Who’s Afraid of Fracking?
Public servants who seek fracking-related pollution have yet to find any.

Workers at a natural gas well near Burlington, Pennsylvania


Deroy Murdock

“A study that examined the water quality of 127 shallow domestic wells in the Fayetteville Shale natural-gas production area of Arkansas found no groundwater contamination associated with gas production,” the U.S. Geological Survey announced Wednesday. “Methane is the primary component of natural gas,” the report observed. “What methane was found in the water, taken from domestic wells, was either naturally occurring, or could not be attributed to natural gas production activities.” USGS director Marcia McNutt elaborated: “This new study is important in terms of finding no significant effects on groundwater quality from shale gas development within the area of sampling.”

“Significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF,” or high-volume hydraulic fracturing, according to a February 2012 preliminary report from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) has pondered this issue since 2010 and promises further contemplation, including another draft of what DEC now calls an “outdated summary.”

“New York would be crazy not to lift the moratorium” against fracking, former governor Ed Rendell (D., Pa.) told the New York Post in November. The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee continued: “I told Governor Cuomo I would come to testify before any legislative committee. . . . It’s a good thing to do.”

“I do find it stunningly hypocritical to buy gas that comes from fracking wells somewhere [else] in the U.S. and then say fracking is bad,” John Hanger, Rendell’s former secretary of environmental protection, remarked in the Post. “If you’re saying no to gas, you’re saying yes to more coal and oil.” Hanger, a Keystone State Democratic gubernatorial contender, lately lauded the benefits of gas fracking:

Using more natural gas has slashed US carbon emissions and toxic air pollution — lead, mercury, arsenic, soot — in the nation’s air by displacing large amounts of coal and oil. That cleaner air saves thousands of lives every year. And no nation in the world has cut its carbon emissions more than the US since 2006. Indeed, thanks in substantial part to shale gas, US carbon emissions are back to 1995 levels and fell about another 4 percent in 2012.

“We have never had any cases of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing,” Elizabeth Ames Jones said in 2011. The then-chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which supervises natural gas, added: “It is geologically impossible for fracturing fluid to reach an aquifer a thousand feet above.”

“We have drilled 3,500 wells in Arkansas and explored every complaint of a compromised well,” Lawrence Bengal, director of the state’s Oil and Gas Commission, noted in 2011. “We have found no fracturing fluid in any of those well complaints.”

While California last month unveiled new disclosure and monitoring rules for fracking, Tim Kustic, the Golden State’s oil-and-gas supervisor, told the San Jose Mercury News: “There is no evidence of harm from fracking in groundwater in California at this point in time. And it has been going on for many years.”

“We’ve used hydraulic fracturing for some 60 years in Oklahoma, and we have no confirmed cases where it is responsible for drinking water contamination — nor do any of the other natural gas–producing states,” Bob Anthony, chairman of the state’s public-utilities commission, wrote in August 2010.

“In the 41 years that I have supervised oil and gas exploration, production, and development in South Dakota, no documented case of water-well or aquifer damage by the fracking of oil or gas wells, has been brought to my attention,” said the Department of Environment’s Fred Steece. “Nor am I aware of any such cases before my time.” Steece commented in a June 2009 New York DEC document that cites regulators from 15 states who identified zero examples of fracking-related water pollution.

“Facts matter,” says Robert Bryce, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and author of four books on energy. “Over the past six decades, the fracturing process has been used more than 1 million times on American oil and gas wells. If it were as dangerous as the anti-drilling/anti-hydraulic fracturing crowd claims, then hundreds, perhaps thousands, of water wells would have been contaminated by now. That hasn’t happened.” Adds Bryce, who also appears in FrackNation: “The simple truth is that the shale revolution is the best possible news for the U.S. economy, and it’s coming at a time when good economic news is desperately needed.”

The officials quoted here are neither gas-company executives nor petro-publicists. These are public servants who oversee this industry, and many work or have worked for red-tape-loving Democrats. Nonetheless, they are unafraid of fracking. Clearly, frackophobes have nothing to offer but fear itself.

— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.