Anti-Fracking Hysteria at City Hall

Last night’s “town hall” on the unlikely possibility of oil-and-gas drilling within Bernalillo County and/or the City of Albuquerque went about as expected.

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, a Democrat running for Congress, touted his event as “not partisan,” then proceeded to introduce Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley (Democrat), Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton (Democrat), Bernalillo County Treasurer Nancy Bearce (Democrat), New Mexico House of Representatives candidate Benton Howell (Democrat), New Mexico State Auditor candidate Brian Colón (Democrat), and New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands candidate Garrett VeneKlasen (Democrat.)

Davis warned that the oil-and-gas industry’s operations are getting closer and closer to “precious and protected areas,” and bragged that since the Trump administration abandoned the Paris Agreement, local-government officials — like him! — have attempted to “fill the gap of leadership” in “climate change.” He then introduced the night’s sole speaker, Santa Fe geologist Donald T. Phillips, who went on a extended harangue about how fracking in the Albuquerque Basin of the Rio Grande Rift would almost certainly poison the Duke City’s drinking water.

Phillips noted, quite correctly, that the geology of the metro area is different than the northwest and southeast portions of the Land of Enchantment, where the state’s oil and gas are currently produced. If his presentation had been limited to a science-based exploration of why regulators should pay particular attention to the basin’s unique geology, Phillips might have done some good.

But as the above photo indicates, last night was about eco-apocalypticism, not science. Positioned at the entrance to the Vincent E. Griego Council Chambers were both, a nonprofit working to destroy the oil-and-gas industry, and Food & Water Watch, “the first U.S. national organization to call for a ban on fracking.” Both were distributing agiprop (“Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development,” “The Social Costs Fracking”) and gathering petition signatures.

Phillips’s presentation, and answers to audience questions, revealed both his ignorance and laziness. He stressed fracking’s demand for water without disclosing that oil-and-gas producers consume “only a fraction of total industrial water use nationwide” and failed to note the growth of wastewater-recycling services. Phillips repeatedly made reference to the “chemicals” used in fracking fluid without explaining that the substances typically constitute less than 1 percent by volume, and that many of the additives frackers employ can be found in household products such as deodorant, soap, furniture polish, shampoo, and plastics.

Phillips veered into severe malpractice when he touted the “major problems” he claimed fracking caused in Wind River, Wyoming and Pennsylvania’s “Dimock County.” (Dimock is a township, not a county.) Phillips touted a Stanford University study that alleged contamination in Wind River, but failed to mention that the area has had water-quality problems for decades. In addition, Wyoming’s environmental regulators have concluded that “it is unlikely that hydraulic fracturing has caused any impacts to … water-supply wells.” As for Dimock, despite many years of analysis, “at no time did … government or private agencies testing find any fracking chemicals in any of the wells.” Cabot Oil & Gas has even “filed a $5 million suit against Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his lawyers, arguing that they tried to extort Cabot through a frivolous lawsuit.”

Attendees, as Davis noted, were not a cross-section of the ABQ metroplex’s residents, but “a lot of friendly faces” who have agitated against Sandoval County’s proposed oil-and-gas regulations. Cluelessness was the norm. (Two actual questions: “Do they need anyone’s permission to do this?” “What is the methane used for that they get?”)

All in all, the event was a taxpayer-subsidized, laughably one-sided farce about a revolutionary energy-production process that has yielded big bucks for green hysterics — and photo ops for Hollywood ignoramuses — but very little water pollution. Next up for Phillips: a repeat performance before the Mid-Region Council of Governments. Let’s hope that his presentation to the “multi-county governmental agency” is balanced by a speaker who’s interested to drilling down to the facts about fracking.

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21 Replies to “Anti-Fracking Hysteria at City Hall”

  1. Great article, Dowd. There was probably not a single person at that meeting who doesn’t enjoy the benefits of clean, abundant natural gas. Not to mention the tax revenues and jobs this industry brings to our state! We posted this article, with the link, on our East Mountain Neighborhood Assoc. site, because a couple of our neighbors were using the site to advertise this meeting and the talk about the “dangers” of fracking.

    We are fortunate to have the RGF working so hard for New Mexico, and we thank you!

  2. It would be nice, every once in a blue moon, to hear an actual fact based and nuanced discussion of this issue. There are some legitimate concerns with any sort of oil and gas drilling and some specific to fracking. Unfortunately, these seem to get buried in the hysteria.

    There are cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas drilling primarily due to cracked casing and/or bad cement jobs. This isn’t a fracking specific issue, in fact it isn’t even an oil and gas specific issue, since there are cases where poorly developed water wells have led to contamination of deep aquifers from contaminated aquifers at different levels. This is a question of insuring that wells are well designed and tested.

