'Fracking': Did Energy Department report clear up controversy?
According to the US panel, 'fracking' to release gas deposits in shale can be done in an environmentally responsible way. The industry hailed the report as refuting shrill critics, but environmentalists decried 'advocacy-based science' by a panel tilted toward the industry.
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Some critics noted that the panel findings could undercut results of a major study of fracking's impact by the Environmental Protection Agency due next year. Others cited current and former ties of six of the seven panel members to the oil and gas industry. Deutch, for instance, currently sits on the board of a company that would like to export natural gas.Skip to next paragraph
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“The committee appears to be performing advocacy-based science and seems to have already concluded that hydraulic fracturing is safe,” scientists at 22 universities in 13 states said in a letter to Mr. Chu Wednesday in anticipation of the report’s release. “We believe that the best science should be done first to determine whether increased unconventional natural gas production is sufficiently safe – from the individual water well to climate impact and that policy should follow.”
Gas industry groups said the report showed that critics have been shrill and the environmental threats vastly overblown.
“The report stands in stark contrast to the strident, hysterical demands for moratoria on hydraulic fracturing,” Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a statement. “IPAA believes that the report presents a useful starting point for further discussions.”
Several activists and environmentalists said the report was suspect, at best.
“The public deserves assurance that the full economic, environmental and energy security benefits of shale gas development will be realized without sacrificing public health, environmental protection and safety,” said Barbara Arrindell, director of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, a Delaware River Basin citizen advocacy group in a statement.
But Gwen Lachelt, director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, an environmental group focused on the issue, said the report was better than expected. Yet she, too, noted that “Americans would not be fully protected” until the natural-gas industry’s exemptions from key federal environmental laws are removed.
“While today’s report outlines several helpful steps to reduce the environmental costs of natural gas drilling, it is unfortunate that the subcommittee stopped short of calling for the closure of a key loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act and other environmental laws, leaving communities living amidst the shale gas boom at risk.” Ms. Lachelt said in a statement.
“The subcommittee’s recommendations offer an historic opportunity for the president and our federal agencies to hold the natural gas industry to the highest standards.”
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