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People protest against fracking in California, in Los Angeles May 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson) People protest against fracking in California, in Los Angeles May 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)  

National Park Service cites anti-fossil fuels NYT op-ed as ‘scientific literature’

The National Park Service seems pretty embarrassed it was caught quoting an anti-fossil fuels New York Times opinion piece in its official comments on the Obama administration’s proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations.

In a letter to Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, the service admitted that it was “inappropriate” to quote a NYTimes piece to support its technical comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s fracking regulations. The opinion piece by Cornell professor Anthony Ingraffea entitled “Gangplank to a Warm Future” attacks the notion that natural gas is a “clean” fuel and argues for the use of renewable energy over fossil fuels.

“It concerns me that the National Park Service (NPS) attempted to pass off unsubstantiated information as ‘science,’” Bishop said in a statement. “This thinly veiled attempt to vilify energy production and hydraulic fracturing on our public lands illustrates a shared agenda between the administration and anti-energy special interest groups.”

“I’m pleased that Director [Jonathan] Jarvis will rescind the comments and hope that, moving forward, the NPS will direct their efforts toward promoting the responsible use of our diverse lands and resources and away from misleading the American people,” Bishop added.

Bishop caught the Park Service trying to sneak in a New York Times oped into its comments, sending them a letter in September that demanded to know why they used it instead of referencing peer-reviewed scientific literature to support their comments.

In his oped, Ingraffea argues that methane-leakage rates from natural gas operations are as high as 17 percent, which essentially negates the fuel’s “climate advantage” over coal because of the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas.

Furthermore, Ingraffea argues that the U.S. should switch to renewable energy, like wind and solar, instead of relying on natural gas if catastrophic global warming is to be averted.

“We have renewable wind, water, solar and energy-efficiency technology options now,” he writes. “We can scale these quickly and affordably, creating economic growth, jobs and a truly clean energy future to address climate change. Political will is the missing ingredient. Meaningful carbon reduction is impossible so long as the fossil fuel industry is allowed so much influence over our energy policies and regulatory agencies. Policy makers need to listen to the voices of independent scientists while there is still time.”

The environmental community has voiced concerns over methane leaks from natural gas operations, but federal data and independent studies show leakage rates are much lower than Ingraffea asserts.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported earlier this year that methane emissions from natural gas operations decreased 11 percent from 1990 levels. Another report from the University of Texas at Austin found that methane emissions from gas operations were 20 percent lower than the EPA had previously estimated.