EID Retools NRDC “Fact” Sheet on HF, Adds Actual Facts

A recently released document from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — which occupies offices in a variety of locales, including Los Angeles and San Francisco — suggests there are major gaps in regulatory oversight of hydraulic fracturing. The claims received painfully little media attention, probably because absent from the “fact” sheet were… well, actual facts. From ignoring existing regulations to making baseless claims that are directly contradicted by scientists and regulators, the NRDC document was in desperate need of some serious editing.

So, to paraphrase Tim Allen, we rewired it.

You can find the updated document by clicking here, but it’s worth mentioning three of NRDC’s more egregious errors up front.

Error 1: Opposing hydraulic fracturing “until effective safeguards are in place.”

  • Beyond the intentional vagueness of this statement — NRDC polices its own evolving definition of “effective safeguards” — the reality is that hydraulic fracturing has been tightly and effectively regulated for decades, and companies developing oil and natural gas from shale must comply with regulations at both the state and federal levels.
  • How do we know effective safeguards are already in place? Well, after being used 1.2 million times since the 1940s, there is no proven case of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing. To be sure, this is also a testament to the industry’s firm commitment to safety, which only further debunks NRDC’s assumption that safeguards are not in place.
  • But don’t just take our word for it. Current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has affirmed on multiple occasions in the past year that there is not one proven case of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Ms. Jackson has also noted that the continued use of hydraulic fracturing “doesn’t necessarily require” new federal regulation. In 2010, the head of EPA’s Drinking Water Protection Division said that he had “no information that states aren’t doing a good job already” regulating hydraulic fracturing.
  • Considering that the NRDC wants the EPA to regulate hydraulic fracturing, how does it square that belief with the EPA’s own statements? The NRDC clearly believes the EPA has the proper expertise in this field, so what does it say that the EPA is contradicting the NRDC’s own agenda?

Error 2: Misstating risks of drinking water contamination.

  • State regulators have uniformly stated that there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing contaminates drinking water supplies. Lisa Jackson with the EPA has affirmed that conclusion on several occasions. A 2004 study from the EPA determined that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a serious risk of groundwater contamination. A 2009 report for the U.S. Department of Energy concluded the risk of contamination was less than one in 200 million, which is even more remote than the likelihood of winning Mega Millions.
  • Yet NRDC, still claims that “scientists and environmentalists are increasingly concerned about groundwater and surface water contamination” from hydraulic fracturing. If the conclusions of state and federal regulators mean nothing, then what exactly would constitute enough evidence for the NRDC to abandon its ideological embrace of a talking point over clear and well-established science?

Error 3: Calling for best practices that already exist.

  • If you don’t really understand how oil and natural gas development works, then you might think that certain procedures and safety standards aren’t in place. This is the foundation for the NRDC’s claims about “best practices.”
  • For example, the NRDC calls for “three-dimensional models of the subsurface geology” to better design hydraulic fracturing treatments. Of course, companies already do this. For a good explanation of the different types of seismic monitoring that companies perform, click here.
  • The NRDC also calls for “adequate buffer zones” to separate development from water sources, including rivers, streams, and lakes. But what the NRDC clearly doesn’t realize is that state and federal laws are already on the books that establish buffer zones and other protective measures, including the EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures program.

There are many, many more examples in the updated fact sheet, so be sure to check it out.

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