Pseudoscience and the Shale-Gas Debate in New York State Implications for Litigation

Vol. 10 No. 1

By

Donald I. Siegel holds the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. He formerly chaired the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council (NRC) of the United States National Academy of Sciences and served as a member of an NRC panel convened to evaluate the environmental problems associated with the production of coal-bed methane throughout the Western United States.

The venerable Oxford Dictionary of English defines pseudoscience as “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.” Elements of the contentious debate about drilling for natural gas from the Marcellus formation in New York State include false analogies, lack of context, and misapplication of the scientific method that combined constitute a form of pseudoscience as defined above. The legal profession needs to better understand the

science behind hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking), given the potential for future lawsuits over perceived and real problems of water quality that may result from its use.

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