This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
by Mark Lichty
On June 5, the Pocono Record carried a story with the headline, "Fracking Can be Done Safely, EPA says." That headline is at best misleading. It gives the impression that it is being done safely, which in many cases is not true. The study did conclude that wells were being contaminated by fracking, which until this point the EPA had been denying. The article was reasonably well-balanced, but too many of us remember headlines. Had the headline read, Fracking Can Be Done Safely, But Frequently is Not," or "After Years of Denial by the Industry, the EPA Confirms Contamination of Water From Fracking."
had expressed my concern regarding headlines in a My Turn piece I had written on Aug 13, 2013. The situation has not
improved. After the release of the too long-awaited EPA water study,
Orwellian newspeak persists. The headlines in other papers read, "The EPA Finds
No Widespread Contamination of Water from Fracking"(Houston Chronicle), and
Fracking Does not have Big Effect on Water Supplies," (NYT). After years
of EPA waffling on the matter, the study clearly did establish what effected
homeowners have known for years, fracking can indeed contaminate water
supplies. The widespread contamination was confirmed by a recent University of
Texas study, "A Comprehensive Analysis of Water Quality in the Barnett Shale Region."
Suggesting that the contamination was not "widespread" is a slap in the face to the hundreds of families whose water supplies have been contaminated and health has been effected (google: The List of the Harmed). Ask one of the families who have had their water contaminated, and had to move if the contamination is "widespread." Ask a mother whose child was sickened by air or water contamination if the problem is "widespread." There are now nearly 400 studies establishing the health and environmental effects of fracking. Language in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Robinson township decision states that "fracking is dangerous to the health and environment." For a newspaper to carry the headlines emphasizing the words "not widespread" does not serve either our collective health, our environment, nor accuracy in reporting.
is widespread is the contamination of our media and our Democracy by gas
money. In the process of doing thousands of hours of research for our
film Groundswell Rising, I
have found that gas money penetrates every crevice of our political system,
much like the toxic slurry of injected chemicals penetrates every fracked nook
and cranny of a gas well. That headline would never have seen the light of day
if it had not been tainted by the smell of dirty industry money. There is
no doubt that money contaminates how our legislative and Executive branch views
fracking"those who support fracking got four times more money in their
campaigns than those who had a more cautious attitude about it (check Common
Cause's report, "Deep
Drilling, Deep Pockets"). Our Republican/gas controlled
legislature removed $2,000,000 from legislation which would have ensured
public funding to determine health risks re fracking. Would an
uncontaminated legislature remove such well intended funds?
I myself went through a metamorphosis. I was pro-fracking when I spent thousands of dollars converting my manufacturing plant to gas 8 year ago. At that time I was in good company with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations supporting fracking. I was hypnotized by the bright blue, nearly smokeless flame. I bought into the propaganda that gas had less of a carbon footprint, and I could see it would be cheaper. I was right about the latter, wrong about the former.
important point is that the headline only spoke of water contamination.
When we started our film, the threat of water contamination was the main thing
on my mind. As we progressed in the film, we kept uncovering more of
fracking's threats to our lives, like ambient air contamination, contribution
to the climate crises, earthquakes, traffic, rendering apart of the fabric of
communities, etc. Water contamination, while a significant threat, for me
was dwarfed by some of these other issues. On this point, a more
informative headline might have been, "EPA Confirms threat of Water
Contamination From Fracking, but Water Remains Only One of the Many Threats
Requiring Further Study."
fear too that Governor Wolf may only be reading the headlines as well.
One cannot research the profound health and safety effects of fracking and not
be deeply concerned about fracking's safety. These studies establish that
it is often not being done safely. New York concluded this.
Maryland has declared a moratorium due to its concerns. When legislative
moral compasses are not contaminated by money, they make the safe decision, the
moral decision. Where money blinds them, their moral compasses are
diverted. The level of governmental deafness in the face of such
overwhelming evidence is deeply saddening. Do folks in New York and
Maryland have a more refined moral compass than Pennsylvanians? With hundreds
of studies establishing health and environmental issues, why would
one's moral compass not call for at least a moratorium until it can be
determined if fracking can be done safely?
MATTER. In fact, they may matter more that the article itself. A press
that is free and uncontaminated by industry influence matters. The media
loses its credibility when it does not trumpet its independence in headlines
and the stories it presents. I write now a second time to plead for accurate headlines.