ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson sent a strong message to those critics who warn the natural-gas drilling technique known as “fracking” could cause widespread public health and environmental problems.
“I think we have to deal in facts,” Tillerson told Fortune as part of a lengthy story on the company’s investments in shale gas development. “The assertions that our opponents make — why don’t you ask them to produce some facts, produce something? I mean, prove it.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a drilling method that involves high-pressure injections of sand, water and chemicals that allow natural gas trapped in rock formations to flow.
The technique has enabled companies like Exxon to tap the vast natural-gas supplies in the country’s shale formations. As Fortune notes in its story, Exxon has bet big on the shale gas boom.
But the rapid expansion of shale gas development, which require advanced drilling techniques like fracking, has brought with it environmental and public health concerns.
Critics warn that chemicals used in fracking could contaminate groundwater, among other things. The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study of the public health effects of fracking.
Tillerson lampooned fracking foes who want to stop development while environmental concerns are further researched.
“What’s happened is the tables have been turned around now to where we have to prove it’s not going to happen,” he told Fortune. “Well, that is a very dangerous exchange to get into because where it leads you from a regulatory and policy standpoint is to govern by the precautionary principle. And the precautionary principle will absolutely undermine the economy.”