    The primary fracking-specific issue is water use and disposal/recycling. Fracking uses a lot more water than traditional oil and gas drilling (an issue in arid regions such as New Mexico) and the waste water produced from the fracking process contains some pretty nasty contaminants. Currently, most of this is disposed of by injection into deep injection wells (also known as brine disposal wells or class II underground injection wells). This water can also be treated and recycled, but the process is fairly complex and expensive.

    The primary negative of the injection process is that it can cause earthquakes by adding lubricants to natural faults. In some areas where extensive injection activity has occurred, earthquake activity has increased dramatically. See

    Given all of this, a rational conservation policy with regard to fracking might be:

    -Insist on high quality well design and development with prohibitive penalties for lack of adequate testing and oversight in cases where groundwater contamination has occurred.

    -Expand the development and use of waste water recycling technologies, possibly taxing waste water injection wells to subsidize the development and use of water recycling systems.

    1. When it comes to ” waste water produced from the fracking process contains some pretty nasty contaminants “, there are already recycle and reuse procedures to clean the water. However, it is an expensive process because a lot of heat is required to distill the water out of the waste into portable water.

      There is a much cheaper way this can be done and that is to use the heat from the natural decay process of spent nuclear fuel. Holtec International has already designed and patented this technology and they want to implement it at the ELEA/Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) between Hobbs and Carlsbad and provide clean portable water to the O&G Industries in New Mexico, where water is like gold.

      As you can see, a new tax is not needed to recycle the water waste from fracking.

      1. It is perhaps true that no new taxes are needed, but there is still a lot of waste water injection going on, indicating that the economics of recycling in many areas aren’t quite there yet.

      2. This is just a side note, but I think the term Mr. Kral meant to use above was “potable” rather than “portable.” “Potable” means it is safe for us to drink. “Portable” just means that the water (or anything) can be easily moved from one place to another.

  3. Why does the author of this article feel that he needs to resort to personal attacks if he is so confident in the “facts”. “Hollywood Ignoramuses” ?? Really? It sounds personal to me. He even admits in his article that some of the chemicals used in fracking can be found household products such as furniture polish. Do the citizens of New Mexico really want to risk having these chemicals in their water so oil companies can line their pockets and skip town if contamination occurs?? I don’t think so. Sure, we all rely on oil and gas, we pay extensively for it too, but do we really want them drilling for it in an area that poses a risk to our water?? Why not go somewhere else? This article is obviously skewed in favor of oil and gas and I just can’t see the objectivity. It’s like the author is being paid to bully someone with personal attacks as a last resort.

  4. Anti fracking in Bernalillo? Good use of time? There are probably no reserves large enough to drill a well in or around Bernalillo. This is political grandstanding at its best! Why doesn’t Bernalillo discuss crime, economic development… issues that exists today.
    But just in case there could be oil… let’s raise hell about fracking?
    There has never been an aquifer polluted by “fracking” in NM! Injecting frack fluids at high rates carrying sand laden fluid to hydraulically open fractures in the oil bearing rock is standard procedure replicated thousands of times without causing one casing failure across a fresh water zone. Where and who are promoting such ideas? Get the facts.
    Who wins in attacking the oil and gas industry? Who loses? Someone should consider the economic impact of this industry to NM before one promotes eliminating it. And banning fracking would eliminate the industry.
    Please can we discuss tax reform, or other economic generators to NM before we discuss something that does not exist.
    As to water use. Oil and gas uses less than 3% of total fresh water use in NM. Agriculture is number one. The energy industry has adopted “reuse and recycle” not because it’s politically correct but because it is cost effective!
    I have been drilling for oil and gas in NM since 1978. The stories that are created north of the Permian Basin in SE New Mexico regarding my industry have been embellished since I’ve been in the business. Fiction seems to be what people want to believe not facts.
    Please… allow someone a difference of opinion before you cite incorrect facts just to get attention.

  5. Ditto on the great article. Climate change is emotion, not science. Unfortunately, that emotion has garnered billions of dollars in “solutions.” Look up “climate change budget” and you find a discussion of carbon. Where is the scientific method, cause and effect? Meteorologists can’t get the five-day forecast correct. What will they say if their “solution” backfires and causes a global ice age? They have no clue and rely on media hype to frighten and enrage unsuspecting liberals.

  6. I was wondering if I could get some of that Koch brothers money that you guys have from the Rio Grande Foundation and the State Policy Network? I too am a lover of hot weather and drought in our state. Drill and burn fossil fuels baby! We have a totally normal fire season lined up here in New Mexico; climate change is not real! Thanks.

