Fracking Companies Withhold Baseline Well-Water Data

May 18, 2011

For years, natural gas drilling companies have argued there is no proof that the "fracking" technology they use pollutes private wells with methane or toxic chemicals. Now ProPublica has revealed that the companies have huge amounts of data that would help settle the question — but that they are hiding it.

Companies have argued that the only sure way to determine whether their operations are poisoning the wells rural residents rely on for their drinking water is to sample wells before the fracking operation as well as after. In fact, companies criticized a recent Duke University study for lacking "baseline" pre-drilling data. What the companies did not say is that they denied Duke researchers the data when asked for it.

Reporter Abrahm Lustgarten revealed the companies' concealment of data. Since 2008, some of the biggest fracking companies have been collecting extensive baseline data. The companies confirmed that they have the data and are withholding it. The withheld data could either exonerate the companies or prove them responsible for pollution.

Claiming "trade secrets," the gas drilling industry has lobbied to keep hidden the identities of the chemicals they pump into the ground during fracking operations.