Science Agency Calls Out Green Politician Over Viral Fracking Video

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A government scientist called out an Australian environmentalist politician Sunday for claiming hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was poisoning water based on a video showing a river catching on fire.

Jeremy Buckingham, a Green Party Member of Australia’s Parliament, released a video Friday of him lighting a local river on fire, and attributed the incident to nearby fracking operations. Australia’s national science agency says, however, the flammable water is due to a natural processes unrelated to fracking.

“The presence of the industry there has not caused that crack to occur or that fault to occur, it’s been there for aeons,” Professor Damian Barrett, the natural gas research director of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),  told The Guardian Sunday. “The gas has probably been coming to the surface there for as long as people have been there.”

Barrett links flammable water to seepage from local coal beds, saying”[t]he isotopic signature is telling us it’s coming from coal at that point in the landscape but coal is quite close to the surface and there’s a naturally existing small fault line, which cuts the river at that point.”

Barrett told The Washington Post early Monday that the fracking wells are so far from the river that a connection is extremely dubious.

Bukingham claimed that CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, was “making excuses for the industry that they have let off the leash.” Other environmentalist, like the green blog EcoWatch, ignored CSIRO’s scientific explanations for the flammable water and blamed fracking instead.

Fracking has created an energy boom in Australia, rapidly making the country one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas. The country’s fracking boom, however, has likely been held back because the government, not land-owners, owns mineral rights. This has led to widespread opposition to gas development in the country

In America, environmentalists have a long history of ignoring scientific consensus they don’t like. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) science advisers have stated that fracking has no “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water in the United States,” concurring with studies from other regulatory bodies and academics.

Environmentalists responded to these studies with total denial, saying “millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates groundwater and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government.” They even claim that the EPA’s is misleading the public about fracking’s devastating environmental impacts.

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