BREAKING: “Shale gas extraction is safe”; Helps Create American Jobs

Now we know why Maryland’s called the “Old Line” state. Following up on a column in the Baltimore Sun this week that was filled with tired old talking points on hydraulic fracturing and shale gas, some actual honest-to-goodness facts were put forth in today’s paper by Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute (API). In his must-read Baltimore Sun response, Mr. Milito – a retired U.S. Army Major who directs API’s upstream division – writes this under the headline “Shale gas extraction is safe”:

Del. Heather Mizeur fails to account for previous studies by the EPA and what natural gas development has the potential to do for Marylanders. Just last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted to NBC Nightly News that previous federal studies have shown no scientific evidence of contamination and that hydraulic fracturing can be done responsibly to develop the energy resources we need to keep our homes comfortable and get to work every day.

Delegate Mizeur is correct in stating that the vast natural gas reserves found in the Marcellus Shale region are a game changer. There is enough natural gas to create hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and provide Americans with a stable, domestic energy source for generations to come.

Repeating unproven accusations about the hydraulic fracturing process does a disservice to those searching for ways to boost state revenue and get Americans back to work.

And while we’re on the subject of correcting the record and debunking unsubstantiated claims regarding the tightly-regulated development of clean-burning, homegrown energy resources, Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s Tisha Schuller separates fact from fiction in response to Josh Fox’s latest iteration of smears. Here are highlights from Ms. Schuller’s piece:

On Fluids Used in Fracturing, the Technology’s Importance to Energy Security

Hydraulic fracturing can sound frightening, however, I want you to know that this is a highly engineered, managed and monitored process. Truly, for over 60 years, the process of hydraulic fracturing has been conducted safely. But don’t take my word for it. Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, recently said so on national television. Currently, over 90% of wells are hydraulically fractured. Hydraulic fracturing is important to all of us because, without hydraulic fracturing, we don’t have access to domestic natural gas resources.

I have two small children and live in the mountains where we drink from a domestic well. I get the concerns about hydraulic fracturing fluids — so here are a few facts to remember. The hydraulic fracturing process uses a mixture comprised almost entirely (99.5%) of water and sand. The remaining materials, used to condition the water, are typically found and used around the house. The most prominent of these, a substance known as guar gum, is an emulsifier commonly found in ice cream. (Emulsifier, by the way, is something that makes something gooey.) The average fracturing operation uses fewer than 12 of these additives, according to the Ground Water Protection Council — not 600. I don’t want 600 chemicals injected at one time into the ground either.

The entire universe of additives used in the fracturing process is known to the public and the state agencies that represent them. Here in Colorado, for example, operators must maintain safety sheets for any chemical products brought to a well site.

On Tired, Debunked Claims About the “Halliburton Loophoole”

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing often blame the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for protecting hydraulic fracturing from federal regulation and exempting it from restrictions of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Remember: Hydraulic fracturing fluids are not being injected into drinking water. They are being injected into the oil- and gas-bearing formation, the one that has been geologically isolated for millions of years. The shallow drinking water aquifers are protected by layers of metal pipe and cement that make up the well bore.

Hydraulic fracturing was never intended to be subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act and it has never been regulated under SDWA — not in the 60-year history of the technology, the 36-year history of the law or the 40-year history of the EPA. … The 2005 Energy Policy Act was nothing more than a restatement of current and practiced law.

Every step of drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, is regulated carefully and with pride in Colorado by our Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

State Regulators Confirm That Fracturing Has Never Impacted Groundwater

The Environmental Protection Agency, Ground Water Protection Council, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and others have all examined the process and found it to be safe. In Colorado, operators have to apply to get a permit to drill, describing all of their surface and downhole activities through the COGCC.

Despite the assertions in the movie Gasland, the COGCC has investigated hundreds of cases and to date has found no water well contamination attributable to hydraulic fracturing. And these include the flaming faucets and the bubbling surface water in West Creek Divide wetland, both of which were determined to be naturally occurring methane or gas unrelated to drilling.

State regulators in Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Ohio, New Mexico, and Alabama have also stated the same conclusion that not one case of contaminated groundwater has been caused by hydraulic fracturing.

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