Language of Opportunity

EID letter to Kerry, Graham & Lieberman lays out the facts on hydraulic fracturing, importance of technology in fueling America’s shale gas revolution

Here’s the thing about Energy In Depth: We’re shale guys (and gals). We care about science, and technology, and geology. We care about hydraulic fracturing, and well integrity, and the sound management of produced water. We care about jobs. And opportunity. And revenues for the communities in which we work. We care about clean air, and safe water, and limiting disturbances – to land, people, and the surrounding environment.

That’s our agenda, up front and in full. And that’s why we felt compelled this week to lend a hand, some insight, and maybe a few quick facts to a group of senators on Capitol Hill currently considering whether to include language on hydraulic fracturing in the latest version of their bill. According toseveral reports, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) may decide to take up the issue of hydraulic fracturing as part of a broader legislative effort seeking steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

We take no position on that as-yet-unwritten bill; remember, we’re shale people. But here’s what we do know: Any plan that endeavors to reduce carbon in the atmosphere would be smart to acknowledge the central role that vast reserves of American-made natural gas from shale can play in delivering it. And any plan that even attempts to characterize its mission as “creating jobs” would be even smarter to avoid hamstringing the one technology being deployed today that represents the common denominator for thehundreds of thousands of shale gas jobs that have been created over the past five years.

That technology, by the way, is hydraulic fracturing. Here’s how Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy In Depth, addressed the issue in a letter he sent to Capitol Hill this week:

[R]eports have suggested your impending draft may include “sense of the Senate” language related to hydraulic fracturing – specifically, a provision that reinforces existing law, and acknowledges thecritical role that states continue to play in ensuring the process is done safely.

Consistent with those objectives, what follows are several important facts regarding the safety, performance and necessity of hydraulic fracturing – facts I hope will inform your thinking on this issue as you render final decisions on the ultimate form your legislation will take.

The rest of the letter, excerpted in parts below and available for download in full here, lays out a fairly detailed description of what shale gas has made possible in America already (jobs), what it has the potential to make possible in the future (security, even more jobs), and how states have fared over the past 60 years in ensuring this process is well regulated and safely deployed (very well). How did we know these senators might benefit from a few extra facts at their disposal? We didn’t. But we do know that we haven’t been able to find a whole lot of shale gas in Massachusetts, South Carolina, or Connecticut – yet.

Let’s get to some excerpts from the letter. For starters, on whether hydraulic fracturing is some sort of “new” technology:

Depending on the regional biases of those you might ask, hydraulic fracturing was either first deployed in Kansas in 1947 or Oklahoma in 1949. Either way, we’re talking about an energy technology that’s been safely used … for more than 60 years — so much so, that nine out of 10 oil and natural gas wells developed in America today rely on fracturing technology to remain in service.

On what hydraulic fracturing is making possible right now:

Over the course of just the past 18 months, natural gas production has increased by a staggering 15 percent in the lower 48 … Shale gas has helped add more than 70 trillion cubic feet to U.S. reserves over the past several years, equivalent to more than half the total proven reserves of gas giants such as Qatar. If fully realized, the Marcellus Shale formation that underlies several states in the mid-Atlantic would become the second largest gas field in the entire world – second only to the South Pars/North Dome field that straddles Iran and Qatar.

On whether hydraulic fracturing has ever been regulated by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act:

Those who believe the Energy Policy Act of 2005 “exempted” hydraulic fracturing from regulation under SDWA forget one important fact: Hydraulic fracturing was never regulated under that law in the first place. Indeed, when SDWA was passed into law in 1974, hydraulic fracturing had been in safe use for more than 25 years. At no point was the concept of SDWA regulation over hydraulic fracturing considered – not then, and not (until recently) in the 36 years in which the law has remained on the books.

As mentioned, a copy of the full EID letter to the triad of senators (we also CC’d a few others, silly not to) can be found here. Might also direct your attention to two separate news items published this week mentioning the letter – this one in the Houston Chronicle, the other posted on the website of E&E News(subs. req’d).

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