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Democracy Now! Hosts Heated Fracking Debate

January 6, 2013

Is Fracking Safe? Debate on Controversial Natural Gas Drilling Technique as NY Moratorium May Expire

Democracy Now! has done a great job putting together this high-profile debate January 4th, 2013. It’s a must-watch, and it heats up the debate now that a new study shows a 9% methane leakage rate from shale gas drilling. Mayor Ryan of Binghamton is a real 21st century mayor, joined by Riverkeeper in going toe to toe with smooth-talking fracking promoters.

Below is the Dem Now! description. You’ll see Protecting Our Waters among the activist groups profiled in their photos.

The controversial use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that is behind the country’s natural gas boom has come under scrutiny in the new Hollywood drama, Promised Land, and met stiff resistance in New York state, where a four-year moratorium against the process could soon expire. Supporters say fracking is essential to U.S. energy independence, a way to revitalize depressed rural areas with new mining jobs and gas projects. But opponents warn that hundreds of millions of gallons of chemically treated water used in the process will pollute drinking water supplies and agricultural fields. New research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado say methane — a potent greenhouse gas — may be escaping from gas sites at much higher rates than previously thought. To dive into this firestorm of debate, today we host a debate with two supporters of fracking and two opponents.

We are joined by Kate Hudson, Watershed Program director at Riverkeeper, New York’s clean water advocate; Phelim McAleer, a filmmaker who produced a pro-fracking documentary called FrackNation; Daniel Simmons, director of state of regulatory affairs at the Institute for Energy Research; and Mayor Matt Ryan of Binghamton, New York, who is a former professor of environmental law and outspoken opponent of fracking.


Democracy Now! perhaps could use some perspective straight from Pennsylvania to describe the impacts here — the hard numbers; the 7.2% well failure rate, the 12 environmental violations per day at Marcellus Shale sites, the health impacts, dead animals, and more. We could help get across that it’s not just the horizontal fracturing stage that’s the problem: it’s the aggregate realities of shale gas drilling. We could also describe the increasing resistance to infrastructure projects from compressor stations and pipelines to injection (“deep disposal”) wells and fracked gas power plants. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, please share widely:


  1. January 6, 2013 6:35 pm

    I honestly don’t understand why anyone is still having this debate. This is a dangerous, polluting, and destructive industrial operation that we need to stop. The debate is over.

  2. January 6, 2013 7:50 pm

    Sorry, but it sounds like another shouting match, not productive at all, and precisely the wrong way to provide any insight to the public. Ms Goodman should ask the gas company representatives to come on for one hour and provide their best case for why the drilling needs to be done. Then she should ask the people like Ingraffea and Steingraber and Bamberger, along with some people directly impacted, to come forward and present their case as to both the current serious impacts (like hundreds of cases of contaminated water, like people getting sick, animals dying, etc) and the long-term risk (not even fully understood yet) of irreparable harm. Ask the public to listen to both presentations. Then Ms. Goodman should also offer an opinion on what she has heard. That would be better than this all-heat-and-no-light kind of “debate.”

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      January 7, 2013 10:44 am

      You know, you are right, Stephen. Perhaps a significant number of people who really know the science and the scientists; who know the impacts and the impacted people; and who understand the problem with this type of debate; should write in to Democracy Now to make suggestions about how they could better get across these important realities to their audience in the future. Sometimes it’s hard to criticize an outlet which does such an outstanding job in so many ways, but yes, clearly Dem Now could do better on this topic and should be asked to host the likes of Bamberger and Oswald.

  3. Paul Roden permalink
    January 7, 2013 6:23 pm

    Fracking is totally unnecesary for our energy needs, so why take the risk of permanently destroy our water supply for millions of people? Everyone should educate themselves on the renewable energy plan developed by Jacobson and Delucchi in their Nov. 2009 Scientific American article and updated in their two articles in the journal Energy Policy. We can transition to a renewable energy economy by 2030 without fossil or nuclear fuel. Germany will be at 80 % renewable energy by 2016. They are doing this while growing their economy and using less energy. If the Germans can do this now, we can do it. What is stopping us, according to Jacobson and Delucchi is the lack of political will because the energy industry owns the politicians in Washington, DC and in our state capitals. They dominate the mainstream media which brainwashes the public into believing the myth of clean natural gas as a “trasition fuel.” Fracking is not safe, is too expensive and is totally unnecessary for our energy needs.

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