Industry Friendly Group Calls Hydrofracking One of 'The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2011'

Hydrofracking at an oil well site near Tioga, North Dakota. (Photo: Getty) Photo: Getty

According to the American Council on Science and Health, the fuss over hydrofracking is unfounded. ACSH named the controversial natural gas drilling technique one of “the top ten unfounded health scares of 2011” in a list published this week. “To deny Americans the possibility of plentiful, cheap, and safe natural gas because of hyper-precautionary fears about ‘toxic and carcinogenic’ chemicals from hydrofracking fluid seems terribly irresponsible,” read the ACSH report.

ACSH is a group of “physicians, scientists and policy advisors“who often take controversial positions supporting perceived environmental and health risks including fatty foods, pesticides and tobacco. Critics have called ACSH “a front” for industry because it has accepted contributions from corporarations including oil and gas companies. ACSH’s report on hydrofracking blamed opposition to the drilling technique on “alarmist” media coverage in the pages of the New York Times and the documentary “Gasland.”Hydrofracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, involves extracting gas from underground rock layers by creating fractures with a cocktail of pressurized water and chemicals. Proponents of hydrofracking, including the natural gas industry, which has spent millions lobbying for the procedure, promise fracking is safe and will create jobs. Environmental activists argue the procedure is dangerous and want it banned outright. A recent investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency blamed hydrofracking for groundwater pollution in Wyoming. ACSH’s report argued hydrofracking doesn’t cause drinking water contamination:

“Though environmental activists claim that fracking leads to the contamination of drinking water with chemicals such as benzene, ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross contends that “carcinogenic effects associated with benzene come from studies of high-exposure occupational workers. This has little or nothing to do with the traces of benzene present in hydrofracking liquids, let alone the hypothetical amounts that might conceivably migrate from shale gas deposits to drinking water.”

The ACSH top ten list was written by Leah Wibecan and Lana Spivak. ACSH doesn’t publish data about their current contributors, but early donors included gas companies that have lobbied for hydrofracking; Chevron, Exxon and Mobil.

Hydrofracking has been the subject of a heated debate in New York where Governor Cuomo lifted a statewide ban on hydrofracking this past summer. Currently, the Department of Environmental Conservation, is conducting hearings to come up with rules to regulate and allow hydrofracking in New York. Proposed DEC regulations would permit the procedure in the state apart from the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, which would be free from fracking and surrounded by a 4,000 foot buffer zone.

Industry Friendly Group Calls Hydrofracking One of 'The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2011'