Posted by: Deb Henry | 06/15/2010

Dear Jim Matheson, A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.

Matheson's empty seat

Utah Democratic representative Jim Matheson publicly claims to be an environmentalist –yet his record begs to differ.

He waited over a month to respond to the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico until pressured by challenger Claudia Wright.  Wright called his silence on the issue “deafening” and suggested the $194,247 he has received from oil companies between 2000 and 2008 influenced his desire to work on behalf of his corporate sponsors. Matheson responded he, “already has participated in numerous committee hearings investigating the April 20 Deepwater Horizon well explosion.”

This statement is not true.

If you go to the House Energy and Commerce website, you can go through the transcripts, testimony and video to find the hearings in which he participated. The word numerous is conveniently vague as he has missed a the majority of these hearings.  Ray Matthews of SLC pointed out :

He was 1 for 4 in the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, the committee that didn’t have jurisdiction. For the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations & Subcommittee on Energy and Environment he was 2 for 7, but didn’t stay for these in their entirety.

This isn’t the first time that Matheson put up a smoke screen to appear strong against the oil companies while allowing their abuse of our health and resources to continue. In 2005, Jim Matheson voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, or “The Halliburton Loophole,” which granted the hydraulic fracking industry a specific exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. The name “Halliburton Loophole” came from the fact that at the time, Halliburton was one of the largest providers of hydraulic fracturing services.

Companies like Halliburton drill down vertically, then send the shaft horizontally, crossing many small, trapped veins of gas and oil. Explosive charges are then set off at various points in the drill shaft, causing what Fox calls “mini-earthquakes.” These fractures spread underground, allowing the gas to flow back into the shaft to be extracted.To force open the fractures, millions of gallons of liquid are forced into the shaft at very high pressure. The high-pressure liquids are a combination of water, sand and a secret mix of chemicals. Each well requires between 1 million and 7 million gallons of the fluid every time gas is extracted. Drillers do not have to reveal the chemical cocktail, thanks to a slew of exemptions given to the industry, most notably in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which actually granted the fracking industry a specific exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

There is virtually no federal oversight of fracking, leaving the budget-strapped states to do the job with a patchwork of disparate regulations. They are no match for the major, multinational drilling and energy companies that are exploiting the political goal of “energy independence.” The nonprofit news website ProPublica .org found that, out of 31 states examined, 21 have no regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing, and none requires the companies to report the amount of the toxic fluid remaining underground. Reports indicate that almost 600 different chemicals are used in fracking, including diesel fuel and the “BTEX” chemicals: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, which include known carcinogens. [citation]

Again, Jim Matheson voted to make this possible yet calls himself an environmentalist.

As a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee and the Energy & Environment Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jim Matheson has the tremendous opportunity to help shape legislation that will have a profound impact on the country’s energy future — but has chosen not to act. While I appreciate his ability to write strongly worded position statements, I would much prefer he participate in the energy committees which prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill and recent SLC Chevron pipeline spill from happening in the first place. We’ve given him 8 years of our tax dollars to make a difference in our future and he has squandered that opportunity.

It’s time for a change.  Vote Claudia Wright on June 22.


    1. Insightful look at Jim Matheson that reveals the truth about his claim to be an environmentalist. How can he claim that when he doesn’t even show up for all the hearings? I’d be fired in my job for such negligent absenteeism!

      We must hold our representatives accountable. It is NOT okay for them to be able to say they are work on our behalf and then vote (or quietly slip away and not vote at all) to appease the very companies that fight regulation and care less about public safety than their bottom line profits.

      What makes it worse and is very telling is the money Jim Matheson receives from the oil and gas industry – his third largest contributor. He is not likely to vote against their interests any time soon.

      Time to send representatives to DC whose palms are not being greased by corporate America and who pledge to remove the excessive corporate influence on our politics by reforming campaign finance. That’s why I support Claudia Wright for Utah’s 2nd Congressional district. I’m heading over to cast an early vote for her today.

    2. Deb

      “Fracking is not an issue when the it’s done at great depths. It’s been done for decades and Iv’e been involved in dozens of Frack jobs over the years. Many if not most use concentrated acids and surfactants which are “pushed” into the formations with liquid nitrogen in order to “dissolve the substructure of the sedimentary rocks where the oil and gas are entrained. This is done routinely to increase production from a field that can’t produce on it’s own gas pressure. One less well to drill if you think about it.

