Those in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones: Pa. Paper Lodges Baseless Claims About Hydraulic Fracturing

Perhaps you caught the editorial in today’s Doylestown (Pa.) Intelligencer under the headline “Cawley vs. DEP: Two stories about natural gas fracking.” True to form, EID is eager to separate the facts from fiction regarding the claims made about hydraulic fracturing in this editorial.

But first, by way of background, here’s what the paper’s hard news section reported on Sunday under the headline “Cawley: No evidence of pollution from fracking”:

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley on Friday said that there was no documented evidence of water being affected by the fracking process used in the mining of Marcellus shale natural gas.

Now back to today’s editorial, which plays fast-and-loose with the facts. This from the piece:

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley may want to check his facts a little more closely the next time he talks about the natural gas mining technique known as fracking.

The former Bucks County commissioner and now chairman of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission last week told members of the county Transportation Management Association that there “has never been a documented case of water being affected by fracking for Marcellus Shale.”

Cawley’s deputy chief of staff maintained what his boss said was accurate, and that the process of fracking is not in itself risky.

With all due respect, a statement like that is akin to saying coal mining is not in itself risky. Or drilling for oil is not in itself risky. Or a nuclear power plant is not in itself risky.

But as they say, facts are awfully stubborn things. So, with all due respect to the paper’s editorial board members and editors, here are the facts:

  • Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s EPA Administrator: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” (5/24/11)
  • Taury Smith, Top NY State Geologist and Self-Described Liberal Democrat: “He said he has been examining the science of hydrofracturing the shale for three years and has found no cases in which the process has led to groundwater contamination.” (Albany Times Union, 3/14/11)
  • John Hanger, Gov. Rendell’s DEP Secretary and Founder of PennFuture: Pennsylvania’s chief environmental regulator said on Friday he saw no evidence that the chemicals used in the shale gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing contaminates underground water supplies. … “It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids…have returned to contaminate ground water,” Hanger said. … Hanger said the public and the media appear to overestimate the risks of hydraulic fracturing. “There’s a lot of focus in the media and the public on the problems that we have not had,” he said. (Reuters, 11/4/10)
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