NEW YORK — If frackophobes are to be believed, natural gas fracking is the most frightful environmental nightmare since Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down after an earthquake and tsunami.
In "Promised Land," Matt Damon's new anti-fracking movie — funded in part by the United Arab Emirates — one character demonstrates this production technique's "dangers" by drenching a toy farm with household chemicals and then setting it ablaze.
In the upcoming pro-fracking film, "Fracknation," one Pennsylvania homeowner absurdly claims that fracking polluted his well water with weapons-grade uranium.
In a New Yorkers Against Fracking agitprop poster, the Statue of Liberty furiously topples natural gas drilling towers with her torch as energy company 18-wheelers flee in horror.
These warnings might be believable if fracking regulators seemed even slightly worried. Instead, federal and state environmental officials appear positively serene about hydraulic fracturing, a decades-old technology that uses sand and chemically treated water to shatter shale deposits far below the water table and liberate natural gas from the ruptured rocks.
"In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater," Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said last April. In May 2011, she testified on Capitol Hill: "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
The EPA tested drinking water in Dimock, Pa., which ecologists claim fracking has tainted. "EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the agency," it concluded last July.
"A study that examined the water quality of 127 shallow domestic wells in the Fayetteville Shale natural gas production area of Arkansas found no groundwater contamination associated with gas production," the U.S. Geological Survey announced Wednesday.
"Significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF," or high-volume hydraulic fracturing, according to a February 2012 preliminary report from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pondered this issue since 2010 and promises further contemplation, including another draft of what DEC now calls an "outdated summary."
"New York would be crazy not to lift the moratorium" against fracking, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told the New York Post in November. The former Democratic national chairman continued: "I told Gov. Cuomo I would come to testify before any legislative committee ... It's a good thing to do."
"We have never had any cases of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing," Elizabeth Ames Jones said in 2011. The then-Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which supervises natural gas, added: "It is geologically impossible for fracturing fluid to reach an aquifer a thousand feet above."
While California last month unveiled new disclosure and monitoring rules for fracking, State Oil & Gas Supervisor Tim Kustic told the San Jose Mercury News: "There is no evidence of harm from fracking in groundwater in California at this point in time. And it has been going on for many years."
"We've used hydraulic fracturing for some 60 years in Oklahoma, and we have no confirmed cases where it is responsible for drinking water contamination — nor do any of the other natural gas-producing states," Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Anthony wrote in August 2010.
"In the 41 years that I have supervised oil and gas exploration, production and development in South Dakota, no documented case of water-well or aquifer damage by the fracking of oil or gas wells, has been brought to my attention," said the Department of Environment's Fred Steece. "Nor am I aware of any such cases before my time." Steece commented in a June 2009 New York DEC document that cites regulators from 15 states who identified zero examples of fracking-related water pollution.
The Americans quoted here are neither gas company executives nor natural gas publicists. These are public servants who oversee this industry, and many work or have worked for red-tape-loving Democrats. Nonetheless, they are unafraid of fracking. Thus, frackophobes have nothing to offer but fear itself.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. Email him at deroy.Murdock@gmail.com