More Fear Mongering from the Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the radical anti-energy activist group and litigation factory that fills its coffers by scaring people into believing false information about oil and gas development, has released a new “report” which continues an almost perfect record of getting the facts wrong.

Entitled “Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Commonly Used Air Toxics in Unconventional Oil Development in the Los Angeles Basin,” it purports to demonstrate, using operators’ disclosures under South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulations, that “extreme” oil and gas development techniques in Southern California uses chemicals that pose a threat to public health and that they should be banned. CBD’s conclusion is no surprise, given the group’s ideological opposition to job-creating energy development.

It is also not a surprise that the CBD is absolutely wrong on the facts, given that the group is proudly anti-science. Its goal is simply to scare people and to engage in, as it says, “psychological warfare.”

But while the CBD doesn’t care about science, Southern Californians concerned with the safety of their air and water absolutely should care about it, so let’s look at the facts.

First, of course, there is nothing “extreme” about well stimulation and completion techniques like hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), acidization or gravel packing. These are well understood and highly regulated technologies that scientists, state and federal regulators agree are fundamentally safe. Second, operators have not been “forced” to publicly disclose chemicals. They have been doing it voluntarily for years and additional regulations soon to be released by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will make this disclosure mandatory, something the industry supports.

Happily for those in Southern California concerned with the impact of oil and gas development on air, there has been very recent research on air quality in Los Angeles specifically related to hydraulic fracturing and gravel packing, and the news is good.

In October 2012, Cardno ENTRIX published a comprehensive study of the Inglewood Oil Field near Culver City at the behest of Los Angeles County as part of a legal settlement. The study examined the environmental impacts of two high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations across nine areas about which the public has expressed concern, including groundwater, well integrity, subsidence, induced seismicity (earthquakes), noise and community health. The study found no adverse environmental impacts from the hydraulic fracturing operations.

On air emissions associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing specifically, the report found that they were within standards set by the regional air quality regulations of the SCAQMD. So much for CBD’s claim that the public is being exposed to dangerous chemicals.

As EID’s Steve Everley has recently pointed out, extremist anti-hydraulic fracturing activists have jumped headfirst into science-denial in their increasingly shrill and over-the-top claims about the public health impacts of shale development.

The CBD is no different in its “report,” recklessly throwing around words and phrases like “human carcinogen,” “mutagen,” or  “linked to liver cancer” simply to generate fear with no acknowledgment that the use of certain publicly disclosed chemicals during oil and gas operations is a state-permitted, highly regulated activity, and no acknowledgment of the overwhelming scientific evidence that has led regulators to declare hydraulic fracturing fundamentally safe.

By now, the abuse of science by radical activists or, in the case of the CBD, an outright disregard for it, is no longer a surprise. Generating irrational fear about public health is the latest page in the radical anti-energy activist playbook. While this makes a perverse kind of sense, given the CBD’s disdain for science, Californians deserve better than to be pawns in the group’s psychological battle with regulators and with the truth.

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