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'Fake News' Also Happens When the Media Ignore Important Findings

Did you notice the back-to-back media coverage of the new study, conducted in Ohio’s Utica Shale, that found zero evidence that hydraulic fracturing had any impact on local groundwater? 

What study, you ask?  Well, that’s the problem. 

Whenever some group announces that it suspects fracking is contaminating groundwater or seeping into tap water, the media are all over it, with print, broadcast and social media putting the suspicions and accusations in front of everyone. But if a reputable study concludes it just ain’t happening … silence. 

The journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment has just released the results of a study examining whether methane (CH4) from fracked wells in the Utica Shale is entering the groundwater. The study authors, all university-based academics, conclude: “We found no relationship between CH4 concentration or source in groundwater and proximity to active gas well sites. No significant changes in CH4 concentration, CH4 isotopic composition, pH, or conductivity in water wells were observed during the study period.” 

They agree that methane can be in groundwater: “These data indicate that high levels of biogenic CH4 can be present in groundwater wells,” but they stress that, at least in their investigations, it is “independent of hydraulic fracturing activity ….” 

This isn’t an outlier study. Virtually every other credible study has concluded exactly the same thing—including a major, multi-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The 2015 EPA analysis was an extensive, five-year compilation of nearly 1,000 different data sources—including science and engineering journals, government studies and peer-reviewed EPA reports. Thomas A. Burke, an EPA science adviser, was quoted as calling it the “most complete compilation of scientific data to date.” 

The report initially found no link between fracking and “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.”  However, after pushback from Obama officials and environmentalists, the EPA watered down (so to speak) its conclusion by stressing that localized spills and human error could have an impact on groundwater. 

How about another one? A 2015 study conducted by the California Council on Science and Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found no “documented instances of hydraulic fracturing or acid simulations directly causing groundwater contamination in California.” 

So the good news is that your water is almost certainly safe from fracking-related contamination. The bad news is that the media almost never report the good news.  

We’ve heard a lot about “fake news” lately, in which media reports make claims that aren’t true. But ignoring, for political reasons, important findings and reports that are true can also be fake news.