The “Spin” on an EPA Study of Fracking –
Fracking interests have long held sway over regulators and politicians in Harrisburg. So it was no surprise to see fracking advocates gloat when a federal EPA report seemed to support their contention that the objections to fracking were overblown. The editorial in the June 7th Bucks County Courier-Times echoed their fullsome sense of vindication:
“In a much anticipated study that was more than four years in the making, the EPA announced last week that it had found no signs of “widespread, systemic” drinking water pollution from hydraulic fracturing. As POLITICO reported: “That conclusion dramatically runs afoul of one of the great green crusades of the past half-decade, which has portrayed the oil- and gas-extraction technique as a creator of fouled drinking water wells and flame-shooting faucets.”
The editorial made it sound like some sort of trial had taken place, and that fracking was exhonorated of blame after due deliberation. In truth, the matter never came to trial. The report cited was actually inconclusive. “No evidence” was found because there was insufficient baseline data from before fracking to attribute the water quality problems to the onset of fracking activity. In other words there wasn’t a conclusive way to prove that the contamination came from fracking and not some other more mysterious source. Since the ingredients of the fracking fluid is “trade secret” the EPA investigators could not identify a proverbial smoking gun either.
Moreover, the data from Dimock where the famous flaming water taps were filmed, was excluded creating an obvious distortion of the statistics that favored the drilling industry. When you understand how politicians and the bureaucracies they oversee are influenced by corporations and trade associations, it’s easy to understand how an inconclusive study can be reinterpreted and molded to say what the administrators and pols want to hear.
Briana Mordick of the Natural Resources Defense Council reports on a detailed review of the EPA study saying:
“A thorough review of the study suggests that the EPA misrepresented the findings of its own study in both the press release and the high-level summary. EPA’s statement that it did not find evidence of widespread, systematic impacts fails to accurately reflect the uncertainty in the underlying data. The fact is that EPA cannot say with any certainty how widespread or systematic impacts to drinking water from fracking are, due to a lack of available data.”
We don’t usually expect political spin in supposedly objective scientific findings. And the EPA is catching plenty of flack as it gets scrutinized by those of us not satisfied with the “cooked” sound bites and summaries. The Courier editorial obviously failed to drill down for critical peer review before waxing poetic about the “not guilty” verdict. But then editorials are not necessarily informed opinion these days.
Journalistic kidding aside, the tone of the editorial suggests that nothing more need be considered:
“That argument now officially discredited, it is time to move on. Let us let the gas and oil industry do what it does without burdensome regulations and other unreasonable constraints that make mining economically impractical.”
There is a long and impressive list of peer reviewed scientific studies, not massaged or edited by politicians, that demonstrate serious health issues such as birth defects, low birth weight, and respiratory problems. New data shows elevated Radon levels in homes near fracking sites, and there is a lot more to come. The citations for some of these studies (easily found with Google) are on the “Links” page of this website [NoFrackingBucks.org].
There is certainly NO acquittal in sight for fracking, and the evidence foretells that the verdict will be “guilty as charged” if we can get an unbiased judge and jury.
On 6/23/15 an article in the New York Times reported that congress passed a bill that, “Would require EPA to start reviewing the toxicity of 64,000 unregulated chemicals, but at a pace of about 10 chemicals per year.” Sen. Lautenberg had wanted hundreds a year reviewed, but Chemical Industry Lobbyists got the bill’s language eviscerated – another illustration of corporate influence getting in the way of good science and the public interest. “The nation’s 10 largest chemical companies spent $171.4 million lobbying during the 2014 election cycle. Here we see an example of what they are buying.