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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Is Fracking a Threat or a Reason to Celebrate?

Any new report on shale drilling is
searched by activists & drilling
proponents for reasons to think the
same thing they already thought
USA Today published a pair of editorial opinions this week, sharing the opposing viewpoints on fracking.

First, here is a portion of the article "Fracking, with care, brings big benefits:"
Fracking — the practice of cracking open underground oil and gas formations with water, sand and chemicals — has rescued U.S. energy production from a dangerous decline. Any debate about banning it should take a hard look at what that would cost the nation and at facts that aren't always part of the discussion. 
Those facts are spelled out in a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking and groundwater. One of the harshest charges against fracking, often leveled with apocalyptic intensity by its foes, is that it indiscriminately contaminates vital drinking water supplies. 
The EPA's timely report essentially said that's overblown. 
The study identified many ways fracking could cause damage, but found little evidence that it had. Yes, there were instances of contaminated drinking water wells, but there was no evidence of "widespread, systemic" harm, and the number of problems that did occur "was small compared to the number of (fracked) wells."
And then the opposing viewpoint was espoused in the article "Fracking poses multiple threats."  Here is an excerpt:
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agencyreleased a draft study on the drinking water impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a controversial method of extracting oil and gas accompanied by potential threats to our health and environment that has concerned communities across the country. 
It's no surprise that the oil and gas industry is cherry-picking the findings from this report to defend its hollow claims that fracking is safe. Industry points to the statement that fracking has not "led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States." But closer examination of the report tells a different story. 
The EPA's analysis identified potential threats to our drinking water sources throughout the fracking process, from wellhead to wastewater disposal. These vulnerabilities require further analysis and future regulation. For example, fracking is a water-intensive practice that could increase water scarcity and threaten water quality in areas already low in water availability, such as the drought-stricken West. Despite industry's attempts to minimize the instances and effects of wastewater spills — which can contain chemicals, radioactive material and other toxic pollutants — the EPA estimates spills could happen hundreds of times a year, threatening our drinking water supplies.
These two articles certainly typify the fracking debate, and demonstrate further a fact that this controversial EPA report has made crystal clear: whether one is anti-drilling or pro-drilling, any new report is simply combed over for a way to use it in furthering one's pre-existing viewpoint.  Both sides have dug in, and no amount of demonstrated science or patient reasoning is going to change minds at this point.

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