2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 61-6
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


SIEGEL, Donald I., Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, Heroy Geological Laboratory, Syracuse, NY 13244, disiegel@syr.edu

Fracking for unconventional gas and oil has remained contentious for over a decade, and my involvement in the debate has led to an interesting exchange that involved ethics of practice between opponents of the practice and me. This year, the USEPA reported no systemic problem with respect to pollution of potable waters by solutes or natural gas. But prior to publication of this EPA report, two highly-cited peer-reviewed papers concluded that more methane occurs in shallow ground water close to unconventional gas wells than in water wells further away. These papers figured prominently in the New York State’s ban on fracking.

To test whether if the conclusions in these papers could be reproduced, colleagues and I published the results of our analyzing dissolved methane in water from ~13,000 NE Pennsylvania domestic wells, densely arrayed near ~800 gas wells. In contrast to the prior studies that samples less than 200 water wells, we found no relationship between methane in drinking water and proximity to gas wells. After Science reported on our paper, web-based Inside Climate accused me of unethical non-disclosure, demanded my publisher to mount an investigation, and the accusation went viral; the Committee of Science, Space and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives had me testify on the matter on the Hill. The Onondaga Nation even tried to get me fired from my position as professor at Syracuse University. Both SU and the journal concluded I had not violated an disclosure issues.

While I empathize and understand those who have serious concerns over community and climate disruption related to using unconventional gas and oil, I find it unfortunate, if not surprising, that opponents of fracking now resort to innuendo to try and achieve their ends, rather than addressing facts that do not agree with their beliefs and arriving to compromise.