Dan Rather on fracking gas

I just got around to watching a Dan Rather Reports piece on fracking, which aired a few months ago (now available on iTunes). It doesn't have any revolutionary new information, but is an interesting and serious journalistic piece on both the energy potential of shale gas and recent claims of groundwater pollution from fracking across the U.S. Features extended interviews with Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon and a Wyoming farmer whose wife began suffering neurological problems after a gas well was drilled into the Bakken shale below their property. Recommended.

This also brought me back to Geoff Styles' post on shale gas and water safety, which has since generated a somewhat contentious body of comments. Geoff originally concludes that there isn't anything to worry about since fracking generally occurs at great depth and is isolated from surface water by thick layers of impermeable rock. Commenter Bartman then narrows down to two plausible pathways for surface water contamination - poor well casing/cementing and disposal of resurfaced frac water.

What doesn't look good to me is the industry's apparent attempts to obstruct further scientific testing of claimed contamination. Bartman's selection of plausible pathways sounds right to me, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a reasonable argument for not testing groundwater to see if fracking chemicals are in fact surfacing there. If they are, there is clearly a problem that requires further investigation. And if there is really nothing to hide, I wonder whether fighting against scientific inquiry and transparency is really the best PR strategy for shale gas interests in the long run.

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