New report gives insight into fracking controversy

FOX 8 file
FOX 8 file

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A landmark federal report on fracking says the process didn't cause contamination of a Pennsylvania water supply. As one company tries to drill for oil on the north shore using fracking, residents there say they're not convinced this study means they'll be safe.

Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons says his constituents are overwhelmingly against fracking. "I've only had a few calls come into our office here in the Abita area, saying they support it. Majority of the people do not support it by any means," said Lemons.

Lemons admits more education on the topic would be beneficial saying, "It's a great idea to look at all aspects of the issue, to have independent studies done of the whole process."

The Department of Energy just released a report taking a look at a number of wells in Pennsylvania after a water supply there was contaminated.

Eric Smith with Tulane's Energy Institute explains, "What they were able to prove is that while there was contamination in the water supply, it didn't come from the fracking."

Fracking involves using millions of pounds of high pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals to break apart rocks rich in oil and gas. The Department of Energy report says at the wells studied, the chemicals stayed five thousand feet below drinking water supplies. "The good news is, while you don't want any contamination, it's one thing to have contamination because of faulty workmanship at the top of the well bore where it's easier to fix, (as opposed to) if it were actually occurring underground at the source of the gas," said Smith.

Smith thinks studies like this one should pacify concerns held by North Shore residents. Helis Oil and Gas Company wants to drill for oil just off State Highway 1088 North of I-12 but has been met with staunch opposition to the plan.

But Mayor Lemons doesn't think the situation in Pennsylvania can even be compared to the proposal here. "Geology is different. The wells are different, that kind of stuff, so that's kind of an apples to oranges comparison," Lemons said.

The data gathered in this report marked the first time an energy company allowed independent monitoring of a drilling site during the fracking process and for 18 months afterward.

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