Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been making headlines for years now. The highly controversial process, and the risks it poses to human health and the environment, has graced magazine stories, spurred investigative reports from the nation's top newspapers, and been the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary. But evidently, all that stuff passed right on over Rick Perry's head.
CBS News reports that at a campaign stop in Iowa, a college student named Carrie Kauffman said that fracking had been shown to contaminate groundwater, after the Texas government endorsed the process:
"No ma'am," Perry said. When Kauffman insisted, Perry cut her off, replying, "We can have this conversation, but you cannot show me one place where there is a proven - not one - where there is a proven pollution of groundwater by hydraulic fracturing.". Evidently, as the crowd, which seemed more up to date on fracking issues than the governor, began to to team up against him, Perry lost his cool.
When the audience began to voice support for the young woman, calling out, "it's false," Perry challenged them to bring him the study in question. A follow up conversation with Kaufmann revealed she was talking about a recent Environmental Protection Agency study out of Wyoming that showed chemical contamination of the area's groundwater was the likely result of fracking
Here's CBS again: "I am truly offended that the American public would be hoodwinked by stories that do not scientifically hold up," he said, his voice rising. "If that was true it would be on the front page of every newspaper, it would be on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, everybody would be running that story."
Humorously, Grist points us to this:
If you want to split hairs, I suppose that particular case would yet to be considered 'proven' by the staunchest skeptics. But there is little doubt anymore that fracking chemicals are leeching into wells and groundwater. However, it has been difficult to get an 'official' line on the matter because regulatory agencies have been slow to mobilize around the issue, and because the 'Cheney loophole' allows natural gas companies to keep their fracking solutions secret. There's tons of pretty conclusive evidence, but such hurdles have made it much more difficult to obtain the kind of 'proof' that would sate Mr. Perry.
That said, vehemently denying any link or threat at all is simply no way to deal with the issue.