Fracking Is Safe
Fracking Is Safe published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-19
Writer Description: Evanvinh
This writer has written 733 articles.
"Fracking is a 'safe and effective' technology for producing energy from deep geological formations."
Rock Zierman is chief executive officer of the California Independent Petroleum Association. In the following viewpoint, he asserts that numerous studies have concluded that fracking is a safe technology that poses no threat to air or water quality and does not cause earthquakes. Despite these studies and the support for fracking by agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy, and the Groundwater Protection Council, anti-fracking activists make exaggerated claims of problems associated with the process, Zierman maintains. He says that regulation of fracking is necessary and that there should be an ongoing effort to ensure that the public is well informed but that banning fracking makes no economic or environmental sense.
Fracking Does Not Contaminate Water
As far back as 1995, the EPA studied whether hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water. The EPA studied a site in Alabama at the request of environmentalists and found "no evidence" of "any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water." In 2004, the agency conducted a broader study and also found fracking "poses little or no threat" to water supplies.
In 2009, another study from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Groundwater Protection Council—an interstate body of environmental regulators—concluded that fracking is a "safe and effective" technology for producing energy from deep geological formations.
More recently, Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback, who's also served as an advisor to the Obama administration, confirmed fluids used in hydraulic fracturing "have not contaminated any water supply," and with more than a mile of impermeable rock separating deep shale and shallow drinking water aquifers, "it is very unlikely they could." In California, it is worth noting, more than 90% of hydraulic fracturing occurs in parts of Kern County where there is no potable groundwater.
Anti-Oil and Gas Activists Exaggerate Concerns
Anti-domestic oil and gas forces respond to such good news by finding new ways to scare the public. That's why you hear more and more allegations about air quality and water use. On air quality, they are ignoring that California's oil and gas industry has operated under some of the world's tightest emission controls which have cut fugitive emissions even while drilling activity has risen.
Next, activists exaggerate problems associated with water usage and produced water disposal associated with hydraulic fracturing. In states where hydraulic fracturing is used much more frequently, and where many times as much water is used as in California, the process accounts for less than 1% of total water demand according to the Department of Energy and the Groundwater Protection Council. In addition, wastewater can be treated and reused, minimizing both issues.
In California, we use much less water than other states because of our geology. For perspective, the amount of water used in all of the hydraulic fracturing jobs in California last year was about the same as the amount of water the state's golf courses consumed in half a day.
As for earthquakes, a yearlong study released in 2012, the first of its kind in the state, at the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills area found "no detectable effects on vibration"—and no water- or air-quality problems either—from hydraulic fracturing. Perhaps that's because, as Zoback has explained, the amount of seismic energy released during hydraulic fracturing is about the same as "a gallon of milk falling off the kitchen counter." In fact, the National Research Council concluded last year that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a high risk of inducing earthquakes. The separate process of injecting oil- and gas-produced water into deep disposal wells has never triggered an earthquake in California despite tens of thousands of active injection wells that have operated for decades.
Happily, there is a bipartisan political consensus in California to go along with the scientific consensus that responsible and regulated hydraulic fracturing is safe and is a great benefit to our state. Governor [Jerry] Brown, one of the nation's leading environmental advocates, was very clear that he and the regulators at the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) would let science be their guide, rather than, as he put it, "jumping on any ideological bandwagons."
Following DOGGR's lead, the governor and the large majority of the heavily Democratic legislature opposed several fracking moratorium bills and instead passed SB 4, California's new comprehensive regulations on well stimulation. Under SB 4, the industry now operates under even more strict regulation than before, with a host of fracking-specific rules designed to make the process even more transparent and to address the concerns that many Californians have expressed in the wake of the activist misinformation campaign.
Producers now have to pre-notify both regulators as well as surrounding residents and property owners before doing any hydraulic fracturing. They must post on a public website all chemicals used in the process as well as amounts of water and disposal methods. They must obtain an approved groundwater monitoring program that ensures no fluids are escaping the wellbore.
Hydraulic fracturing has dramatically lowered greenhouse gas emissions in the United States because fracking is required for natural gas development in other areas of the country. President Obama—certainly a strong environmentalist—acknowledged this when he said, "We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because in the medium term at least it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions."
Regulators should continue to review the rules that apply for hydraulic fracturing and find ways to improve them to ensure that the public has the information it needs about the process. The facts clearly show that this technology can be used safely as has been the case for the last 60 years.
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