Fox's Cavuto, Heartland's Lehr In Denial About Fracking Pollution

Fox News host Neil Cavuto and the Heartland Institute's Jay Lehr denied that hydraulic fracturing has ever been “proven” to pollute water supplies, despite the hundreds of documented cases of leaky fracking wells causing groundwater contamination. Cavuto also dismissed the Bush administration's role in creating the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act's restrictions on injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

Neil Cavuto And Jay Lehr Deny That Fracking Has Polluted Water Supplies

Cavuto And Lehr: It Hasn't Been “Proven” That Fracking Contaminates Water WellsOn the March 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil CavutoCavuto hosted a discussion with The Heartland Institute's Jay Lehr and The Accountability Project's president Nomiki Konst concerning newly unveiled fracking regulations by the U.S. Department of the Interior. During the discussion, Cavuto suggested that it hasn't been “proven” that hydraulic fracturing has contaminated water supplies, and Lehr similarly claimed that “we really haven't proven that there's been a single water supply well contaminated” by fracking operations.

But There Are Hundreds Of Documented Cases Of Leaky Fracking Wells Contaminating Water Supplies

National Academy Of Sciences Study Found Leaky Fracking Wells Contaminated Water In PA And TX. Ohio State geochemist Thomas Darrah was the lead author of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August 2014, which found that drinking water supplies in Pennsylvania and Texas were contaminated by gas leakage from fracking wells. The study attributed the contamination to poorly sealed pipes, “faulty production casings,” and an “underground gas well failure.” [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 8/12/14]

Pennsylvania Department Of Environmental Protection: Drilling Operations Damaged Over 200 Drinking Water Wells. In response to lawsuits and open-records requests from news organizations, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revealed in 2014 that oil and gas operations damaged 243 private drinking water wells in 22 counties since 2008, largely from fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale region. The Associated Press reported that the problems identified in the cases, which the Pennsylvania DEP posted online, included “methane gas contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable.” [Associated Press, 8/29/14]

Associated Press: Several Drillers Agreed To Take Corrective Action In Response To Cases Of Water Contamination In West Virginia. The Associated Press requested data on drilling-related complaints in several states including West Virginia. The AP reported that state officials said “West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action.” [Associated Press, 1/5/14

Cavuto Also Laughed Off Bush Administration's Role In Crafting The “Halliburton Loophole” For Fracking Operations

Cavuto Dismissed Concern That Bush Administration Exempted Fracking From Safe Drinking Water Act Protections. During the Your World segment, Konst noted that it used to be illegal to inject chemicals used for fracking into the ground before the George W. Bush administration oversaw a change in the law. Cavuto completely dismissed this argument, laughing, “Bush, I knew it! The gift that keeps giving.” Cavuto also reacted with amusement when Konst connected the problem to former Vice President Dick Cheney. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/20/15]

Bush Administration's Energy Policy Act Of 2005 Included “Halliburton Loophole” That Exempted Many Fracking Operations From Restrictions On Injecting Chemicals Into The Ground. The Huffington Post reported:

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to tap into oil and natural gas reserves stored in shale rock. While the Safe Drinking Water Act, first passed in 1974, regulates what can be injected into the ground, energy legislation in 2005 exempted many fluids used in fracking from those restrictions. Companies are still supposed to disclose if they are using diesel fuel in their fracking operations and obtain a permit. But they don't have to do that for other petroleum-based chemicals. The provision became known as the Halliburton loophole because of then-Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney's reported involvement in crafting the law. [Huffington Post, 10/22/14]

The environmental group Earthworks similarly noted: “This exemption from the [Safe Drinking Water Act] has become known as the 'Halliburton loophole' because it is widely perceived to have come about as a result of the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force. Before taking office, Cheney was CEO of Halliburton -- which patented hydraulic fracturing in the 1940s, and remains one of the three largest manufacturers of fracturing fluids.” [Earthworks, “The Halliburton Loophole,” accessed 3/24/15]

Environmental Integrity Project: Halliburton Loophole Has Allowed Fracking Companies To Inject Carcinogenic Chemicals Into The Ground. An October 2014 report from the Environmental Integrity Project documented how the Safe Drinking Water Act loophole has allowed fracking companies to inject cancer-causing agents like benzene and other toxic chemicals into the ground:

Despite a federal ban on the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing without a permit, several oil and gas companies are exploiting a Safe Drinking Water Act loophole pushed through by Halliburton to frack with petroleum-based products containing even more dangerous toxic chemicals than diesel.

For example, a drilling company in West Texas injected up to 48,000 gallons of benzene (a carcinogen) into the ground just last month.


At least six fracking fluid additives on the market today contain more benzene (a carcinogen) than diesel fuel. And at least 21 fluids sold by Halliburton and other companies contain much higher concentrations of ethylbenzene (a probable carcinogen) than benzene, according to industry product descriptions available online. These fracking fluid additives also contained very high levels of xylene and toluene, which can cause neurological problems and other health effects.


In some cases, the amount of toxic fracking fluids injected into the ground is large.  For example, in September, a Texas-based oil and gas company called BlackBrush O&G, LLC, reported injecting a mix of crude oil, butane, and other fluids containing up to 48,000 gallons of benzene into a well in Dimmit County, Texas.  Between May 2013 and February 2014, another firm, Discovery Operating Services, reported injecting solvents containing nearly 1,000 gallons of benzene into eleven wells in Midland and Upland Counties in Texas.[Environmental Integrity Project, 10/22/14]