Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

July 20, 2013

Our fracking future

The pro-fracking conspiracy in the United States is so vast that it evidently encompasses the Environmental Protection Agency, famously a tool of the oil and gas industry.

The EPA just dropped its study of fracking allegedly contaminating the water in Pavillion, Wyo. The enviro left had rejoiced at the news a few years ago that the EPA had for the first time implicated fracking as a threat to groundwater. Now, amid criticisms of its methodology, the EPA has backed down and won’t issue a final report. It is handing the matter off to the state of Wyoming, which has been dubious of the EPA’s claims.

It is one in a long series of disappointments for anti-fracking crusaders who expect at least the EPA, if no one else, to credit their crackpottery and paranoia. According to ProPublica, “environmentalists see an agency that is systematically disengaging from any research that could be perceived as questioning the safety of fracking or oil drilling.” It never occurs to them that perhaps the evidence doesn’t back up the anti-fracking hysteria.

Consider a celebrated case in Parker County, Texas. Resident Steven Lipsky had methane in his drinking water. The EPA fastened on the idea that Range Resources had contaminated his well through fracking, and hit the company with an endangerment finding and remediation order. But as Mario Loyola of the Texas Public Policy Foundation recounts, the EPA couldn’t actually defend any theory whereby the fracking had polluted the well.

Slowly, the agency retreated in ignominy. It turned out that the well wasn’t contaminated at all, but contained levels of methane typical in the area and below levels that the federal government considers a threat to health.

“Area residents,” Loyola writes, “had found natural gas in their water wells years before any drilling for natural gas. Some water wells were even ‘flared’ for days after drilling, to release dangerous levels of methane. One area subdivision’s water tanks warn ‘Danger: Flammable Gas.’”

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