Safety concerns rise as ‘fracking’ grows in Kansas

Wichita EagleMarch 5, 2012 

In the 2010 documentary “Gasland,” residents of Pavillion, Wyo., set their tap water on fire and complain of mysterious health problems.

They point the finger for the source of their troubles at the natural gas wells – drilled using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – that litter the scenic valley east of Grand Teton National Park.

With environmentalists crowing that this is proof that fracking causes contamination and the industry denying any such thing, it’s turned into another politicized free-for-all.

The national debate over fracking has darkened a good-news story for the country: horizontal multistage hydrofracking has reversed the growth of imported oil and natural gas, created hundreds of thousands of American jobs and, in the case of natural gas, dramatically cut prices.

In the past few months, the fracking debate moved to Kansas as large companies using horizontal multistage hydrofracking started drilling in Sumner, Harper, Barber and Comanche counties. They are drilling through a 320 million-year-old layer called the Mississippian limestone 4,500 to 5,000 feet below the prairie.

Fracking isn’t new or unusual, Kansas oilmen are quick to note. It’s been done for more than 60 years and is used on virtually all of the more than 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.

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