US House hearing on gas fracking halted by dispute over film maker
Washington (Platts)--1Feb2012/247 pm EST/1947 GMT
A dispute over documentary film maker Josh Fox's right to videotape the
proceedings of a House of Representatives' subcommittee reviewing the science
behind the US Environmental Protection Agency's draft study on the impact of
hydraulic fracturing on ground water in Pavillion, Wyoming, brought the
subcommittee's proceedings to temporary halt on Wednesday.
After Fox, who produced the controversial 2010 documentary "Gasland"
that was critical of fracking, was led away in handcuffs by Capitol police,
subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris, Republican-Maryland, read from the
Science, Space, and Technology Committee's ground rules that require
videographers to be accredited by the House TV and Radio Gallery. Fox, who is
making a special for the Home Box Office network, is not a regular member of
the Capitol Hill press corps.
But the ranking member of the Energy and Environment subcommittee, North
Carolina Democratic Representative Brad Miller, called for a vote to suspend
the rules and the subcommittee was forced to recess to gather enough
congressmen to create a quorum to vote on Miller's motion.
Article continues below...
Request a free trial of: Gas Daily
Gas Daily offers the most detailed coverage of natural gas prices at interstate and intrastate pipeline and pooling points in major U.S. markets. Gas Daily keeps you informed about complex state and federal regulations that affect competition in the gas industry.
After a 30-minute delay and the loss of two procedural votes to delay
the hearing until Fox is credentialed, Harris opened the hearing.
The EPA's draft study on drinking water in Pavillion, a tiny farming
community in the Wind River Basin, has been controversial science its
December release because it is the first federal study to link hydraulic
fracturing with contaminated drinking water.
Calgary-based Encana, which operates the gas field beneath Pavillion,
challenged the study's conclusions, saying the agency's report is riddled
with errors, from how samples were gathered, processed and analyzed, to the
"line of reasoning" EPA took to connect fracking to water contamination.
Based on prepared testimony available before the meeting, the
subcommittee was set to question officials from the EPA, the state of
Wyoming, the producer trade group the Western Energy Alliance, and others.
In his opening statement, Harris said President Barack Obama's
statements of support for natural gas, particularly shale gas, in the State
of the Union speech last week showed "a remarkable display of arrogance and
disregard for the plaint facts."
"I'm afraid the EPA's action in Pavillion demonstrates a disturbing loss
of perspective," Harris' opening statement said. "In its single-minded
pursuit of the hydraulic fracturing smoking gun, EPA appears to have lost
focus on identifying the real causes of, and real solutions to, drinking
water problems in Pavillion."
"The question is not whether we are pro-drilling or anti-drilling,"
Miller said in his opening statement. "The question is whether we will drill
with our eyes open. The public wants to know if fracking is safe, and they're
entitled to know. But the industry and their political allies just say, in
effect, 'move along, there's nothing to see here.' "
--Bill Holland, email@example.com