “We know that the hydraulic fracturing process of natural gas is actually cleaner than the alternatives that are out there.”

Wark said 75 percent of homeowners and businesses use oil or propane for heat, which are energy sources that also rely of the hydraulic fracturing process. The difference with natural gas is that it is cleaner to burn, he said.

He said communities that host the fracking wells are responsible for regulating the processes for obtaining the gas. He said Vermont Gas’ responsibility is to make sure it can sell products with a clear conscience.

The report presented by VPIRG states that fracking poses a “grave threat” to the environment, the public’s health and safety, infrastructure and local economies situated near fracking wells.

According to the report, fracking produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012. Since 2005, the process has used 250 billion gallons of water and 2 billion gallons of chemicals, damaged 360,000 acres of land, produced air pollution, and contributed to global warming, the report says.

The report analyzed the impact of more than 80,000 fracking wells across 17 states. Where possible, the report narrowed the data to only include wells using high-volume hydraulic fracturing involving more than 100,000 gallons of water or horizontal drilling.

The report urges states to ban the process of fracking, close loopholes for sites already operating and require that companies provide financial insurance for any damages incurred during the fracking process, such as the contamination of drinking water.

John Herrick

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28 Comments on "VPIRG takes fracking case to VTGas’ doorstep"


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Annette Smith
3 years 3 months ago
Read the report, watch Gasland I and II, get educated about this destructive energy sprawl that is inadequately regulated and undemocratic, exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. The low prices cannot be sustained. The one aspect of fracking that the report misses is the types and large quantities of sand necessary for each well. An entire industry has developed, involving importing specially treated sand from China and soliciting truckers in local Vermont classified ads for driving trucks in Texas. New mining pressure is occurring in Wisconsin, the northern US and… Read more »
3 years 3 months ago
NG will be good for the US economy for many decades. It is replacing coal that is much more harmful to human health and the environment than gas. Vermont should be using much more of it, instead of subsidizing dysfunctional SPEED projects and Lowell-style IWTs plants on ecologically pristine ridge lines that produce energy at 3-4 times grid prices. http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/278866/natural-gas-good-us-economy http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated US natural gas production has been steadily increasing from about 20,256 billion cubic feet in 2008 (consumption 23,277 bcf, less imports 3,021 bcf) to about 23,986 bcf in 2012 (consumption 25,502 bcf, less imports 1,516 bcf). In 2012, US… Read more »
Matt Fisken
3 years 3 months ago
Willem, The shale gas being produced now is like the buffalos in the Plains that were killed once guns came along. Just because there was a sudden rush of “harvesting” did not mean it was at all sustainable. In fact, it meant the opposite. Because Vermont does not produce any natural gas and the gas we burn comes from Canada, it is not a domestic energy source. Even if you subscribe to the EIA’s wishful thinking (which I don’t), the price is expected to triple by 2040. What I think we’ll see is that the luck we’ve had since 2009… Read more »
3 years 3 months ago
Matt, The buffalos were killed as part of government policy to deprive natives from food. It kept the US Army employed after the Civil War, got the natives off the land, herded them into camps (reservations), so the land would be available for settlers FOR FREE. Most people learn this in high school. You mentioning it is a digression not relevant to this NG discussion. “Even if you subscribe to the EIA’s wishful thinking (which I don’t), the price is expected to triple by 2040” The EIA collects vast amounts of data on which to base its projections and periodically… Read more »
Matt Fisken
3 years 3 months ago
Willem, You are welcome to supply a better analogy to describe a situation where a finite resource is suddenly more easily captured and destroyed using policy and technology to create “free lunches” for some while destroying another people’s way of life. A digression is often helpful to gain perspective, IMHO. What should be obvious to anyone to spends a few minutes looking at the EIA projections is that the extreme price volatility over the past 10 years is COMPLETELY ignored and it is then assumed that the artificially low prices we see now will slowly and steadily ratchet up over… Read more »
Moshe Braner
3 years 3 months ago

The EIA has been consistently wrong over many years, always overestimating supply and underestimating price. So has the IEA. They’re under political pressure to cook the books.

Bob Orleck
3 years 3 months ago

Willem: Two wrongs do not make a right! Wind turbines create an irreversible ecological nightmare for our ridge lines. The final product of fracking will be a polluted underground that destroys the life sustaining water supply that makes our planet so unique.

It is incomprehensible why Governor Shumlin supports the mountain monsters that destroy our headwaters, our birds and our aesthetics and at the same time is opposed to the underground destruction of our water that fracking brings. Makes no sense! Could it be money?

