California

Activists Use Halloween to Justify Scare Tactics

Fear mongering by anti-fracking activists is nothing new, and it was out in force this Halloween.

Clean Water Action’s (CWA) October 31 blog post, “The Scary Facts: Fracking in California” is full of the usual litany of well-worn, and thoroughly debunked activist talking points. This time, however, there was an even greater dose of the absurd, opening with the line: “What could be scarier than ghosts, skeletons and witches? How about contaminated drinking water and runaway climate change? The oil industry is one of the spookiest things we’ve ever encountered.”

Actually, the scariest thing about the post was that it was untethered to the facts about hydraulic fracturing. Let’s review:

CWA: “[Oil and gas producers] disguise themselves as the answer to our energy needs, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions and inducing more extreme climate change.”

FACT: The United States is leading the world in greenhouse gas emission reductions precisely because of the increased utilization natural gas, which is due to hydraulic fracturing.

According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), even as global carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 increased by 1.4 percent, emissions from the United States dropped by 200 million tons, or 3.8 percent – thanks to shale development. As IEA put it, the drop in U.S. emissions is one of the “bright spots in the global picture. One of the key reasons has been the increased availability of natural gas, linked to the shale gas revolution.” The United States would never have been able to accomplish this without hydraulic fracturing.

Here in California, where we primarily produce oil, we have the strictest environmental regulations in the country. As Governor Brown has said:

[When people in California] can get around without using any gasoline, that’s the time for no more oil drilling. Maybe. Because they’ll be many other people still driving. We’re importing oil from many places. It means you’ve got to bring it in by ship or by truck or by pipeline – by something.

So taking care of our own problems is a good thing.

CWA: “What’s worse is that Big Oil has hid its practices from the public, lurking in the shadows of loopholes and exemptions, free to pollute with little consequence […] Oil companies are continuing to risk our environment and health for corporate profits, and fuel our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, all without any safeguards in place.”

FACT: This is absurd.  For years California has enjoyed the most expansive environmental protections in the nation, and this includes regulation of the energy industry – which has covered hydraulic fracturing for more than 50 years.

In addition to California’s regulations, shale development is also regulated by many federal laws. A 2012 Government Accountability Office report cites no fewer than eight federal environmental and public health laws governing the shale development process, including but not limited to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, among others.

Now, in addition to the federal and state laws and regulations that govern the industry, Governor Brown recently signed the nation’s most stringent hydraulic fracturing law to address public concerns. This new law – SB 4 – will make the fracking process even more transparent to the public, so citizens will easily be able to see for themselves that the fears activists are trying to instill are baseless.

Federal and state regulators, including California’s, recognize that fracking is a fundamentally safe process, which is why efforts to impose a moratorium on the practice went down to a resounding defeat in the legislature.

CWA: “Prior to 2008, there have been over 1,000 cases of water contamination from oil and gas drilling activities documented by courts, and state or local governments.”

FACT: It’s amazing that extremist anti-fracking activists are still making this false claim when there is so much evidence against them.

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has said, “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”

Ken Kopocis, President Obama’s nominee to be Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water (EPA), was asked recently in testimony before Congress if he was aware of any cases of groundwater contamination from fracking. His answer? “No I am not.”

Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s former EPA chief, said recently that “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the [fracturing] process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.” This comment follows her previous testimony before Congress when sheexplained that she is “not aware of any proven case where [hydraulic fracturing] itself has affected water.”

The U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Ground Water Protection Council, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and dozens of state regulators have shown that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a significant risk to groundwater. Most recently, two peer-reviewed studies found that water contamination from hydraulic fracturing is “not physically plausible.”

Not Buying It

Californians have expressed, through opinion polls and their elected representatives, that they aren’t falling prey to the scare tactics of radical anti-fracking activists.  Far from being “scary,” the fact is that hydraulic fracturing is a safe and proven technology that has been used more than 1.2 million times in the United States, including here in California, without the adverse environmental consequences claimed by these activists.

Responsibly developing our energy resources here in California — using hydraulic fracturing as a well completion technique when it happens to be the best choice for a particular well — will create thousands of jobs, increase our energy security, and strengthen our economy.

That sounds more like a Thanksgiving message to me.

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