EID Lays Out the Facts on Fracturing in Letter to NJ Gov; Invites Lawmakers to Tour a Wellsite

Letter directed to Gov. Christie and primary co-sponsors of legislation in state Assembly and Senate


WASHINGTON – Following up on the decision this week by state legislators in New Jersey to approve legislation seeking an outright ban on the responsible deployment of hydraulic fracturing as a means of harvesting clean-burning, job-creating natural gas, Energy In Depth sent a detailed letter to Gov. Chris Christie today highlighting several important facts about the technology, along with an attachment capturing comments and insights from more than a dozen state environmental regulators from both parties testifying to the safety and efficiency of fracturing.

Also copied on the letter are the primary co-sponsors of the bill from both the General Assembly and Senate. The letter also extends an invitation to the governor, legislators, and their staff to tour a wellsite and see firsthand how a fracturing operation works, and what policies and procedures are in place to ensure it is executed safely.

The text of the letter is below; a stand-alone, electronic file can be accessed here.

July 1, 2011

Honorable Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Christie:

Earlier this week, the state legislature approved a bill seeking to implement a formal, statewide ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing, sending to your office legislation that refers to the technology in the text as a “drilling technique.” In fact, the process of stimulating a well via the fracturing process has nothing at all to do with drilling, but everything to do with making possible the delivery of billions of barrels of U.S. oil and trillions of cubic feet of U.S. natural gas, generating thousands of U.S. jobs and billions of dollars in annual tax revenue in the process.

Over the past 60 years, fracturing has been deployed more than 1.1 million times in at least 25 states – most often in the context of oil and natural gas, but also to stimulate flow from geothermal wells, water wells, and even by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a means of remediating Superfund sites. Over that period, fracturing has proven time and again to be a safe, efficient technology; in use since the 1940s, fracturing has never in its history been tied to the contamination of underground sources of drinking water, a fact most recently confirmed by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, who previously served your state as commissioner of environmental protection.

The fracturing process itself involves the carefully controlled deployment of water, sand and small percentages of common, industrial materials under high pressure down-hole for the purpose of creating and sustaining small fissures in rock strata deep underground. These fissures act as conduits in otherwise impermeable rock allowing trapped natural gas to make its way to the wellbore and eventually up to the surface for collection. The process occurs after the well has been drilled, and routinely is completed in two to four days. Once the well is fractured, it’s ready to produce natural gas for years, even decades. It’s been estimated that nine out of 10 onshore energy wells in America – natural gas and oil – require fracturing technology to become or remain viable.

Of course, New Jersey is one of the few states in which fracturing technology has not been historically deployed, a function not of any political considerations, but of the state’s underlying geology. But just because New Jersey isn’t in a position to produce much natural gas doesn’t mean it doesn’t consume any.

According to the Energy Information Administration, New Jersey uses more than 620 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year, a large percentage of that produced via the use of fracturing in other states. Currently, more than half of all New Jersey residents rely on natural gas to heat their homes, benefiting significantly from low natural gas prices made possible due to the influx of new supply, which itself is made possible from fracturing. These low prices have also been a boon to New Jersey manufacturers, which rely on natural gas both as an indispensible source of energy and as a basic feedstock in just about everything they make.

While a statewide ban on this technology is not likely to have a material impact on development activities in your state, it could be used by opponents of affordable, reliable energy as a tool to push for implementing similarly destructive, ill-informed moratoria in other states. In view of that potential, we write today to express our strong opposition to the bill. We hope you will take a moment to review the attached fact sheet capturing comments and insights from environmental regulators across the country, with testimonials from each speaking to the safety of the technology and the true facts regarding its regulated use.

If this bill becomes law, New Jersey will become the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing, even as neighboring New York finalizes its plan to allow Marcellus wells to be fractured in a responsible and highly regulated way there. But before you decide how to proceed on this legislation, we would like to invite you and your staff to tour a wellsite, so you can see for yourself how the process works. It’s an invitation we’re also extending to the primary co-sponsors of the bill; those offices are copied on this letter. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly should you have any questions or concerns. We thank you for your time, and look forward to working with you in the future.

Lee Fuller
Executive Director
Energy In Depth

(click here to view attachment)

cc: Sen. Robert M. Gordon (D-Bergen); Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer and Middlesex); Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Morris and Somerville); Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen); Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer); Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen); Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. (D-Burlington and Camden); Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson)

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