Gas Drilling Companies Hold Data Needed by Researchers to Assess Risk to Water Quality

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, May 17, 2011, 1:14 p.m.

For years the natural gas drilling industry has decried the lack of data that could prove—or disprove—that drilling can cause drinking water contamination. Only baseline data, they said, could show without a doubt that water was clean before drilling began.

The absence of baseline data was one of the most serious criticisms leveled at a group of Duke researchers last week when they published the first peer-reviewed study linking drilling to methane contamination in water supplies.

That study—which found that methane concentrations in drinking water increased dramatically with proximity to gas wells—contained “no baseline information whatsoever,” wrote Chris Tucker, a spokesman for the industry group Energy in Depth, in a statement debunking the study.

Now it turns out that some of that data does exist. It just wasn’t available to the Duke researchers, or to the public.

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