Park Service pulls objection to fracking; used op-ed instead of scientific evidence

The National Park Service has officially withdrawn a controversial document objecting to fracking, scrubbing the record and acknowledging that it broke its own rules on sticking to strict science in its zeal to pressure a fellow federal agency.

The embarrassing admission, which came from Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a letter to Rep. Rob Bishop, said the comments never should have been submitted, went out without his review, and shouldn’t have cited a New York Times op-ed as scientific evidence.


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“I have requested that the comments be withdrawn from the record,” Mr. Jarvis said in the letter, dated earlier this month, in which he said nobody “from management” at the agency or at the White House Office of Management and Budget ever reviewed the document before it was submitted.

Mr. Jarvis didn’t acknowledge that the science his agency relied upon was bad, but Mr. Bishop said withdrawing the document is a tacit admission that the Park Service was “misleading” Americans.

“It concerns me that the National Park Service attempted to pass off unsubstantiated information as ‘science,’” the Utah Republican said. “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.”

Fracking is a method of extracting natural gas by injecting fluid to fracture shale rocks.

The method has helped spur a major leap in U.S. energy production and is backed by many scientists, but environmentalists have raised concerns over the method.

The Bureau of Land Management, an agency that administers huge chunks of federal lands out west and manages gas and mineral leases on that property, has proposed rules allowing fracking.

When BLM opened the rules up for official comment, the Park Service submitted a seven-page document, signed simply “National Park Service.” The agency said it was concerned about the possible spill-over effect onto national park lands, which are often near or even surrounded by BLM property.

In particular, the Park Service said fracking can harm air quality.

One of the pieces of evidence the service used was an op-ed by Anthony R. Ingraffea that appeared in the New York Times on July 29, saying that methane, a greenhouse gas, leaks from the fracking process.

Mr. Bishop said Mr. Ingraffea’s research has been challenged by other scientists and said the Energy Department has “rejected much of Professor Ingraffea’s work on this matter.”

The congressman, who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, said submitting the document to the official record appeared to break the department’s own policy of basing its decisions on science.

Mr. Jarvis countered that the Park Service properly labeled Mr. Ingraffea’s op-ed in its document, but said they should have gone and found peer-reviewed scientific literature to back up their points.

“While citing news articles may be appropriate in specific circumstances to illustrate a point or to highlight an issue, quoting an editorial piece was not appropriate in the context of these technical comments,” he said.

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