3 years 3 months ago
Bob, “Might makes right” Shumlin & Co has the “might”, so they make “right” Most Democrats in the Legislature have not a clue about energy systems, vote for laws that lead dysfunctional RE projects that would not exist without excessive subsidies. The laws lead to rules and regulations ENCOURAGING and SUBSIDIZING the destruction of pristine ridge lines, as if it were a PUBLIC GOOD, when in fact the energy is produced at 3-4 times grid prices, because of: – high ridge line capital costs per kW, – high maintenance costs per kWh, – poor to middling winds, even on ridge… Read more »
Katharine Hikel, MD
3 years 3 months ago
The only people who will benefit from shale gas are the supply-side 1%. Even The Economist is saying that shale gas prices are artificially, pathetically low, and that as soon as the infrastructures are in place (and demand rises) the prices will jump sky-high: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21572815-natural-gas-prices-are-sure-riseeventually-bonanza-or-bane – as is already happening in the rest of the world: http://shaleoilplays.com/2012/10/map-of-world-natural-gas-prices/ The industry, of course, is PRIMED FOR PRICE INCREASES: http://theuticashale.com/driven-by-oil-shale-economics-natural-gas-prices-primed-for-slow-and-steady-rise/ http://shaleoilplays.com/2011/09/when-will-natural-gas-prices-rise/ None of this even addresses the costs to consumers of conversion of heating systems, appliances, etc. So it’s not going to be a form of cheap energy for the masses; but a… Read more »
Ken McPherson
3 years 3 months ago
The current low price for natural gas is a temporary market anomaly that exists only because the producers lack the infrastructure necessary to sell it in the global energy market. You can bet that the producers are looking at pipelines that will carry natural gas to transshipment ports where it will be loaded on LNG tankers and transported anywher3e in the world, driving the price up to levels commensurate with crude and other energy sources. We have an example close at hand. The crude oil pipeline from Canada to Portland Maine will be used to load crude into tankers for… Read more »
Matt Fisken
3 years 3 months ago
The argument that the proposed pipeline gives Vermonters another choice in the fuel they purchase is misleading for a couple of reasons. First, the number of new households and businesses that would actually get to tap into the pipe is quite small compared to the number who would remain without access. It’s only freedom of choice if everyone has that choice. As we know, the end game is to supply International Paper, which, to borrow from Dunder Mifflin’s motto, would be promoting “limitless paper in a paperless world.” Second, and to somewhat contradict my first point, all Vermonters currently have… Read more »
3 years 3 months ago

This is a breath of fresh air!

Virginia Burgess
3 years 3 months ago

The argument will be mute when there is no water to drink. Human beings can’t argue aboit policy when they are extinct. (Even shareholders and corporate executives can’t live on profits!)

