Skip to main content

A Fracking Murder Mystery

Art imitated life on CBS's hit crime show CSI last night. The episode, titled "Fracked," delved into the water-polluting form of gas drilling in which millions of gallons of chemically-treated water are blasted into the earth to extract gas from underground deposits.

The episode summary goes like this:

Two men are murdered right before exposing a natural gas company for poisoning residents in a farming town, and the CSIs must discover who is responsible for their deaths.

It's fiction, of course. But parts of the plot line were lifted straight from the headlines: poisoned wells, flaming faucets, sick people, dying animals, silenced residents. The scriptwriters even took care to include expository dialogue explaining how hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Very true. And very scary.

Watch the full episode here.

Spoiler alert: ConservoSolutions, the fictional company which CSI detectives explain pioneered the process of hydraulic fracturing, ends up looking pretty guilty.

Funny, because Halliburton—the actual company that pioneered hydraulic fracturing—was issued a subpoena (PDF) by the Environmental Protection Agency just this week after it refused to disclose the water-polluting chemicals it uses in the process.

That's a detail the fictional industry representatives are also trying to keep secret in the CSI episode. Company-sanctioned murder aside, the parallels sure start to stack up.

Also on CBS, 60 Minutes is going to be taking a look at the gas drilling boom on Sunday 7 p.m. ET/PT. If you tune in, let us know what you think in the comments field.

The preview looks quite lopsided in industry's favor. Let's hope the full piece gets the facts straight: It certainly would be a shame if CBS's more realistic depiction of hydraulic fracturing ended up airing on its hit crime drama instead of its storied news magazine show.

Update:

I'm not going to lie. The first few minutes of the 60 Minutes episode (unfortunately titled "Shaleionaires") made us wince. Witness the loving close-ups of a brand new Cadillac purchased by a Louisiana gas leaseholder with his royalty check.

"I like the color," correspondent Lesley Stahl gushes. "Champagne?" 

"Gold mist," the leaseholder corrects her.

Barf.

But the second part of the episode ditched the car commercial shtick and got down to business, showing the dark side of the gas drilling boom: accidents, safety violations, air pollution, water pollution. A very telling moment comes at minute 9:41 when Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon plainly states "You don't want to drink frack fluid."

That's right, I don't. Which is precisely why this practice should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Watch the full episode here and let us know what you think in the comments field.

Tags:  gas

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.