Gas well fracking continues to raise concerns in Tennessee

Gas well fracking continues to raise concerns in Tennessee

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Fracking uses drills like these to dig deep into the ground, forcing chemicals like nitrogen into the ground to break the rock and then extracting the gas or oil trapped in the rock. Fracking uses drills like these to dig deep into the ground, forcing chemicals like nitrogen into the ground to break the rock and then extracting the gas or oil trapped in the rock.
"Fracturing is kind of a broad term that can be used," said Jonathan Burr with TDEC. "Any kind of method to use pressure underground to crack up a formation, so whatever you are after can flow out more easily." "Fracturing is kind of a broad term that can be used," said Jonathan Burr with TDEC. "Any kind of method to use pressure underground to crack up a formation, so whatever you are after can flow out more easily."
"We've done it well over a million times and there is no record of any, regardless of what many people have said, there is no proven record of contaminated ground water," said Dr. Gary Bible, the company's geologist. "We've done it well over a million times and there is no record of any, regardless of what many people have said, there is no proven record of contaminated ground water," said Dr. Gary Bible, the company's geologist.
"Regulators have taken a hands-off approach, more like a rubber stamp for the industry, instead of a regulating industry," said United Mountain Defense President James Cane. "Regulators have taken a hands-off approach, more like a rubber stamp for the industry, instead of a regulating industry," said United Mountain Defense President James Cane.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The ripple effects of a 2010 documentary film are causing an uproar across the country and have environmentalists concerned in Tennessee.

Gasland featured a man's concerns about the process of natural gas drilling called hydrofracking or fracking.

The film claimed the process contaminates water sources and is detrimental to people's health.

"You fracture by using this nitrogen that's pumped down the hole until the pressure builds up high enough," explained Jonathan Burr, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesperson, "Then it cracks the rock."

The term applies to a number of different processes.

"Fracturing is kind of a broad term that can be used," said Burr. "Any kind of method to use pressure underground to crack up a formation, so whatever you are after can flow out more easily."

Gas well drilling in East Tennessee is most prominent on the Cumberland Plateau, including in Scott, Hamblen, Claiborne, Campbell, Hawkins, Fentress, and Morgan counties.
    
Miller Energy Resources in Scott County has about 200 active gas wells throughout East Tennessee.
 
"We've done it well over a million times and there is no record of any, regardless of what many people have said, there is no proven record of contaminated ground water," said Dr. Gary Bible, the company's geologist.

Most gas drilling companies in Tennessee do not use water, just nitrogen, to frack. Still, the unknowns about exactly what is put in the ground has environmentalists in Tennessee concerned.

"Regulators have taken a hands-off approach, more like a rubber stamp for the industry, instead of a regulating industry," said United Mountain Defense President James Cane.

Cane's group is a watchdog group for several environmental concerns in the state. He said without that regulation, there are potential health concerns for people near these gas wells.

TDEC officials said their concerns are valid and they have made several changes to gas drilling in 2012.

"We don't have the same kinds of problems and issues like they have in other parts of the country," said Burr, "That doesn't mean we don't have to regulate."
     
One change to the law that occurred in September is that a company has to disclose the kind of chemicals being put in the ground and in some cases notify the public before a well is drilled.

Cane says more needs to be done as the industry continues to grow in Tennessee.

"They are working on the Northern Appalachians," said Cane. "As those get played out, as regulations get up to speed up there and kind of drive up the cost for drilling companies, they'll make their way down south."

Gas company officials said they take every step to keep this process safe and that this industry could be a boon for the economy.

"We have the potential of bringing jobs to the area," said Dr. Bible. "Also the land owners who own the mineral rights will get a royalty paid to them of the production of the oil and gas."

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials say they are doing everything possible to make sure the public is safe.

"The rules and the way you regulate things always has to be in a constant state of revision," said Burr. "Methodology changes, times change, economics change. You always have to watch it and we are always prepared to make more changes as time goes on.'

Gas drilling is not a huge industry in Tennessee.

Since this type of drilling has been so popular in other parts of the country, the price of gas has been cut in half recently, causing many companies to cut back on drilling.

So far Tennessee has not seen a reported case of any drinking water being contaminated by fracking of any kind.

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