      Most fields in the world, including the Rangely Field, and the source of SLC’s oil leak are and have been for some time in secondary phases of recovery and production. For example, the oil from Rangely is being “pushed” into the pipeline by “sweetened” CO2 and helium coming from La Barge, Wyoming. This is problematic for many reasons including: 1)necessity of finding more, less cost effective fuel supplies with more environmentally and foreign policy risks in the long run 2) decreased production and increase demand means we are approaching or have arrived at “Peak Oil,” globally which means going to war over the remaining hydrocarbon resources of the planet 3) sweetening toxic “sour” or hydrogen sulfide gas is ex expensive and highly dangerous-my company provided medical, fire fighting and safely services to two of largest sweetening plants in southwest Wyoming back in the 80’s 4) this is an instance when NPR is sensationalizing a routine and normally safe to the environment, oil field practice. The science backs this up.

      In my opinion this is not a place to take a stand and draw a line in the sand. Rather emphasize the point of it’s necessity and its ramifications. Makes alternatives look more and more cost effective in the long run.

    3. Did you watch the video? What you’re saying is not true everywhere.

      People are turning their faucets on and getting contaminated water. They can light their faucets in fire due to the Methane that is mixed in with their drinking water.

      It’s causing earthquakes in Texas near where some friends live. I don;t understand why we’d be willing to contaminate out water supply with an undisclosed cocktail of chemicals that aren’t completely retrieved.

    4. Show me the raw data. Most problems associated with fracking that I can find in the literature are related to the solids and liquids that come back up (reverse flow) and are stored in inadequetly lined or controlled reserve pits. There is no question that this stuff gets in the groundwater.

      I have a friend that does remedial and superfund cleanups around the world including installing 70′ deep slurry walls around what is called reserve pits-such as the toxic pit(s) up in Alberta around the Fort McMurray Shale oil extraction. (See National Geographic.

      Outside of Chicago the spills from years of leakage at the refiners have made their way into ground waters and yes faucets. Slurry walls are “installed” around these.

      However, the assertion that hydraulic fracking is causing earthquakes, whereas plausible, is virtually impossible to prove with regards to causality. Again look at the scientific literature, perhaps I missed something.

      Oil and gas in general don’t make it to the surface because it is trapped from above by impermiable layers of sediment. Exceptions to this rule resulted in oil/bitumin collection since the beginning of civilization.

      Production zones vary from location to location but in general are pretty well defined and isolated from water tables. Where the production zone and water tables are close I would agree for better scrutiny but NPR, in my opinion, does not do a good enough job of validating their assertions scientifically. Again show me the raw table and something more tangible than one video or the blogs.

      What can I say, I’m a scientist and I’m dubious of any claim until I see the work in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

    5. Interesting discusion on this topic on the Oil Drum web site (pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing).

      • I respect your experience with the process of hydraulic fracturing and want to look into it more myself.

        The issue I have with the process is that the long-term consequences of this extraction (such as earthquakes) are still largely unknown. Many are touting natural gas as the solution to the oil crisis, but I believe the environmental consequences may be just as significant. I don’t think that we should be moving along in a “business as usual” fashion when there is evidence that this process may not be as innocuous as thought.

        My gripe is also that the individual states now regulate this process thanks to Mr. Matheson. With the Marcellus Shale spanning many states, the potential of contradictory regulation on the borders of states could have large consequences with lots of finger pointing. We could be addressing this potential right now. Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Superfund act, clean air, and clean water acts. I want the regulation strengthened to reflect all of the consequences of the process and right now I do not believe that it does reflect these consequences.

        For one thing, I twould like there to be more regulation with what the oil companies are telling the land owners when they sign contracts to work on their property. Fox started making the movie Gasland when he was offered $100,000 with a $5,000 signing bonus to sign away his rights to his property. They weren’t volunteering any details as to what may happen on his property due to this process. He set out on his own to find those consequences because he wanted to see what he wasn’t being told in the contractual paperwork. The movie goes into more detail as far as the questions you have raised. A friend is trying to get a screening here in Utah so when that happens, I will let you know when that happens.

        As far as the earthquakes, I have a friend in Cleburne Texas and he sent me this:

        Temblors Rattle Texas Town: Residents Suspect a Drilling Boom Is Triggering Small Quakes, but Scientists Lack Proof

    6. […] this mining possible. Natural gas in and of itself is a gross process that uses the under-regulated hydraulic fracturing, and the so-called clean energy it produces is being used to mine one of the ugliest forms of […]

    7. […] this mining possible. Natural gas in and of itself is a gross process that uses the under-regulated hydraulic fracturing, and the so-called clean energy it produces is being used to mine one of the ugliest forms of […]

    8. […] Jim Matheson is on vacation. Salt Lake blogger Deb Henry, a Claudia Wright fan, by all appearances, noticed that Matheson wasn’t showing up, even when he said he was showing up. He waited over a month to respond to the environmental […]

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