Colorado Anti-Fracking Activists Peddling Junk Science

Anti-Fracking activists are spreading misinformation about the safety of hydraulic fracturing to scare Coloradans into banning or limiting fracking. In response, the Environmental Policy Alliance launched a statewide television commercial targeting the activists whose false and conspiratorial claims threaten to destroy jobs and raise energy prices on Colorado families.

Frack Free Colorado, one of the leading anti-fracking activist groups, spouts a number of misleading “frack facts” on its website. To educate the public and set the record straight, we’ve highlighted a few of the most egregious offenders:

CLAIMMethane levels in water sources that are close to fracking wells can be so high, that tap water in surrounding homes have been known to light on fire.

FACT: This is perhaps the most widely repeated and thoroughly discredited claim offered by anti-fracking activists. In Gasland, Josh Fox shows a resident of Fort Lupton, Colorado taking a lighter to his faucet and igniting the running water. The scene put Gasland on the map and made Josh Fox the darling of the environmental movement. However, the implication that hydraulic fracturing causes faucets to light on fire is patently false.

As anyone who has ever taken a basic statistics course knows, correlation does not imply causation. After Gasland was released, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) investigated the flammable faucet claims, concluding that the methane was naturally occurring, not caused by natural gas development: “Gasland incorrectly attributes several cases of water well contamination in Colorado to oil and gas development when our investigations determined that the wells in question contained biogenic methane that is not attributable to such development.”

CLAIM: Ozone: Ground level ozone in some rural places, where there is fracking, is worse than ozone levels in downtown LA.

FACT: This claim is grossly misleading. The current limit set by the EPA for ozone is 75 parts per billion, though there has been talk of lowering that to between 60-70 ppb. Yet ozone exists naturally at higher levels, even in areas where there is no man-made pollution. For instance, the ozone level in Big Bend National Park in Texas (a national park where there is no fracking or other industry) is 71ppb.

CLAIM: Global Warming: Up to 9% of methane produced from fracking seeps into the atmosphere. Methane is 100x more potent as a greenhouse gas than C02, over the next 20 years.

FACT: In fact, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science in September 2013 found that fracking doesn’t appear to contribute significantly to global warming. And scientists from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the use of fracking can cut greenhouse emissions.

CLAIMToxic Chemicals: Of the 300-odd chemicals presumed in fracking fluid, 40% are endocrine disrupting, 1/3 are suspected carcinogens and 1/3 are developmental toxicants. Over 60% of these chemicals can harm the brain and nervous system.

FACT: To highlight the absurdity of this claim, consider your kitchen. You can find all sorts of toxic chemicals under your kitchen sink, but unless you chug a bottle of dish detergent, your kitchen poses no direct threat to your health. In fact, fracking fluid may even be safer than the stuff under your sink. In 2013, Gov. Hickenlooper told a state Senate committee that he drank a glass of fracking fluid procured by Halliburton. The company said the fluid is made entirely “of ingredients sourced from the food industry,” making it safe to consume.

Even if we accept FFC’s claims at face value, there is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process is inherently harmful to human health. According to the COGCC, “When properly conducted, modern fracking is a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure.”

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