This morning, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on Hydraulic Fracturing Technology – the environmentally risk process for extracting natural gas from shale formations commonly known as fracking. Just this week, researchers in North Carolina demonstrated that fracking is leading to contamination of drinking water. In places, the contamination is so intense that water has become flammable.
Committee Chairman Ralph Hall did not mention this research in his opening statement for the hearing. Instead, Hall argued against efforts to keep America’s drinking water safe from pollution related to fracking. Hall also complained about what he called a “lack of courtesy” by the EPA, because EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has not yet responded to a sharp letter sent by Hall.
That Hall’s concern for courtesy does not extend to his own behavior was made apparent in the publication of materials from the hearing today. The web page for the hearing lists Hall’s speech under the “Opening Statements” section, but no statement from any other member of the committee.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, the ranking minority member of the committee, did make an opening statement, in which she criticized the rush to expand fracking without adequate environmental protections, saying, “Unconventional shale gas produced through hydraulic fracturing may very well be an integral part of our future energy mix, however, we also know that fossil fuels carry significant environmental risks. In this I am speaking of the oceans we fish, the soil we farm, the air we breathe, and the water we drink – all of which have real economic value. Nobody gets rich from clean air and water, but everybody benefits, and nobody should have the right to take those away.”
Censorship of these and other remarks made by Representative Johnson is not what I would call courteous.