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Fracking CEO Can’t Answer to the Facts, or Even Share the Stage with Riverkeeper

How does the CEO of a major fracking company react when asked to publicly answer to facts about the true environmental and economic cost of hydraulic fracturing?

The same way frackers react to the contaminated drinking water and wrecked communities they leave in their wake: Avoid the issue, deny the truth and duck from scrutiny.

When Aubrey K. McClendon, chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy, learned Paul Gallay, Hudson Riverkeeper, would be part of his panel discussion at today’s Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference, he reportedly threw a fit and refused to share the stage. But Gallay got five minutes to grill him and his industry mate Edward E. Cohen, president and CEO of Atlas Energy, to challenge him on key facts.

Facts like: drinking water wells near fracking sites have 17 times more methane than wells farther away, according to a Duke University study. Smog is worse in Wyoming fracking country than in downtown Los Angeles. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says fracking account for more air pollution in the Fort Worth area than cars, trucks, planes and buses combined.

And the low price of natural gas the frackers trumpet as such a benefit for the U.S. consumer? Don’t expect it to last. Once frackers gain market share, through exports, use in vehicles or other markets—which panelists promised, at the conference, to do—expect the price to skyrocket. Just like asthma rates in Texas hydrofracking country. Gallay likened it to a bad adjustable rate mortgage that ultimately bankrupts the public.

McClendon’s response? He dismissed it as “environmental nonsense.” He said he hadn’t heard of one environmental problem from his company’s fracking wells.

Then again, he couldn’t even recall the money his company had showered on politicians to win their support, either.

Not surprisingly, the audience wasn’t convinced by McClendon’s thin argument. Asked to weigh in real time, nearly 95% said either the federal government or the states should regulate the industry.

Frackers call their gas a gift. If it’s a gift it’s a Trojan Horse.

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