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Amy Mall’s Blog

Examiner columnist perpetuates oil and gas industry spin on fracking

Amy Mall

Posted November 1, 2010 in Health and the Environment

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A recent column in the Washington Examiner argues against stronger regulation for hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”), a risky process used to blast open underground formations to produce oil and gas. The column makes the case that concerns about endangerment to health and drinking water are “totally without merit.” With claims like this, I of course had to read it.

The column repeats the same spin we’ve heard all along from the oil and gas industry, and also suggests that environmental and local groups have changed their positions on this dangerous procedure. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact remains that fracking is a drastically under-regulated practice that poses serious threats to human health, drinking water, and the environment.  And our government needs to protect communities against those threats.

The Examiner columnist, Mark Hemingway, repeats a series of falsehoods. For example, he says “multiple EPA studies have shown fracking is safe and effective.”  But the only EPA report on this topic was heavily criticized as a study that was politically influenced and did not meet fundamental scientific standards. Key scientific information was omitted, and the EPA Inspector General at the time even found that it warranted an investigation.

That’s precisely why EPA is in the process right now of embarking on the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the health and environmental risks associated with fracking. NRDC and others have supported this action, and offered suggestions on how it should be done, because we know we desperately need more solid research about the safety and risks of fracking to best protect human health and our environment. 

Oil and gas industrial operations are expanding into backyards nationwide – from the West to the East, with insufficient oversight or accountability. The result has been residents reporting grave consequences. Fracking is a suspect in a multitude of drinking water contamination cases around the country, including reports of flammable tap water, dead livestock, decimated property values, illness, and toxic waste.

In order to ensure that American families can sleep at night knowing there is an appropriate level of protection for their kids’ drinking water, we need stronger oversight to guide how and where oil and gas companies can operate. This includes requiring these corporations to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act—a basic safeguard that they were able to dodge during the Bush Administration in what has become known as the “Halliburton Loophole.”

Bottom line: It’s our government’s job to protect the environment and community health, and to hold corporations accountable when they’re at fault. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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