The Daily Mail’s Tuesday editorial, “Gas well fracking not hurting groundwater,” omits two significant facts that were specifically noted by the study’s authors.
First, they stated that “what we found in the new study in West Virginia is different from what we have found in previous studies in northeastern Pennsylvania and Texas, but similar to what we found in Arkansas. That’s because geology varies by region.”
Secondly, their conclusions were specifically limited to the three years that were studied, as they also stated that “what we found in the study area in three years may be different than what we see after 10 years, because the impact on groundwater isn’t necessarily immediate.”
There are three facts that the study explicitly identified: waste water spills from fracking operations have contaminated streams in West Virginia; in some types of geology, fracking operations have contaminated groundwater; and in other types of geology, such as that in northwestern West Virginia, groundwater contamination has not been seen immediately but may occur years later.
Objective facts like these (not, as the Daily Mail states, “fear combined with considerable misinformation”) have led some states to take a wait and see attitude and to ban fracking now until its long term effects are better understood.
The Daily Mail provides an incomplete summary of the study to denigrate “a subculture of hysteria about fracking” and to falsely conclude that “study after study have shown that problems with fracking during drilling are minimal.”
Contamination of streams by spills of waste water isn’t “minimal,” and the fact that groundwater contamination may well occur years after drilling is complete doesn’t change the fact that fracking was the cause of the contamination.
The Duke University study simply does not support the Daily Mail’s conclusion that “the extreme risks opponents claim fracking poses aren’t true.”
Instead, the Daily Mail’s conclusion encouraging the public to ease up on its “irrational hysteria on the subject of fracking” is really urging the gas industry to barge ahead and get every cubic foot of gas it can and get out before real damage becomes apparent. That’s urging a repeat of what the coal companies did to our state: get what they want as quickly as possible, and then disappear before they were forced to reclaim the mountains they destroyed, and before they were forced to make good on their promises to the miners for their pensions and health care.
When you have to rely on a selective summary of a scientific study to support your foregone conclusions, you should re-examine those conclusions.
Steven R. Broadwater Sr.