Winston Churchill famously said “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” and the flaming faucet scene in Gasland is the proof. A Google search of “flaming faucet” and “Gasland” returns 2,120 results, many of which refer to it as a “smoking gun” or sarcastically ask readers whether they can light their water on fire. Still others repeat the lie that hydraulic fracturing caused what happened in the movie, despite repeated attempts by the State of Colorado to correct the record. Yet, the image persists. We have done our best to get the truth out here and here, but Google has offered a new way to tackle it using its newspaper archives. Our friend Nick Grealy at Shale Gas Info pointed us toward this resource and we found some very convincing new (really old) evidence methane migration has been setting faucets on fire for decades in areas with no active natural gas exploration or development.
Nick brought this one to our attention. It’s about two houses near Edmondton, Alberta who experiencing flaming faucets in 1973. Notice that natural gas development had nothing to do with it.
This got us to thinking. Could there be other similar cases documented in the Google archives? Yes, it turns out there are several. Here’s another story, from 1982, about “firewater” from a place by the unusual name of Tywhoppity Bottoms, Kentucky, that is quite revealing:
This isn’t all. Indeed, there are several other cases. Here’s one from 1960 that appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. It is another “firewater” story from Hector, Minnesota where, once again, no natural gas development was anywhere to be found. The story was also picked up in the Toledo Blade.
Now, let’s go back even further, before I was born (just barely) to January, 1951 when this little piece appeared in a newspaper known as the Spokeman-Review about an event in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Note the ancient reference to “fire-water.” And, Dylan Ratigan thought he was being clever using that title for his MSNBC series!
Finally, here’s one from Pennsylvania, where a residential subdivision experienced what the state officials described as “incredibly common” in 1984 because “people do not vent their (water) wells.” He want on to say “In most wells in Pennsylvania, there is gas.”
Note how the state official also talks about methane migration issues with water wells throughout Pennsylvania, primarily in cases where water wells have not been properly vented.
What all these cases illustrate is that methane migration is anything but new, has absolutely nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing and is primarily an issue where water wells have not been properly vented. Will someone please tell Josh Fox? Supposedly, he’s my neighbor here in Wayne County, but somehow I doubt he’d take my call. He’s already onto his next con job. But, the good news is that truth does eventually win out. Churchill had something to say about that, too. Another of his quotes, somewhat less well known, is “Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.” Yeah, that’s about right.