Highlights From Capitol Hill
Energy policy – with a focus on relieving pain at the pump for struggling American consumers – has been front-and-center on Capitol Hill this week. Here’s a quick snapshot of what members of Congress and other experts are saying about hydraulic fracturing and American energy production enabled by that tried-and-true 60 year technology.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SPEAK OUT
Congressman Ralph Hall (TX), House Science Committee chairman:
- Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process by which water, sand, and a small amount of additives are pumped into a well to create enough pressure to fracture formations deep within the Earth. Advances in this 60-year old technology, combined with horizontal drilling, have transformed the production of natural gas along with the natural gas industry. (Testimony, 5/11/11)
Senator Mary Landrieu (LA), Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee:
- “I don’t think the oil executives would ever do this, but if I were one of them, I would be tempted to just shut off the spigots and go elsewhere and maybe America could run everything on solar power for the next decade or two and see what happens.” (Politico, 5/11/11)
Congressman Darrell Issa (CA), House Oversight and Government and Reform Committee chairman:
- Hydraulic fracturing for onshore oil and natural gas deposits is under attack. Despite its safe use for 60 years in more than 1 million wells in the U.S. and the promise of reducing our oil imports by more than half over the next 10 years, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy are caving to radical environmentalists who demand new, onerous regulations against the industry.
- The Energy Department has gone so far as to convene a panel charged with designing the “best practices” for industry safety. Naturally, the panel does not include a single practitioner of hydraulic fracturing — but does include the president of the Environmental Defense Fund. (Politico, 5/12/11)
EXPERTS TESTIFY BEFORE THE HOUSE SCIENCE PANEL
Elizabeth Ames Jones, Railroad Commission of Texas chairman:
- With over one million wells drilled, the RRC is responsible for more oil and gas wells than any other entity in the nation. … Since then, Texas’ natural gas production has increased more than 50 percent. Never in this period has hydraulic fracturing been a contributor to groundwater contamination.
- Our regulatory practices addressing hydraulic fracturing are the culmination of over 50 years of experience. The recent expansion in hydraulic fracturing activity in the Barnett Shale produced more than 13,000 gas wells. Even with such a dramatic increase in activity, not once has Texas experienced a case of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing. I do not know of a single reported case of contamination nationwide.
- Whether it is fracturing fluid, oil or natural gas, to affect the usable quality of water, those substances would have to migrate upward through thousands of feet of rock. That is physically impossible.
- As many of you know, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was enacted in 1974 to protect public water. Hydraulic fracturing had been commercially utilized for 25 years at that time, and the SDWA never considered it as an issue. For the next 22 years the SDWA was debated and amended only twice, and both times hydraulic fracturing was never discussed. … EPA released a draft study on hydraulic fracturing concluding the process does not pose a risk to drinking water. To lay the alarm to rest, the US House passed the bipartisan 2005 Energy Bill clarifying that Congress never intended for hydraulic fracturing to be regulated under the SDWA. (Testimony, 5/11/11)
Harold Fitch, Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality & Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC):
- Hydraulic fracturing has been utilized throughout the United States for more than 60 years, and the states have a long history of successful regulation of the practice. … Because of rock characteristics and the physics of the fracturing process, it is virtually impossible for an induced fracture to propagate upward into fresh water zones. … States have adequate programs and authority for regulating hydraulic fracturing and a very good understanding of the technology.
- We believe the laws and rules in Michigan and other states effectively protect water and other natural resources as well as public health and safety from potential adverse effects of hydraulic fracturing. (Testimony, 5/11/11)
Dr. Michael Economides, Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, University of Houston:
- It is important to realize that this gas production wouldn’t be possible without hydraulic fracturing. … Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming each have over 60 years of extensive experience with the hydraulic fracturing process and these States have well developed regulatory processes in place.
- The chance of propagating a fracture upward into groundwater is nil. You have a better chance of winning the lottery. … My contention is that the hydraulic fracturing process is safe, already well regulated by the various States, and the hysterical outcry over this process is completely unjustified.
- Ultimately, the frenzy of arguments over hydraulic fracturing distill to this single fact: Either the United States wishes to utilize its natural gas resources, or it doesn’t. For development of shale or tight gas goes hand-in-hand with hydraulic fracturing. Saying “no’ to hydraulic fracturing really means you are saying “no” to natural gas production in the United States. (Testimony, 5/11/11)