Is the Obama Admin Starting to Scale Back on the Frack Attack?

Erika Johnsen
Posted: Apr 07, 2012 9:42 AM

Hardcore environmentalists tend to take umbrage with most sources of mass energy -- they're constantly hating on oil and coal, instead favoring the tepid promise of wind, solar, algae, and the like (err... maybe they just like an underdog?). In more recent years, environmentalists have concentrated their not-inconsiderable rallying and lobbying powers on waging a war against hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a., fracking, the technique of injecting pressurized fluid into the ground to break it up and extract oil and natural gas. Enviros have been whipped into a particular frenzy by this decade-old practice, clucking that it causes groundwater contamination, earthquakes, ecosystem damage, etcetera.

The Environmental Protection Agency has lately been doing what they do best -- i.e., regulatory persecution -- against fracking practitioners, but we recently learned that they've temporarily dropped their suit against a firm in the state of Wyoming, and last weekend, the WSJ reported that the EPA backed off of groundwater contamination claims in Texas. Now, they're backtracking from a similar case they had going in Pennsylvania, too:

Well-water tests of 20 more homes in the embattled natural-gas drilling town of Dimock, Pa. showed no contamination levels "that present a health concern based on risk assessments," a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday. ...

EPA in January announced it would test 61 Dimock water wells and deliver water to four homes after some residents complained their water was contaminated by gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The residents, some of whom have sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. over drilling, said state regulators had improperly allowed Cabot to halt delivering fresh water supplies to some homes.

But so far, the EPA's tests have not differed remarkably from the tests conducted by the state, which showed some contaminants, but none that could be definitively linked to gas drilling or fracking.

I can't help but wonder -- is the Obama administration finally starting to quietly shift away from their anti-fracking policies? They recently released new regulations that will effectively end the new construction of traditional coal-fired power plants, but largely favor the construction of gas-fired power plants. Are they finally going to end the ideological inconsistency and stop hating on fracking, in the realization that fracking is how you get to natural gas, and that natural gas is cool? (And when I say cool, I don't just mean that it burns more cleanly than traditional fossil fuels and can fit with our infrastructure, but also that it can compete in the free market on its own and doesn't need unfair green subsidies to stay alive!) It can't help that all of the EPA's witchhunt-findings are coming up short, but hey, reality has never stopped them before. I can't say for sure, but if feels like maybe the Obama administration is starting to pull back from the frack attack -- which still doesn't make it okay that they're stomping out coal, not in the slightest, but it does make me feel the tiniest bit hopeful that the environmentalists aren't going to snuff out the promise of natural gas before it can even get off the ground.