Let me get this straight.
When people first started expressing concerns about fracking, the gas industry told them that they were “alarmists,” that fracking had been used for over 60 years and was “perfectly safe.”
Then came the slick TV ads saying that the gas industry was going to “get it right” regarding hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction. Oh? I thought they said it was “right” to begin with. What happened?
A couple months ago the “sustainable shale” initiative was launched in Pittsburgh by a handful of drilling companies and a handful of environmental groups with the goal of “getting it right.” (Oh?) They came up with a series of non-binding “performance standards” which actually differ very little from state and federal environmental laws which the industry ignores much too often. (To wit, MarkWest, whose natural gas operations in Butler County violated federal clean air laws for two years while the company disputed EPA citations in court.)
Now the latest savior of the shale gas industry (which was perfectly fine and safe to begin with, you may recall) is on the scene: GE. GE is going to make fracking “all better.” Oh, how I long to believe! But what “problems” will GE be willing to acknowledge, and which problems will continue to be ignored, as they were before the industry decided it had to “get it right”?
If anti-fracking activists and investigative journalists hadn't been continually bringing the problems with fracking into the light, GE would not have its glorious mission to embark upon. Only when these problems become too well-known and uncomfortable to be ignored, often at great human cost, does the industry begin to address them.
I hope that GE will begin its illustrious crusade to “make fracking safe” by acknowledging all those who have been harmed by it when it was “not safe” (i.e., from the beginning of its use in unconventional shale plays to the present). It would be to the gas industry's credit to make such an acknowledgment as well.
In his editorial, JLW III mentioned the massive BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as an example of the inevitability of “risk” involved in energy extraction. He neglected to mention the massive amount of deception that accompanied this accident, regarding the extent of the damage and who was to blame. Perhaps corporate dishonesty is an inevitable part of the equation as well.
The lack of honesty by the gas industry regarding the problems of fracking for shale gas extraction was the main reason for my becoming a “fracktivist.” With all the lies, from “it's perfectly safe” to “we're getting it right” and so on, why should I now believe that GE will suddenly “make it all better”? And how much destruction and damage to health and property will continue to happen while GE scientists endeavor to “get it right”?
I hope that GE will “aim high” and attempt to persuade fracking's harshest critics in the scientific community that it has indeed made fracking a safe and benign process. I hope that GE will dedicate its efforts publicly to the many who have been harmed by this toxic industrial process before it was thus “perfected.” Anything less will be, or at least will appear to be, just one multi-billion dollar conglomerate scratching the back of another for profit.
And haven't we had enough of that?