While oil and gas development has slowed in the Mahoning Valley, arguments over the practice have continued unabated.
Greg Kozera wrote “Just the Fracks, Ma’am,” in which he takes on what he contends are the biggest myths about the fracking process and talks about his experience in the oil and gas industry.
Kozera is an engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering with more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He also is the president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association.
“I want to replace the unfounded fears people have about fracking with facts. This is simply too important an issue for so many people to make decisions based on misinformation,” Kozera said.
But Susie Beiersdorfer, spokeswoman for Frackfree Mahoning Valley, an anti-fracking group, said Kozera’s connection to the oil and gas industry means he cannot be an impartial commentator.
The five myths according to Kozera are:
Fracking is a drilling technique. It’s actually a method to improve oil and gas production from a well after it’s drilled.
Fracking is new. Actually the technique has been used since 1947. Activists such as Beiersdorfer, however, say the type of fracking being done now is less than 10 years old.
Fracking is explosive. Explosives are no longer sent down the well as part of the fracking process.
Fracking causes earthquakes. This point is controversial after the Poland earthquakes in March were linked by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fracking operations in the area. An ODNR statement said sand and water injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown microfault in the area.
Kozera said he could see how injection wells might cause earthquakes when injected into a fault. But he remains skeptical of the possibility of fracking itself causing earthquakes.
“I wouldn’t think companies would want to frack into an area with faults because that would cause the gas to go somewhere other than the well,” he said.
Fracking contaminates groundwater. Kozera says that if fracking contaminated drinking water, it would have done so long before now. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which Kozera criticizes, has determined wells in Pennsylvania were contaminated by faulty casings at fracking sites, not the fracking itself.
Referencing the EPA ruling, Kozera said, there were problems in Dimock, Pa., with water wells before fracking.
“If Cabot would have made the same phone calls I did, they might have acted in a completely different manner,” he said. Cabot is the energy company in Pennsylvania that agreed to mitigate the water damage the EPA determined occurred in Dimock.
But Beiersdorfer said: “It seems to us that this book promotion is attempting to give people a false sense of reassurance about fracking and related issues.”
Beiersdorfer also takes issue with the other myths, saying there have been “numerous reports of contaminated air and water, increases in birth defects, hazardous exposures to cancer-causing and brain-damaging chemicals even if nothing goes wrong, low-level radioactive contamination at waste facilities, and earthquakes at places that never had them before.”
Jane Spies, another member of Frackfree Mahoning Valley, said the group would like to have a public conversation with Kozera to talk about some of the issues raised in his book.
Kozera acknowledged part of the goal of the book was to provoke.
“If people agree with everything in it, they probably aren’t thinking for themselves,” he said. “My goal is to get them thinking.”