U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Sean Hackbarth Gas-drilling site on top of the Marcellus Shale in Lycoming County, PA. Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Hydraulic fracturing’s safety record is so good that not even a study funded by an anti-hydraulic fracturing foundation could find evidence that it contaminates drinking water.

The technology, which breaks up shale rock thousands of feet below the earth to release trapped oil and natural gas, has driven down energy prices and transformed America’s energy economy.

In 2012, the University of Cincinnati started testing Ohio wells to see if hydraulic fracturing was causing water contamination. The project was partly funded by a $20,000 grant from the Deer Creek Foundation.

The Deal Creek Foundation is no fan of hydraulic fracturing. In 2014 it gave $25,000 to the Media Alliance in Oakland, Calif., to help fund a documentary on the “rise of ‘extreme’ oil and gas extraction - fracking, tar sands development, and oil drilling in the Arctic.” In 2009, the foundation gave $20,000 to the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana activist group that falsely claims, “Fracking damages water, land and wildlife.”

Earlier this month, Professor Amy Townsend-Small, the head of the project, announced her team’s findings to the Carroll County Concerned Citizens, a group of local anti-fracturing activists, The (New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter reports [emphasis mine]:

“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination,” said Dr. Amy Townsend-Small of the University of Cincinnati, who presented the findings Thursday at a meeting of Carroll Concerned Citizens.

Then things got interesting, noted Mike Chadsey with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association:

It was shortly after Dr. Townsend-Small released that statement that a pin drop on the carpet would have been overheard. The silence was so obvious that even the leader of the group Mr. Paul Feezel said: “You all are very quiet tonight.”

Then things got really interesting. Back to The Times-Reporter story:

An audience member asked if the university was going to publicize the results of the study, noting that had the findings been unfavorable to drilling, that would have been national news.

“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Townsend-Small said.

Why? Townsend-Small continued:

They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.

The funders quietly slipped away, hoping news of the study’s results remained confined to a local newspaper.

The University of Cincinnati researchers’ findings match what other experts have found: Hydraulic fracturing, when done properly, is safe for the environment:

A Yale University-led study didn’t find evidence that hydraulic fracturing natural gas wells contaminates ground water. An Energy Department laboratory found that neither natural gas nor hydraulic fracturing fluid traveled upward through the rock in wells tested in Pennsylvania. In 2014, Interior Secretary (and former petroleum engineer) Sally Jewell told lawmakers, “I do believe [hydraulic fracturing] can be done safely and responsibly, and has been in many cases.” Even EPA has looked at the science and concluded that hydraulic fracturing has not had “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.”

Not even well-heeled opponents of hydraulic fracturing can base their opposition to the technology on science.

It may have been an awkward moment for fracturing opponents, but it was good news for supporters of safe, effective American energy development.

Sean Hackbarth

A foundation funding scientists should be in search of knowledge, not looking for ammunition to push an agenda. That’s not the case for one that opposes hydraulic fracturing.

In 2012, the University of Cincinnati started testing Ohio wells to see if hydraulic fracturing, a technique for releasing oil and natural gas from deposits thousands of feet below the earth, was causing water contamination. To partly fund the project the Deer Creek Foundation gave researchers a $20,000 grant.

Three years later, the head of the project, Professor Amy Townsend-Small announced her team’s findings, reports The (New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter:

“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination,” said Dr. Amy Townsend-Small of the University of Cincinnati, who presented the findings Thursday at a meeting of Carroll Concerned Citizens.

Then things got interesting. Mike Chadsey with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association described the scene:

It was shortly after Dr. Townsend-Small released that statement that a pin drop on the carpet would have been overheard. The silence was so obvious that even the leader of the group Mr. Paul Feezel said: “You all are very quiet tonight.”

Then things got really interesting. Back to The Times-Reporter story:

An audience member asked if the university was going to publicize the results of the study, noting that had the findings been unfavorable to drilling, that would have been national news.

“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Townsend-Small said.

Why? The funders didn’t like the outcome of the research, Townsend-Small continued:

They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.

Based on documents submitted to the IRS, the Deer Creek Foundation is no fans of hydraulic fracturing.

In 2014 it gave $25,000 to the Media Alliance in Oakland, Calif. to help fund a documentary on the “rise of ‘extreme’ oil and gas extraction - fracking, tar sands development, and oil drilling in the Arctic.” In 2009, the foundation gave $20,000 to the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana activist group that falsely claims, “Fracking damages water, land and wildlife.”

The University of Cincinnati researchers’ findings match what other scientists have concluded: Hydraulic fracturing, when done properly, is safe for the environment:

A Yale University-led study didn’t find evidence that hydraulic fracturing natural gas wells contaminates ground water. An Energy Department laboratory found that neither natural gas nor hydraulic fracturing fluid traveled upward through the rock in wells tested in Pennsylvania. In 2014, Interior Secretary (and former petroleum engineer) Sally Jewell told lawmakers, “I do believe [hydraulic fracturing] can be done safely and responsibly, and has been in many cases.” Even EPA has looked at the science and concluded that hydraulic fracturing has not had “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.”

As in other cases, the results didn’t fit the story the foundation wanted to push, so it cut bait and moved on.

The bottom line: When the results weren’t what they wanted, the funders bailed. They put an agenda ahead of science.

Sean Hackbarth The Supreme Court Pause of EPA’s Carbon Regulations United States Supreme CourtPhotographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

The Supreme Court granted a stay of EPA’s carbon regulations—the Clean Power Plan.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board called it an "important rebuke to the political method of the anticarbon activists in the EPA and White House."

Ditching fossils fuels will be a capital-intensive and generation-long transition, to the extent it is possible, and states must submit compliance plans as soon as this September that are supposed to last through 2030, or be subject to a federal takeover.

The legal challenges will take years, but the EPA hopes to engineer a fait accompli by bullrushing the states into making permanent revisions immediately. Once the Clean Power Plan starts, it becomes self-executing. If the EPA loses down the road, it will laugh that the opinion is too late and thus pointless.

...

The stay suggests that a majority of the Court won’t allow this deliberate gaming of the slow pace of the legal process to become de facto immunity for anything the EPA favors. It’s especially notable because courts tend to be highly deferential to executive regulation.

What exactly did the court do?

 

Why did the court do this?

And why have states, businesses, labor unions, and trade associations--including the U.S. Chamber—welcomed this decision as they fight EPA’s regulatory overreach?

I spoke with Heath Knakmuhs, senior director of policy at the Institute for 21st Century Energy to get some answers.

And to understand the international implications of the Supreme Court's stay, read Stephen Eule's piece.