If Natural Gas the Issue and Science Fails, Bring on the Anecdotes
Uni Blake Environmental Consultant – Toxicologist Master’s Degree in Environmental Toxicology – American University
While the general public may find anecdotal evidence highly compelling, most scientists are suspicious of data that rests on anecdotes. The idea research can be based solely on pooling more than one anecdote to create data is problematic – more than one anecdote is just more anecdote(s), not data. The study released recently by Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, “Gas Patch Roulette” is an example.
There are many reasons why studies that rely on anecdotal information cannot be validated. For one, the study results/symptoms are vague and can’t be well defined. The problem being that rhetorical symptoms are subjective and rely on an individual’s recollection and judgment. For example a symptom defined as a sinus/respiratory issue could include a simple lingering regular cold. Anecdote-based studies offer vague outcomes that are interpreted subjectively. Subjective findings should not be allowed to take the place of quantitative measures and physical findings.
EPA’s Dimock Distraction: Ignoring Pollution While Chasing “Tips”
John Communications Director
EID takes a closer look at e-mails released by the EPA in association with a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Scranton Times Tribune. The correspondence shows a federal agency arriving at one conclusion based on data, but taken down another road due to other factors.
A recent Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Scranton Times-Tribune yielded more than 3,000 emails from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relating to its actions regarding the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania. The correspondence provides alarming clarity on the impetus of those actions, as well as how the agency’s efforts evolved over time.
Perhaps most noteworthy is that EPA officials actively sought to become involved in Dimock well before their presence was even requested. According to an unsolicited email from Richard Fetzer, EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator and later the author of a 10-page letter building EPA’s case for involvement in Dimock, the EPA used news footage as an impetus to try to insert itself into the situation in Susquehanna County.
Bloomberg News takes the low road through small-town Pennsylvania by siding with the plaintiffs in a natural gas lawsuit, making major factual errors and choosing sensation over substance at almost every turn.
Like a lot of small communities, the village of Franklin Forks in northeastern Pennsylvania can be pretty confusing to outsiders, especially if they’re just passing through. It can be hard enough to find your way back to the Interstate, so trying to understand the inner workings of a tight-knit community in just a few days is a pretty tall order – especially when there’s controversy involved.
Not according to Bloomberg News, however, who recently traveled from Washington, D.C. to Franklin Forks to cover the controversy there over a lawsuit filed against a natural gas developer. In the lawsuit, a local family alleges that their water well is contaminated with methane from a natural gas well over 4,000 feet away while ignoring the area’s 200-year recorded history of naturally occurring methane in groundwater, concluding that the gas industry must be responsible.