Good news should be good news. But not in the world of Marcellus Shale development, where all too often science and fact are distorted by bias. This week brings news that Duke University researchers have released a study on isolated cases of saline contamination in select areas of Pennsylvania. Their conclusion? The study specifically rules out shale gas drilling as a cause for such contamination, which was uncovered in the 1980s, well before hydraulic fracturing began in Pennsylvania.
That should be great news for the many men and women who earn their living in the natural gas industry; for the companies investing in gas production in Pennsylvania; as well as for environmentalists, who worry about the effects of natural gas development on drinking water in the state. But in the parallel universe of irrationality over natural gas (the cleanest fossil fuel that is already improving air quality and reducing utility costs for Pennsylvanians), good news is not good news when it comes to a study that finds no ill effects of hydraulic fracturing to one of the state’s treasured resources.
Instead of simply giving the facts of their findings, the researchers suggest that their conclusion still could open the door to contaminants migrating through solid rock and defying gravity by moving up from an average depth of 8,000 feet to drinking water supplies less than 1,000 feet deep.
Penn State University Professor Terry Engelder, who was the keynote speaker at the Delaware Valley Marcellus Association’s inaugural meeting here in Philadelphia in June, took the opinions (not the fact) of the study to task calling them, “overstepping.” Chris Tucker at Energy In Depth provides an excellent analysis of Engelder’s rebuke.
Good news is good news and should be reported by science as such.