HELP STOP THE FRACKING OF THE NEWBERRY VOLCANO! | Letters to the Editor | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Efforts to stop plans to "frack" (i.e. hydraulically fracture) the Newberry Volcano have hit a critical juncture. The help of every concerned citizen is needed now. An Appeal of the BLM’s decision to permit AltaRock Energy, LLC to proceed with a "demonstration" of "new" technology in an "exploratory" project has been filed, but we are not lawyers, so it may not work. There are two remaining permits needed before their plans can be implemented: one to allow the use of the water for this reason, and one to allow the use of the water in this location. The persons responsible for the decisions to issue these permits, or not, welcome public comment at this time.

To address the water issue, please contact: David Cole, 503 -229-6371, or

To address the geology issue, please contact: Robert Hutson, 541-967-2080, or

This geothermal plan threatens not only a scenic gem, but also our water and safety. On the [northwest] flank of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, 22 miles from Bend, wells have already been drilled, but no water was found. The plan is to drill deeper and inject highly pressurized water to expand minute natural fractures and create a reservoir: to frack the volcano!

The 50,000 cubic foot reservoir would be smaller than the size of Black Butte, but larger than the size of Pilot Butte.

Similar projects have caused so much disruption and damage that they have had to shut down. In Basel, Switzerland, a geothermal developer was asked to pay  $8 million dollars to citizens for damages caused when the project induced more than 10,000 earthquakes for more than two years!

They expect to cause "small" earthquakes here, but want to "explore" whether or not they can make sufficient steam and "demonstrate" that their technology will make the process safe and efficient. The plan is to monitor pressure and seismicity so the pressure can be lessened (temporarily) and the earthquake "diverted" (to where?) if the Richter scale registers greater than a 3.0 magnitude.

They have renamed the process "hydroshearing" to separate themselves from the controversy surrounding "fracking." It is the same process, but they use few chemicals, mostly plastics. They do not need to use chemicals in this geology because, per their patent application, "the displacement of the shifted rock faces will cause the irregularities and disparities between their faces to keep them open after the pressure has been lessened."

Nonetheless, once the water has been in contact with deep geologic rocks, it is toxic (as naturally occurring elements, such as cadmium, arsenic, sulfur, etc., are dissolved or suspended into it). They only state that the wastewater will be disposed of "according to regulations", but do not specify where it will be disposed of.

This year, the EPA released a report whose findings "directly contradict longstanding arguments by the drilling industry for why the fracking process is safe: that hydraulic pressure would naturally force fluids down, not up, that deep geologic layers provide a watertight barrier preventing the movement of chemicals towards the surface, and that the problems with the cement and steel barriers around gas wells aren’t connected to fracking." ( So much for our pristine aquifer! Additionally, this April, the USGS released a report that that states that "the six-fold increase in earthquakes, in traditionally non-seismic areas, is almost certainly man-made." (Seismological Society Abstract #12-137)

In our locality, underlain by many faults, there exists considerable scientific controversy about the existence of "deeper underlying structures" of ancient origin that unite the major faults throughout the Pacific NW. (Google: Brothers Fault Zone)

The BLM, I believe improperly, did a smaller-perspective EA (Environmental Assessment), rather than a broad-perspective EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and "incorporated" an out-of-date (1994) EIS that lacked this current information in order to find "NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT" and, therefore, issue the permit to proceed for this project.

The Appellant argues that he (and YOU) are endangered by this project if the aquifer is contaminated by toxins or turbidity, the (PVC) interconnected, water-delivery pipes are ruptured (esp. near China Hat Rd.), the earthen dam at Wickiup is breached, a more-explosive type of eruption occurs because of the presence of a water reservoir over a shallow pool of magma, induced seismicity damages his home or property, or we are being lied to and the final goal, as in 2010 when Davenport Energy (AltaRock’s partner company) president stated:  "the discussions about using grey water from the town of La Pine are in anticipation of a full-scale EGS project," i.e. a power plant.

I’ve told them what I think. It’s time to tell them what you think.

Thank you!!!



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