Impartial fracking study a good idea
To date, no independent research study indicates that hydraulic fracturing, done properly, presents a threat to the environment or human health.
However, the debate over “settled” science underscores the false promise of certainty. The only certainty is uncertainty. Unpredictability rules.
So, what if fracking is, indeed, bad for the environment? What if it’s a serious public health threat or a possible ground-water contaminant?
Fracking is an important extraction method. If there are problems with it, let’s find out so we can fix them.
Conversely, if fracking is as safe as many supporters claim it is, they should be confident that an objective study will prove their case and disarm the opposition. Either way, it seems, a scientific analysis of the practice is in the public’s best interest.
The Colorado House approved a bill Thursday that calls for a study of the health and “quality of life” impacts of hyraulic fracturing of natural gas wells.
But not without controversy. Some Republicans fear the study is designed to give fracking opponents fodder to enact a statewide ban. Surprisingly, Republican Rep. Jared Wright, voted with the Democratic majority, even though they didn’t need his support.
Wright supports a peer-reviewed, scientific study to ensure that the state is “going down the right path.”
“I did read this bill in-depth and I feel like it’s well laid out, and I think it’s certainly the intention that it’s done the right way,” the Fruita lame-duck lawmaker said.
We admire the thought Wright put into the decision. He put the public interest before the party line and showed some faith in the scientific process laid out in the bill. Others may be content to stick their heads in the sand, but we think an issue as controversial as fracking deserves scientific scrutiny.
Of course, that’s the crux of the argument against the bill. Republicans don’t think the study will give fracking a fair shake. They unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to keep proponents of an anti-fracking ban off the scientific advisory committee that will oversee the study. The state Department of Public Health and Environment will conduct it.
The bill heads to the Senate for more debate and, no doubt, more attempts by Republicans to ensure that the study is impartial. We hope Democrats will be receptive to these concerns. If we’re going to invest $700,000 in a two-year study, we need the findings to be iron-clad and beyond reproach. Otherwise, the results will be meaningless amid charges of political gamesmanship.
Still, we think Wright has the right approach. “We want to know that we’re not just blindly going forward with technology. That we do it the right way,” he said. “I think the results of this study will be that our operators are doing their jobs and doing it in the careful way that we ask them to.”
If fracking is found to be a safe and effective way to get gas out of the ground, we’ll rest easy. If not, we’ll have the information we need to address the shortcomings the research reveals.