The Frack Attack

Anti-fracking movement rallies in D.C., ignores science


Anti-hydraulic fracturing activists converged on Washington, D.C., July 28 for "Stop the Frack Attack," a rally by "urban elites" to strangle a rural economic boom, according to experts on the issue.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a process in which chemically treated water is pumped into shale rock in order to release natural gas for extraction.

Fracking has brought economic benefits to states such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania, while states where fracking is banned, such as California and New York, are suffering economically, according to Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal.

"To be against hydraulic fracturing is like being against a cure for cancer," Moore told the Free Beacon.

Fracking represents "the most important revolution in the oil sector in decades," according to a study by Harvard Research Fellow Leonardo Maugeri.

"The protest will be full of Hollywood celebrities and emotions," said pro-fracking filmmaker Phelim McAleer. "You’ll see Manhattan’s finest, D.C.’s finest, but you won’t see farmers from upstate New York."

D.C. police on the scene of the rally estimated that about a quarter of the 1,500 protestors were from various Occupy movements.

Todd Stefansky, an Occupier from Manhattan, was among the anti-fracking protestors who walked from the west lawn of the Capitol building to Franklin Square.

"They just pulled up a bus at Zuccotti [Park] this morning and I got on, it's crazy," said Stefansky.

Stefansky claimed that fracking "poisons our water," but was unable to name any harmful chemicals used in the fracking process.

The Stop the Frack Attack website claimed the protest would "demand no more drilling that harms public health, water, and air," and encouraged visitors to join the "call for a clean, fossil fuel free energy future."

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, who spoke at Stop the Frack Attack, said he opposes all fracking.

"I would not proceed with fracking, nor with tarsands development, nor with any of the other ‘extreme' energy solutions, because all of them produce more hydrocarbons that we simply can't pour into the atmosphere," McKibben told the Free Beacon.

Also speaking at the rally was Josh Fox, director of the 2010 documentary Gasland. 

Gasland’s iconic scene in which Fox lights tap water on fire and blames the flammability on fracking has been questioned, and Energy in Depth has released a document entitled "Debunking GasLand" that rebuts many of the claims Fox makes in his film.

Numerous scientists have contradicted Gasland’s conclusions regarding pollution and cancer rates resulting from fracking.

"[Anti-fracking advocates] have a lot of amazing claims, but no peer-reviewed science to back up those claims," said McAleer.

Much of the anti-fracking rhetoric focuses on the chemicals used in the fracking process.

Drilling companies say fracking chemicals are a trade secret, while environmental groups want companies to disclose all the chemicals they use.

Drilling companies suffered a setback when a Pennsylvania court declared large portions of Act 13, which expanded drilling opportunities and guarded against the disclosure of fracking chemicals, to be unconstitutional.

Dr. Cynthia Walter is a biology professor at Saint Vincent College and an anti-fracking advocate involved with the Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group, which fought against Act 13.

The EPA is investigating the environmental effects of fracking, but critics have noted deficiencies in the EPA’s study methods.

"I wouldn’t just point the finger at the gas companies, say, ‘Reveal your chemicals,’ and then the story would be done," said Walter, who lives in western Pennsylvania, a region with thousands of fracking wells.

Walter touted solar power as a clean energy alternative to natural gas, but critics of solar energy point to the recent bankruptcies of solar companies, including Solyndra and Abound Solar Inc., as evidence of solar energy’s uncertain promise.

"Even if we quadruple wind and solar output, we’ll only have met 10 percent of our energy needs," said Moore.