Halliburton gets its money’s worth

Protect drinking water? Not if it would get in Halliburton’s way.

Do you have any idea whether the toxic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process to release methane from coal seams pose a threat to drinking-water aquifers?

Neither do I.

But I’m pretty sure I’d like to know what the Vice President’s Energy Task Force said and did about it, given that hydraulic fracturing is one of the mainstays of Halliburton’s energy business.

An EPA engineer named Weston Wilson isn’t pleased with the agency’s process in deciding that hydraulic fracturing didn’t need to be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Wilson opines that the decision is scientifically unsupported and legally unsound, and points out that the the review committee that approved the study included a consultant for … Halliburton.

Now the fact that someone calls himself a whistleblower and puts out a competent-looking report doesn’t mean he’s right. But when the Vice President refuses to answer questions about what seems to be a strong conflict of interest on the grounds that the Task Force proceedings were confidential, I detect a strong odor of aged halibut.

Did you ever wonder whether the directors of Halliburton acted improperly in giving Halliburton’s outgoing CEO, Dick Cheney, a $20 million severance package on his way out the door to run for Vice President? Was that money well spent, from the viewpoint of Halliburton’s shareholders?

Well, wonder no more. It looks as if the shareholders got what they paid for.

The taxpayers? Well, that’s their lookout, isn’t it?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com