Businessweek Finds Pa. Town Wounded from Anti-Fracking Battle

Environmental extremists and regulators stopped drilling before it started, leaving locals struggling.

In a rural area where “The economy sucks when it’s good,” natural gas drilling could have gone a long way. Could have, until environmental extremists and regulators got in the way.

That’s what happened in Wayne County, Pa., just a few years ago when “corporations offered struggling farmers lucrative leases for mineral rights” but a documentary filmmaker and government prevented the drilling, according to a June 7, 2012 story from Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

“Land that sold for $2,000 to $3,000 an acre in 2004 was going for as much as $10,000 an acre by 2009,” the article stated. That was all put on hiatus thanks to a fear of pollution spread by a anti-fracking neighbor/filmmaker Josh Fox and eco-groups that pressured the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to institute a drilling moratorium.

That interstate commission blocked struggling farmers from reaping the benefits of the natural gas boom which was “the biggest thing ever happened around here, in my lifetime at least,” according to [Northern Wayne Property Owners] Alliance member Bob Rutledge. Rutledge is “a dairy and beef farmer whose family has been in Wayne for 170 years.” He slammed the DRBC saying the commission “isn’t writing me a check. They’re just basically saying ‘screw you’.”

According to the magazine, DRBC’s decision was influenced in part by local Wayne county filmmaker Josh Fox, who made the anti-fracking film “Gasland” and supporters who played up the fear of environmentalists. Despite the fear spread by Fox and other anti-fracking activists, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have concluded that “there is no evidence” of polluted drinking water caused by fracking. Even EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has told the Ithaca Journal, “We have absolutely no indication now that drinking water is at risk.”

“Gasland” is “packed with major errors, half truths, distortions, and exaggerations,” according to Kathleen Hartnett White, director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. That film famously highlighted water from a tap being set on fire, but according to Phelim McAleer, another filmmaker, flammable water is nothing new and was not a result of fracking.

Businessweek reported that “drilling is not officially dead in Wayne county,” since DRBC had scheduled a hearing on in November 2011. But it was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled.

The Businessweek story of frustrated farmers and people who would have been better off economically if the DRBC had not stopped companies from drilling for natural gas is a rare one in the mainstream media. The anti-fracking view is more typically promoted by the liberal news media.

In May 2011, The New York Times had to correct its claim that there were “numerous” cases of water pollution from fracking. They were forced to admit “There are few documented cases, not numerous ones.” Left-wing radio host Mike Malloy outrageously claimed (without evidence) that fracking had killed “thousands of Americans,” while liberal radio host Thom Hartmann claimed fracking had caused an earthquake