    1. I can’t tell if we’re tools of New Mexico’s oil and gas industry or tools of the Kochs. So confusing. And, if you haven’t noticed, carbon emissions in the USA are down quite a bit in recent years. If you want to advocate a total switch to nuclear electricity, be our guest, but electric vehicles are still not ready for prime time and they come with their own issues:

      1. Well, you guys did just write a snide article (that was shared by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association) about a community’s understandable opposition to fracking, stating that the people in attendance were clearly involved actors who usually agitate at meetings… but they are also clueless people asking silly questions. Wow! Amazing that people could have come to a presentation to learn.

        And, you are funded by the State Policy Network, who receives funding from Koch industries. So I’d say both!

        It’s funny that you claim that they’re mutually exclusive.

        And as for seeking alternative energies, you’re right! If something isn’t perfect, we definitely shouldn’t mobilize all resources to try and address a huge problem. Let’s just hem and haw about private enterprise solutions, you can make your money, leave the next generation a hellhole of a planet, and go about business as usual.

        1. I was not the one who attended the meeting or wrote the article, but the entire thing strikes me as nothing more than a publicly-funded campaign effort by Pat Davis. There is no fracking proposed or envisioned in Albuquerque or Bernalillo County. It was an extremely biased and one-sided presentation called at the last minute. Davis is trying to garner votes and is using his position on City Council to do it. Whatever your position on fracking, that’s the reality.

          1. Well maybe you should have gone because you would have learned something! The presentation was not about fracking in only Albuquerque or Bernalillo; it was on fracking in the Albuquerque basin, a geological formation that extends through several counties and has a certain geology that lends itself to the aquifer getting easily contaminated by drilling. This is the aquifer that us residents of Bernalillo rely upon. There have certainly been plans to drill in the Albuquerque basin, so don’t tell me that this information is not applicable, even if it doesn’t agree with YOUR POLITICAL AGENDA AND THOSE OF YOUR BILLIONAIRE DONORS. It’s very telling that you claim that a presentation about protecting drinking water is political. Also, have you heard from the K bros on any of that funding yet? I could definitely use the money.

          2. Paul, there has been an attempt to open Sandoval County, upstream from Albuquerque and Bernalillo County and sharing the same aquifer, for drilling and fracking. Limiting the threat to Albuquerque’s drinking water to Albuquerque and Bernalillo County strikes me as either uninformed or deceptive.

          3. Not sure what you mean there. Drilling in Sandoval County is speculative and is out in the Western part of the county. Don’t think they’ll be fracking in the same aquifer. And, have their been documented cases of contaminated drinking water due to fracking in Denton? Must have missed those.

  7. A video of Don Phillips’ presentation about risks of drilling in the Albuquerque basin given to the Natural Resource Committee of the All Pueblo Council of Governors can be found here:

    He does make some pretty good points regarding the particular geology of the Albuquerque basin – relatively close proximity of drinking water aquifers to the shale to be drilled and extensive geological faults in this basin. His credentials are also pretty impressive, since he worked as an exploration geologist for Mobile oil for most of his career. Definitely not a “keep it in the ground” green grasping at straws.

    1. As I wrote in the post: “Phillips noted, quite correctly, that the geology of the metro area is different than the northwest and southeast portions of the Land of Enchantment, where the state’s oil and gas are currently produced. If his presentation had been limited to a science-based exploration of why regulators should pay particular attention to the basin’s unique geology, Phillips might have done some good.”

      As for his “credentials,” while he used to be an oil-and-gas petroleum geologist, his own CV states that he hasn’t been in the business since 1992 — a full 15 years before the fracking revolution got rolling.

      As for “grasping at straws,” his completely hysterical — and false — claims about “pollution” in Wyoming and Pennsylvania pretty much confirm that he is indeed an uninformed and unreasonable “green.”

          1. It’s cool that you acknowledge working for mega-rich overlords bent on downplaying climate change in order to exploit and ruin the environment to further enrich themselves. Pathetic.

      1. Dowd, I listened to the presentation. First, he has no trouble with fracking in the northwest or the southeast sections of the state because the geology in those places does not make fracking a threat to the water. Not so in the Albuquerque basin. His discussion of fracking techniques combined with the kinds of fissures in the local rift make it clear that fracking will — not might — will contaminate the water supply. I have friends in Denton, Texas. They heard the same reassurances that the anti-fracking folks there were a bunch of hysteric, tree-hugging leftists. Now they wish they’d listened and done something before it was too late. I don’t want to be suffering this kind of regret here in Albuquerque. And when I think about how much of the natural gas we’re producing is being sold overseas, well, I get angry as well as nervous. The NMOGA is running those ads for a reason: they mean to drill the Albuquerque basin. I don’t trust them.

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