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Engelder: Frack-Induced Earthquakes are like Hockey Skates

The Raging Chicken Press out of Kutztown, PA, has this story by a philosophy professor at Bloomsburg University named Wendy Lee. In it, she deconstructs a public listserve and email exchange she had with Terry Engelder, a Penn State geologist. You may recognize Engelder from his side-splitting role in the gas industry propaganda film “Truthland.” He also has a little business on the side with SUNY Fredonia geologist Gary Lash (who headed the now seemingly defunct SUNY Fredonia Shale Institute, along with his wife) called Appalacian Fracture Systems, Inc.

Lee writes:

In his original post to “colleagues” Professor Engelder argues that while the earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio and elsewhere are indeed connected to the destabilizing presence of deep injection wells, that they are of too little concern to worry about whether we should revisit the decision that requires them, namely hydraulic fracturing—fracking—a gas extraction process that produces waste-water so toxic that it cannot ever be returned to the water table and hence must be permanently (or, at least until it leaks) deposited in wells drilled deep under the earth’s surface. He draws an analogy comparing the earthquakes to the temporary ice melt caused by ice skate blades sheering across ice:

Most of you understand that ice skates work because the pressure under the thin blade of steel causes a very small amount of ice to melt momentarily. We scientists call this a pressure-induced phase change from a solid (ice) to a liquid (water). It is this film of water between the steel blade and solid ice that allows the skate to glide without effort… The water along the fault zone acted just like a water film between the steel blade of a hockey skate and solid ice. The fault in question was already subject to a push from earth stress. It is just that the push was not quite enough to get the fault to slip (trigger an earthquake).

Engelder had the gall to tell Lee that she “(does) not have permission to put this material on the web.” Oops. She did.

She also does a nice job exposing the sell out of Penn State to corporate interests. Way to kick a once-proud and respected institution when it’s down!

Bringing it all back home, this is the model the State University of New York at Buffalo is copying for its Shale Resources and Society Institute.

Buffalonians have also gotta love Engelder’s hockey skate analogy. After all, the owner of the Buffalo Sabres made his billions by fracking up Pennsylvania. In return, he’s building a new $102 million hockey arena at Penn State.