Moshe Braner
3 years 3 months ago
Willem: you usually check your facts better. In this case, I must point out that “shale gas” and “tight gas” are the same thing, and that the extraction of natural gas, which increased rapidly in the early years of “fracking”, has leveled off, and declined somewhat, in the last 2 years. The reasons include: rapid decline of output from existing wells (90% in 2 years), running out of the best sites for new wells, and the stuff selling for half the cost, meaning the producers are “losing their shirts” (the words used by Exxon CEO). Thus they’ve moved most of… Read more »
3 years 3 months ago
Moshe, The US will surpass Russia as the largest energy producer of oil and gas combined by 2014-2015. The US increased oil production is from shale which has NG as a by-product. NG used in CCGTs is essential to balance the variable energy of renewables. Exxon is a high overhead company, ergo, would not find it profitable to produce gas at low prices. Some gas wells have been capped to await higher prices. One would need to have production data of many gas and oil wells, including new wells started, old wells taken temporarily or permanently out of production, over… Read more »
Moshe Braner
3 years 3 months ago
“The US will surpass Russia as the largest energy producer of oil and gas combined by 2014-2015.” – Despite the “saudi america” hype, we’re still importing half our oil and some of our gas. “The US increased oil production is from shale which has NG as a by-product.” – although some NG is extracted along with oil, much of it (especially in North Dakota) is flared (burnt on site, wasted) due to a lack of pipelines to ship it elsewhere. The Bakken field at night from space looks as bright as Minneapolis due to the flaring – google for images.… Read more »
Matt Fisken
3 years 3 months ago
Moshe, While I agree with your more realistic view about the reserves of economically accessible natural gas (years, not decades), Willem is correct that shale gas and tight gas are two different products. http://aboutnaturalgas.com/content/natural-gas/tight-and-shale-gas/ The explosion in shale gas production is entirely thanks to our former Vice President’s connections and conflicts of interest. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-fracked-up-usa-shale-gas-bubble/5326504 “The real reason for the recent explosion of fracking in the United States was passage of legislation in 2005 by the US Congress that exempted the oil industry’s hydraulic fracking, astonishing as it sounds, from any regulatory supervision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under… Read more »
Mary Martin
3 years 3 months ago
Wark said,” communities that host the fracking wells are responsible for regulating the processes for obtaining the gas.” He said Vermont Gas’ responsibility is to make sure it can sell products …… Those communities, Wark refers to, are fighting for their lives against big business. Law suits that have been dragging on for years against deep-pocketed gas business. Gas business that is polluting their water and land. They are fighting rare forms of cancer. They are fighting and have been fighting but to no avail. How can you make those communities responsible when they are sick and no one is… Read more »
3 years 3 months ago
Mary, And individuals in various communities that have wind turbines have been fighting for years to get them shut down, even in Denmark, and Germany, and the UK. Wind turbines are fine in the very sparsely-populated areas west of Chicago with low capital costs/kW, low O & M costs/kWh, AND GOOD TO EXCELLENT WINDS. In NE ,high capital costs/kW, high O & M costs/kWh, and poor to middling winds; just look out of your window in the morning and in the evening, usually not a leaf moving. As level-headed Phyllis wrote, we use oil obtained by fracking for heating and… Read more »
Kathy Nelson
3 years 3 months ago
Mary, I have been in the fight against industrial wind for two years and I certainly know your frustration with a corrupt political system. Many of the comments here center around bits and pieces of technical facts and figures and that info is important. The real issue is that the people do not have the right to build healthy, sustainable communities because of state and federal dictatorship, which is heavily influenced by corporate interests. It takes ten minute of listening to “the State knows best” rants from Shumlin and Klein to understand the mindset we the people have to fight… Read more »
Phyllis North
3 years 3 months ago

Some U.S. oil is obtained by fracking. Shall we ban all oil imports into Vermont because some of the oil is fracked?

3 years 3 months ago


“NG supply for years, not decades”

Energy companies try to act in a rational manner when placing investor money at risk.

Would they be getting export licenses, building NG export terminals (more than 1 billion each) and special ships (more than $350 million each) which take about 3-5 years, if the NG supply would not be there? These terminals and ships have lives of 30-60 years.

You can rest assured, the NG supply is in the ground and it will be there, no matter how you might wish otherwise.

John Greenberg
3 years 3 months ago

“Would they be getting export licenses, building NG export terminals (more than 1 billion each) and special ships (more than $350 million each) which take about 3-5 years, if the NG supply would not be there?”

Would they be doing all these things if the DEMAND would not be there as well?

And if the demand is there, unless the supply increases by the same amount as those terminals will allow effective demand to increase, won’t the price go up?

3 years 3 months ago
John, The exporters aim to keep themselves busy serving worldwide NG demand. If demand is greater than US supply, US prices will go up and more US wells will be operated, etc. See EIA site for NG price projections to about 2040. What is often overlooked is that Russia is a large NG producer using traditional technologies. http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/EIA-report-U.S.-1-in-Shale-Gas-Reserves-Russia-1-in-Shale-Oil-Reserves.html It has vast shale resources, even greater than the US. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/russia-has-worlds-largest-shale-oil-reserves/481596.html Russia will tap that shale for oil and gas to the maximum when the time is ripe, no matter what Vermont RE/GW/CC aficionados think, do, or say. As there will be… Read more »
Jeffrey C Frost
3 years 3 months ago

The latest international IPCC assessment shows that methane (CH4) or natural gas is 86 (EIGHTY-SIX) times more damaging to global warming than the same volume of CO2 over 20 years. Together with research showing the large quantities of methane gas released over the natural gas life-cycle, this fact invalidates all of those bogus claims about how natural gas is a valid transition path to a clean energy future. Natural gas is almost as onerous as coal when it comes to the full life cycle global warming damage.

3 years 3 months ago

Over 100 years, it is about 20 times more damaging.

Nature releases far more methane than mankind.

John Madden
3 years 3 months ago

A “bottom line” issue with “natural gas” is that it is explosive (google: explosions of natural gas transmission pipelines), people are killed and property destroyed.

3 years 3 months ago

Coal has 4 times the deaths of NG.

Ergo NG replacing coal is good for that reason.


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