Alec Baldwin has now joined the antifrac’ing crowd with a piece in the Huffington Post that describes an antifrac’ing event hosting, among others, Josh Fox, who made the widely debunked pseudo-documentary Gasland. He states that the industry refused to attend or “participate,” but it’s not clear if they would have been allowed any serious forum.
In Michael Lynch’s US News piece addressing this gathering, Lynch reminds Baldwin and Co. of the many public refutes to a myriad of popular antifrac’ing claims. For example, the AP investigated the claim that breast cancer rates were higher in the six counties near the Barnett Shale and found it to be untrue. He initially claimed the Centers for Disease Control had made the statement, but when this was found to be untrue, he cited a small paper that used a reporter who was suing the natural gas industry.
Lynch goes on to say that he went to the Texas Cancer Registry website and downloaded the data for breast cancer from 2005-2009 for the counties of Bosque, Dallas, Denton, Hamilton, Hood, and Johnson. Three of them do show rates for the period that are higher than the state’s average, but only by 5-10 percent; two show falling rates (slightly), two show rising rates (slightly), and two don’t have data over time. And only Dallas county has over 1,000 cases per year, with Denton the only additional county that has over 100 cases (about 350) per year.
Opposition to frac’ing increasingly seems to be relying on scare tactics, with activists blithely repeating factoids they like with little effort to check the raw data or even the mainstream press. Understandably, someone like Alec Baldwin doesn’t have much time to research this issue and while they have the same right to their opinions as the rest of us, they also have the same responsibility to check their facts.
As with any industrial activity, hydraulic fracturing of shale should be done in an environmentally responsible fashion, and regulators should monitor emissions. But by making false claims, activists not only damage their own credibility, they distract from actual environmental issues that require true action.