Reporting on shale gas and hydrofracturing, the public radio program Marketplace Morning Report today captures the classic American phenomenon at work: Innovation creates opportunity, investment and wealth, and trial lawyers follow with bogus, hyped, shake-down lawsuits.

From “Fracking employs plenty of lawyers“:

Sarah Gardner: The U.S. is awash in natural gas. But the latest drilling technology that’s made the glut possible isn’t winning any popularity awards. “Fracking” involves a high pressure cocktail of water, chemicals and sand injected into shale rock — deep underground. Gas companies are drilling wells from Pennsylvania to Wyoming, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.

Richard Lippes: There have been explosions of homes, there’s a lot of people who can now actually light their water.

Not winning any popularity awards? Too bad this worthy report starts with such a clunker. Every job that hydofracturing creates wins a popularity award with the worker. Every stream of income from a producing well wins a popularity award with the property owner. Every hundred million dollars of tax revenue wins a popularity award with the taxpayers and citizens of a state.

As for the assertion from Lippes, the trial lawyer, that there are many who can now actually light their water? It’s false, a claim that’s supposed to inflame NIMBY sentiment against natural gas development and scare up clients. One scene of a fellow lighting water in his kitchen sink appeared in the agitprop film, “Gasland,” but the claims about fiery faucets have since been refuted and the entire movie debunked.

The Marketplace report also covers that activities of New York lawsuit engine Marc Bern, who specializes in environmental claims. Next up? The class-action lawsuit. Bern declares: “Wherever there is shale and there is natural gas trapped underneath, there will be litigation.” Isn’t that the sad truth. Just as where there is any creation of wealth in the U.S. economy, there will be trial lawyers. The more wealth, the more lawyers, which makes shale natural gas such a tempting target.

“Trial,” the monthly magazine of the American Association for Justice, hyped environmental litigation in its March issue, “Poisoned wells: dangers of natural gas drilling,” a piece authored by another plaintiffs’ attorney, William S. Friedlander. Environmental activists and litigators often team up in campaigns against energy, both exaggerating the risks to increase their potential income via membership dues or settlements, respectively.

Do we want a prosperous society, a growing economy, and a strong manufacturing base fueled by affordable natural gas, or do we want an elite class of trial lawyers and winners of the litigation lottery?

The House Science Committee on Wednesday, May 11, held a hearing on shale gas development, the technology used to develop it, the attacks against it, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s apparent bias against the energy source. The witnesses gave strong testimony, including that from Dr. Michael Economides, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Houston:

  • It is important to realize that this gas production wouldn’t be possible without hydraulic fracturing. … Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming each have over 60 years of extensive experience with the hydraulic fracturing process and these States have well developed regulatory processes in place.
  • The chance of propagating a fracture upward into groundwater is nil. You have a better chance of winning the lottery. … My contention is that the hydraulic fracturing process is safe, already well regulated by the various States, and the hysterical outcry over this process is completely unjustified.
  • Ultimately, the frenzy of arguments over hydraulic fracturing distill to this single fact: Either the United States wishes to utilize its natural gas resources, or it doesn’t. For development of shale or tight gas goes hand-in-hand with hydraulic fracturing. Saying “no’ to hydraulic fracturing really means you are saying “no” to natural gas production in the United States.

Energy in Depth, the industry-supported group, has other highlights from the hearing here.