Despite Safety Record, Energy Production Targeted

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged last month the need for the agency “to re-examine the Bush administration’s misguided views on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.”
This is another attack on the domestic energy exploration and production sector by those who accuse the technique contaminates underground sources of drinking water.
First, some background: In 2005, Congress passed (with the vote of then-Sen. Barack Obama) the Energy Policy Act. When Safe Drinking Water Act passed, hydraulic fracturing had already been in use for 25 years. Hydraulic fracturing was never considered for inclusion under the act at the time. Although the act was amended in 1986, and a decade later, at no point was the concept of using the regulation over fracturing ever considered a necessity – or even a possibility.
Hydraulic fracturing is a commonly used, and increasingly critical, technology for finding and developing oil and gas resources trapped below rock that would otherwise be too deep, too hard and too expensive to access. The technique has been deployed more than a million times over the past 60 years, delivering more than 600 trillion cubic feet of American natural gas and 7 billion barrels of oil.
Those who oppose the development of American energy have seized on hydraulic fracturing as a means of blocking reasonable access to, and production of, domestic energy resources. The centerpiece of their campaign appears to be focused on blaming hydraulic fracturing for everything from exploding houses in Ohio, to flammable water in Colorado, to hard water deposits in New York.
Despite these claims, hydraulic fracturing continues to be aggressively regulated by the states.
In early 2008, a surprise estimate that the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachians might contain more than 516 tcf of natural gas. Using the same horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods applied in the Woodford Shale in Oklahoma and the Barnett Shale in Texas, maybe 10 percent of that gas, or 50 tcf, might be recoverable. That volume of natural gas would be enough to supply the entire U.S. for two years and, it would have a wellhead value of about $1 trillion.
But, without hydraulic fracturing, these resources cannot be feasibly or economically produced.
More recently, however, legislation has sought to destroy the existing state-federal regulatory partnership in favor of an EPA-only approach. Were this and other restrictive regulatory measures to become policy, it could result in the forced closure of more than half of America’s oil wells, a third of its gas wells, cost the federal government $4 billion in lost revenue, slash American oil production by 183,000 barrels per day, and natural gas by 245 bcf per year.
In 1995, then-EPA administrator Carol Browner (Obama’s energy and environment czar) wrote her agency saw “no evidence” that hydraulic fracturing “has resulted in any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water.”
“Moreover,” she added, “given the horizontal and vertical distance between the drinking water well and the closest gas production wells, the possibility of contamination or endangerment of USDWs in the area is extremely remote.”
Oklahoma is among the dozen or more states that recognize hydraulic fracturing is a safe technology and a key driver of local economic development.
Efforts to disrupt this technique could produce serious and long-term consequences. Those familiar with the history surrounding the passage and amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act understand what this measure was intended to do, and what it clearly was not.
Instead of taking on the issue of responsible energy development on its merits, opponents of natural resource development have decided to target the essential tools needed to safely and efficiently bring this energy to market.



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