Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry | Syndicated columnist

The pro-fracking conspiracy in the United States is so vast that it evidently encompasses the Environmental Protection Agency, famously a tool of the oil and gas industry.

The EPA just dropped its study of fracking allegedly contaminating the water in Pavillion, Wyo. The enviro left had rejoiced at the news a few years ago that the EPA had for the first time implicated fracking as a threat to groundwater. Now, amid criticisms of its methodology, the EPA has backed down and won’t issue a final report.

It is handing the matter off to the state of Wyoming, which has been dubious of the EPA’s claims.

It is one in a long series of disappointments for anti-fracking crusaders who expect at least the EPA, if no one else, to credit their crackpottery and paranoia. According to ProPublica, “environmentalists see an agency that is systematically disengaging from any research that could be perceived as questioning the safety of fracking or oil drilling.” It never occurs to them that perhaps the evidence doesn’t back up the anti-fracking hysteria.

Consider a celebrated case in Parker County, Texas. Resident Steven Lipsky had methane in his drinking water. The EPA fastened on the idea that Range Resources had contaminated his well through fracking, and hit the company with an endangerment finding and remediation order. But as Mario Loyola of the Texas Public Policy Foundation recounts, the EPA couldn’t actually defend any theory whereby the fracking had polluted the well.

Slowly, the agency retreated in ignominy. It turned out that the well wasn’t contaminated at all, but contained levels of methane typical in the area and below levels that the federal government considers a threat to health.

“Area residents,” Loyola writes, “had found natural gas in their water wells years before any drilling for natural gas. Some water wells were even ‘flared’ for days after drilling, to release dangerous levels of methane. One area subdivision’s water tanks warn ‘Danger: Flammable Gas.’”

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This naturally occurring methane explains the starkest evidence against fracking — a handful of flaming faucets in Colorado, supposedly rendered flammable by fracking. They were the stars of “Gasland,” the anti-fracking film by propagandist Josh Fox, who seeks to be the Michael Moore of natural gas. The state’s oil-and-gas commission issued a careful rebuttal explaining that in the area in question “troublesome amounts of ... methane” had been documented in the aquifer since 1976.

None of this is to say that fracking never goes wrong. If there is a mechanical failure in a well, there will be problems. But this is true of any kind of drilling. There’s nothing uniquely dangerous about the act of fracking, which involves blasting mostly water and sand into a shale formation to create tiny fractures that release gas. This often happens 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground and far beneath any aquifers.

Fracking is such an obvious boon that it is embraced almost everywhere it is feasible. Now, Josh Fox is returning to the well, so to speak, with “Gasland 2,” aired on HBO. He is officially a third of the way to as many sequels as “Fast and Furious.” Just wait for “Gasland 6: All Fracking Leads to This.” He must feel like he has made the equivalent of the 1970s scaremongering anti-nuclear movie “The China Syndrome” (twice), except the nuclear industry has continued to thrive.

On an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Fox had to plead that his anti-

fracking cause isn’t a fizzle. He could cite the ban in New York, but most states aren’t so economically self-destructive. Despite a case of methane contamination a few years ago that became a cause celebre for anti-fracking activists, then-Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, continued to greenlight fracking. Even Gov. Jerry Brown in California is resistant to banning fracking in a state allergic to exploiting its natural resources.

Fracking is so self-evidently the future that, at times, even the EPA seems loath to try to stand in the way.

Rich Lowry can be reached at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.


(8) comments


Good stuff Lowry! The anti-fracking drama-queens are pathetic and their fake cause is dying.

Daryl Rose

If you get sick or hurt, it has to be someone's fault. If you don't believe me ask any lawyer


I wonder if Rich thinks Ethanol is great also? I'd be all for carpooling versus digging up the state for more sand at this point..............


Ethanol is another great example of enviro misinformation, government do gooders and the power of lobbyists. Study after study shows ethanol from corn production is at best a breakeven proposition. By the time you balance out the insecticides, herbicides, and fuel (all from oil) used to produce the corn and the additional energy used to produce the ethanol, you consume as much or more oil as if you just made gasoline from the oil instead. This has been a boom for the farmers, however the rest of the world now has to pay big bucks more for food. If the issue was really replacing oil use with ethanol, we would buy ethanol from Brazil made from sugarcane cheaper than we can produce corn ethanol. However to protect the farm lobby, this was taxed to death. Ethanol production from corn is so inefficient that we the taxpayer pays the ethanol producer a subsidy of $.50per gallon just to keep them in business. More government welfare.


Drill baby drill, Frac baby Frac. If you libs were not such hypocrites you would all being driving electric cars and insisting on only wind electricity being shipped to our house to charge your car and power your toaster. You whimper and whine, emotionally manipulated by scare mongers. Oh the water is rising, we are melting, melting. As long as I can remember your tactics are the same. The Caribou were all going to die because of the pipeline thru Alaska. We were all going to freeze to death due to global cooling because of excess carbon in the air.
Whatever enviro snake oil salesmen happens along you are always front and center to buy his wares.

Jefferson Paine

You can't drink money. You have to be a fool to believe that pumping chemical laden liquids into our underlying shale and crust layers will not result in polluting and ruining what GOD....or the CREATOR gave us. Why don't you flat-earhters open up a water bottling company next to each of these toxic operations and sell that water to your disciples.....

Put your mouth where your money is loud and ignorant one.

Seriously Now

Basically I've learned that if Rich is for it, I'm against it.


Little Richie Rich has turned into a scientific expert on petroleum extraction all of a sudden. Just when I thought he made it big as a climatologist and global-warming specialist.

What's Little Richie's next big experiment? He has volunteered himself as guinea pig right here in Western Wisconsin: Little Richie now lives fifty yards from a frac sand mine. Way ta go, Lil' Richie!!!

Little Richie: "I'm such a whiz kid that I've even cured my own silicosis!"

"Silicosis Suits Rise Like Dust"

"Lawyers in Asbestos Cases Target Many of the Same Companies"

"An old workplace danger is spawning a surge in new lawsuits charging that thousands of workers have developed silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling quartz dust."


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