EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson telling a House committee there's no evidence hydraulic fracturing has affected water supplies isn't totally new news. Jackson has said similar things before. But in the context of the current public debate over "fracking," it's huge. Here's Associated Press energy reporter Dina Cappiello's Tweet from the hearing:
@dinacappiello EPA admin Lisa Jackson at House oversight hearing: "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
Think about it: Of all the officials in the federal government, Jackson would have heard if fracking - injecting a mixture that's 99.5 percent water and sand into subterranean rock to free trapped natural gas and oil - was tainting water. Anywhere.
Maybe the administrator's latest statement will start a new, fact-based national conversation about a drilling technique that's been around for more than 60 years, has produced more than 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (and 7 billion barrels of oil) and is the key to accessing an estimated 100-year supply of U.S. shale gas.
Natural gas from hydraulically fractured wells is central to an overall strategy of tapping domestic sources - which the administration has wisely endorsed - to provide secure energy, create jobs and fuel economic growth.
It's already happening. The Washington Times reports that shale gas from deposits in the Marcellus formation has set off an economic explosion in parts of Pennsylvania, where more than 1,400 wells were drilled last year:
The industry has and continues to transform small western Pennsylvania outposts such as Washington, Hickory and Canonsburg from sleepy communities to boomtowns and has changed the national conversation about how we heat our homes and power our vehicles.
The Times adds:
Along Interstate 80 in northeastern Pennsylvania, hotels are being built at a frantic pace. It's tough to get a room in places such as Towanda in Bradford County -- the epicenter of Marcellus Shale drilling in the northern half of the state. Bradford County and nearby Tioga County now boast two of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, a stark change from just a few years ago.
It's great news for communities that until recently were on their "last legs," a state business and industry official told the newspaper. Even better: It can happen elsewhere.
But not without a discussion grounded in reality and fact. You can't increase domestic energy supplies without safely and efficiently developing domestic sources - unhindered by misinformation and misrepresentation.