Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Forum: End the Free Ride for Shale Drillers

It is becoming apparent to more and more people that the oil and gas industry's exemptions from federal laws and regulations do little more than endanger health, water, and environment across the country while making sure the company's bottom line is met-- more money. Industry has a great public relations campaign, from being "good neighbors" to the safety of their drilling practices, to the revenues generated by oil and gas development. These things sound great and I am all about it actually working like that. While industry claims that regulations are not necessary and are simply hurdles to smooth production, I say that what county-based regulations do is insure that the oil and gas industry actually practices what it preaches. Should be no big deal right?

Found this article about the importance of regulations on

Before we jump on the natural-gas bandwagon, we should regulate the industry as tightly as we regulate nuclear power, advises nuclear engineer FORREST J. REMICK
Sunday, January 03, 2010
As more and more gas wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, pundits have been quick to claim they represent a revolution in energy production. Some even have declared there no longer is a need for other alternative sources to supply electricity.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If ever there was a time for an honest reassessment of government energy policy, it's now. And what that reassessment would conclude is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should regulate natural-gas drilling -- otherwise we run a considerable risk to public health and safety from contaminated drinking water and dangerous airborne emissions, including toxic chemicals like benzene.

I know my prescription doesn't square with the views of many who wish to maintain an essentially free ride for natural gas. But a half-century of working on energy policy issues as an engineer and a regulator has left me convinced that -- with the health and safety of millions of people at stake -- the temptation to ignore the risks of natural-gas drilling on a massive scale and of emissions from natural-gas facilities could be a calamitous mistake.

Natural gas has many virtues as a fuel compared to coal or oil, and its share of energy must and certainly will grow in the years ahead. The process of extracting natural gas, however, is not risk free.

Known as hydraulic fracturing, it involves injecting into the ground a combination of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to break down shale formations and unlock deposits of gas. When hydraulic fracturing is combined with horizontal drilling, reserves previously thought inaccessible are now recoverable, which is a significant benefit.

However, many families, communities and local governments in Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado and Texas are understandably upset that their health and safety has been compromised by an exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act -- an exemption that allows companies to withhold disclosure of the chemicals they use. Hydraulic fracturing usually is done carefully but it has been involved in scores of cases of polluted drinking-water supplies around the country. More>>>