Persistent, persuasive and unrealistic

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Last May at the US Congress, the head of the EPA joined a long list of environmental and natural resource regulators.  Several regulators have issued press releases.  Some have gone so far as to make provocative statements in media interviews.

They are all saying there are no instances of shale gas fraccing affecting ground water.   Why have those responsible to safeguard the public felt compelled to join this public debate so publicly?

JFK said the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.   It is simply a myth that shale gas fraccing represents any meaningful risk to groundwater.   Most theories by pseudo experts are ‘flat earth society’ type ideas that defy the laws of physics.  Others depend on contrived scenarios that don’t exist in the real world or are so unlikely that the Ground Water Protection Council said they have no more than a 1 in 200 million chance.

There are several independent reports dating from years ago that confirm the process is safe for groundwater. Yet like the “moon landings were staged”, “that Elvis lives” or “the Obama birther” myths, the idea that fraccing shale rock more than a kilometer underground contaminates ground water persists and persuades.

For shale gas the main source of the myth about fraccing has been Propublica and Gasland.

Early in the shale gas debate Abraham Lustgarten and Propublica, suggested there were over 1,000 instances of shale gas fraccing causing ground water contamination.  They promoted that the main stream press had repeated their message over fifty times.  Yet I have an email from Mr. Lustgarten where he admits he uses an expanded definition of fraccing that includes surface spills from things like trucks leaking.   He also uses an expanded definition of “instances” that includes incidents that only had the potential to cause contamination. He just didn’t make that clear in his articles.

Sounds like Josh Fox who is responsible for popularizing the dramatic image of a tap being lit on fire in his film Gasland.   If you didn’t know it is common to find methane in ground water, you might be shocked to see a water tap lit on fire. However, Josh Fox admitted on video that knew people could light their taps on fire in 1936, well before fraccing started.  He just didn’t mention that in his film because he thought it wasn’t relevant.  You can hear for yourself at this new web address.

Industry has not been successful countering the myth about fraccing.  Maybe a chorus of regulators will succeed.

Postscript:  since first drafting this blog regulators in New York have confirmed fraccing at safe depths poses no meaningful risk to groundwater and have recommended allowing exploitation to proceed.  New York is where the debate on shale gas started so perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the debate on a cleaner and cheaper source of energy.