If frackophobes are to be believed, natural-gas fracking is the most frightful environmental nightmare since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear-power plant melted down amid an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
In Promised Land, Matt Damon’s new anti-fracking film funded by the United Arab Emirates, one character demonstrates this production technique’s “dangers” by drenching a toy farm with household chemicals and then setting it ablaze.
In the pro-fracking film FrackNation, one Pennsylvania homeowner absurdly claims that fracking polluted his well water with weapons-grade uranium. (For details, watch AXS-TV on Tuesday, January 22, at 9 p.m. EST.) FrackNation also is in limited theatrical release at the Quad Cinemas in New York City and at Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Calif.
In an agitprop poster from the group New Yorkers Against Fracking, the Statue of Liberty furiously topples natural-gas drilling towers with her torch as energy-company big rigs flee in horror.
These warnings might be believable if fracking regulators seemed even slightly worried. Instead, federal and state environmental officials appear positively serene about hydraulic fracturing, a decades-old technology that uses sand and chemically treated water to shatter shale deposits 5,000 to 8,000 feet below the water table and liberate natural gas from the ruptured rocks.
“In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater,” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson stated last April. In May 2011, she told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
The EPA tested drinking water in Dimock, Pa., which ecologists claim fracking has tainted. “EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency,” it concluded last July. Regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin added: “The Agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”