In the latest attempt by anti-shale activists to obscure the facts and disregard evidence, a group called “The Mother’s Project” recently sponsored an ad in the New York Times calling on First Lady Michelle Obama to do whatever she can to “hit the pause button” on hydraulic fracturing.
The group – which was founded by none other than Angela Monti Fox, the mother of Gasland director Josh Fox – alleges that hydraulic fracturing is causing irreversible environmental damage. One of the activists with the group, Sonia Skakich-Scrima, had this to say about the process:
We’re seeing impacts to ground and surface water across the country and in Colorado. Those you can’t fix, they’re not fixable.
It’s unclear who she is referencing by saying “we,” but she’s certainly not referring to state regulators, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or scientists who have proper technical expertise.
As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Here are a few examples why:
· Regulators from at least a dozen states – including Colorado – have affirmed that hydraulic fracturing is not contaminating water. In fact, Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, himself a petroleum geologist by training, said recently: “It’s almost inconceivable that we would ever contaminate, through the fracking process, the groundwater.”
· EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has stated publicly on numerous occasions that there is no evidence of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing. The EPA also recently released the results of its fourth set of water samples taken from the town of Dimock – a small town in northeast Pennsylvania featured in Gasland and constantly cited by activists as evidence of hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water. EPA’s conclusion: there are no public health concerns with the water supply.
· A comprehensive assessment from the University of Texas at Austin found there is “no evidence” that hydraulic fracturing is contaminating water. That same study also looked at media coverage of the issue, finding that two out of every three stories was decidedly negative in tone, and only about a third of all media reports actually referenced scientific data.
· Even when the Park Foundation hires a consultant to claim that somehow, some way, in the future, based on computer modeling, hydraulic fracturing could maybe possibly contaminate ground water, the scientific community immediately rebuts it.
The reason hydraulic fracturing doesn’t contaminate water is simple geology: the rock formations that separate ground water supplies and the formation where hydraulic fracturing will occur have kept hydrocarbons and other fluids trapped at depth for millions of years.
If they didn’t, then it wouldn’t be necessary to stimulate the wells. The notion that billions of tons of impermeable rock will now miraculously allow for upward migration of fluids may generate headlines and help activist groups fundraise, but it’s simply not based in reality.
Which brings us back to The Mother’s Project, which says it’s trying to create a public “groundswell” to “bring more attention to the issue.” To be fair, it’s perfectly legitimate for citizens to express concerns about development, and asking questions about potential impacts is hardly controversial. And those questions should be answered with scientific facts and hard evidence.
But when it comes to hydraulic fracturing, the facts are clear. It’s just unfortunate that citizen-action groups are uninterested in bringing “more attention” to them.
Other MR posts on shale-gas drilling:
Shale Gas: Cornell’s GHG Paper Continues to Attract Criticism (November 2, 2011)
Dear EPA: Why is Wind Okay and Shale Gas Not? (March 2, 2011)
Unconventional Gas Riles and Refigures the World Energy Market: The Oil Market (Part III: February 23, 2011)
Unconventional Gas Riles and Refigures the World Energy Market: The Pacific and Asia (Part II: February 17)
Unconventional Gas Riles and Refigures the World Energy Market: North America (Part I: February 16)