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We know from history and the consensus of the scientific community that hydraulic fracking contaminates groundwater, pollutes the air we breathe, and degrades land for other uses. And we know that sometimes fracking sickens–and even kills–people.
But we also know this from Range Resources, one of the largest fracking companies in the world. On page 26 of Range Resources’ December 2012 quarterly report are several unusual disclosures. Here they are:
“Our business is subject to operating hazards that could result in substantial losses or liabilities that may not be fully covered under our insurance policies.”
Range Resources then goes on to say:
“Natural gas … operations are subject to many risks, including well blowouts, craterings, explosions, uncontrollable flows of oil, natural gas or well fluids, fires, pipeline ruptures or spills, pollution, releases of toxic gases and other environmental hazards and risks. If any of these hazards occur, we could sustain substantial losses as a result of: injury or loss of life; severe damage to or destruction of property, natural resources and equipment; pollution or other environmental damage; cleanup responsibilities; regulatory investigations and penalties; or suspension of operations.”
Remarkably, in addition to their admission that ”losses or liabilities may not be fully covered” by the company’s insurance policies, Range Resources goes a step further and admits that is not fully insured against these hazards. It also says in the report:
“We maintain insurance against some, but not all, of these potential risks and losses. We may elect not to obtain insurance if we believe that the cost of available insurance is excessive … We have experienced substantial increases in premiums … Insurers have imposed revised limits affecting how much the insurers will pay on actual … claims … where substantial damage has been incurred. Insurers are also … reducing the scope of what insurable losses will include.”
In other words, Range Resources is saying that it cannot predict what will happen in any given fracking operation. Think about that. The company admits it simply does not know. A fracking operation may damage or destroy your home. It may poison your water. It may damage or devalue your land. A fracking operation may harm your family’s health–or worse.
But don’t worry, insurance—and that is assuming it is even available — may cover part of your loss.
Other industry insiders agree that fracking is unsafe. Louis Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, is now an anti-fracking activist in upstate New York. Mr. Allstadt said at a recent news conference, “Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology.”
If something goes wrong with fracking operations in our communities, who will be responsible for the clean-up? Who will pay the price? It will be you and me, the taxpayers — our homes, our lands, our families, our health.
By Michael Simms, with research by Briget Shields