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Back off, Texas — More NC Science Crazy

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Okay you know who's happy today? The people of North Carolina and the people of Texas, whose legislative antiscience crazy doesn't seem especially off the hook given the nationwide legislative crazy we have going on.

But -- and I hate to do this to Texans -- North Carolina antiscience crazy never takes time off.

You're all familiar with the Carolina brand of crazy, which focuses mostly on ignoring science or even outlawing it (convenient summary here). And in another SA blog you recently got a lovely portrait of our own anti science pioneer, John Droz.

But today's love letter to crazy focuses on fracking. As you know, NC is in a big stinking hurry to start fracking, so that we can start cashing in on the supposed enormous bonanza of money to be made before it becomes totally clear how bad for everybody fracking is. Inexplicably we've managed to dodge the bullet so far, but the fun never stops.

Last week, North Carolina actually refused money from the federal government because the money was going to be used to study whether fracking was safe. "Study"? "Safe"? Nuh-unh! Not in North Carolina, you so-called "scientists" don't.

See, the $500,000-plus in money from the EPA was going to fund baseline studies on streams and wetlands -- which seems like just the kind of thing you'd want to do before you begin fracking. But John Skvarla, the NC head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, says, in a letter to the editor:

The EPA grant would have started sampling in early 2014 – too soon, assuming you want to establish a baseline prior to hydraulic fracturing. It would have sampled wetlands and streams chosen more or less at random – but by waiting until leasing units are known, we can target the samples close to where hydraulic fracturing will occur. It would have sampled only surface water – we need both surface and groundwater sampling to accurately tell us whether drilling is harming the water supply.

Right: the last thing you need is generalized baseline data taken long before a new process starts. How is THAT going to give you a sense of what things looked like ... um, before the process started? Skvarla also makes a generalized argument that somehow by refusing no-strings federal research funds he's saving the state money, but I'm going to leave that one alone. In explanation I will mention only that North Carolina also has refused the billion or so dollars that would have come with Medicaid expansion. The results of the refusal have been such unquestioned positives as hospital closings and job loss.

Which brings us back I suppose to ignoring evidence and bad science, which is where we started today. So: That's North Carolina's bottom-groove pass for the lead in the antiscience crazy race. Come on, Texas. Show us what you got.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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