You may have heard about Josh Fox, the director of Gasland, being escorted out of the Congressional hearing on hydraulic fracturing last week for lack of approved credentials. But did you hear what actually transpired at the hearing?
This was a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (within the committee on Science, Space, and Technology) titled “Fractured Science – Examining EPA’s Approach to Ground Water Research: The Pavillion Analysis.” The hearing was webcast in its entirety, with the archive available below:
The High Country News has a good summary of the hearing. Keep in mind, the study in question is the Pavillion study in Wyoming which I have mentioned in an earlier post. I streamed the entire hearing myself, and encourage anyone with a penchant for protocol to listen (and certainly anyone who might one day serve in such a hearing to listen). Having listened to the full hearing, I do wonder what the sub-committee will conclude. From the opening statement, Chairman Harris makes fairly clear his opinion that the EPA engaged in faulty science in this Pavillion study and allowed politics to trump objective science. He repeatedly grilled the EPA regional 8 administrator on the decisions of word usage to describe results of the study, and the soundness of the location for test wells. The EPA witness was also challenged on the agency’s coordination with Wyoming officials in the study.Perhaps the most intriguing divergence demonstrated in the hearing was the testimonies of the energy industry followed by that of a public health academician (and former EPA administrator). The industry representative accused the EPA for halting production of natural gas extraction and exploration with this irresponsible study. She stated that the media picks up a piece of bad news regarding hydraulic fracturing and spreads fear in the public, when industry has proven the practice to be safe. Due to the positive impacts on the economy, she implied that energy production should continue through such minor complaints. The view from the public health perspective was that the public has good reason to be concerned, and displayed data from the Marcellus drilling areas in Pennsylvania where violations have been reported by the state Department of Environmental Protection. He went on to say that too little is known about the health effect of hydraulic fracturing, and that since this resource cannot be outsourced, to slow down in order to consider those consequences. So, keep going despite minor (in this case, minor = very small in comparison to overall energy production) health scares, or stop the process (temporarily) in order to significantly reduce the health scares: quite a crossroads… -BT