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U.S. Park Service Withdraws Fracing Comments

Over the past few months there have been letters going back and forth between the National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Representative Rob Bishop, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.

On September 6, 2013, Representative Bishop sent Director Jarvis a letter (that you can view here) in which he questioned comments made by the National Park Service to the Bureau of Land Management about well stimulation and hydraulic fracturing on Federal and Indian lands. In his letter, Representative Bishop questioned the scientific integrity of the sources and data upon which the comments of Director Jarvis were based. As authority for his comments, the Park Service Director used a New York Times opinion piece written by Anthony Ingraffea. Mr. Ingraffea wrote that shale gas is a gangplank to global warming because of alleged methane leaks. The section of the Park Service’s comments quoting Mr. Ingraffea stated that methane leakage rates were 2.3% to 17% of annual gas production and claimed to get these numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Representative Bishop’s letter questioned why the Park Service was relying on a reporter’s opinion as a source of data and requested a determination of the information’s accuracy.

On November 12, 2013, Director Jarvis wrote a letter in response (that you can read here) to these questions. Jarvis admitted including a quote from a New York Times Op-Ed was inappropriate and sources should have been peer-reviewed scientific studies. He wrote that the Park Service does not rely on opinion pieces in newspapers as a basis for decision making. He also admitted the comments the Park Service made to to BLM were not adequately reviewed before they were delivered. He said that no one from management looked at these comments and he claims they were erroneously uploaded onto, contrary to established protocol. Because of these issues, Director Jarvis withdrew the National Park Service comments.

The discussion of natural gas and hydraulic fracturing continues to be based on political, rather than scientific, issues in Washington. As the Park Service now withdrawn comments illustrate, the opponents of fracing stretch the bounds of what is considered “science” and “data” to make a political point, rather than engage in an honest discussion about an available fuel that even President Obama’s Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz describes as a near-term option to curb greenhouse emissions.

In response to the Park Service comments, Representative Bishop stated: “It concerns me that the National Park Service attempted to pass off unsubstantiated information as ‘science.’ 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.” He followed up saying he hopes the Park Service will “direct [its] efforts toward promoting the responsible use of our diverse lands and resources and away from misleading the American people.”

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