Scientists to Gov. Jerry Brown: Fracking Is Safe and Will Benefit California

Yesterday, 21 leading scientists, engineers and technical experts submitted a letter* to Governor Jerry Brown endorsing the benefits of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in California.

The AP reported:

The letter…comes after California adopted regulations requiring oil companies to test groundwater and disclose chemicals used in fracking. The group said the strict new rules, which become permanent in 2015, will ensure fracking is done responsibly.

The signers of the letter include Berkeley climate scientist Dr. Richard Muller – who just released a paper explaining why environmentalists should embrace shale development – and Dr. Stephen Holditch, former head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. Holditch also served as an advisor to President Obama’s Secretary of Energy as a member of the Natural Gas Subcommittee examining the technical elements of shale development.

The authors touch on a number of key benefits from shale development, which include jobs, economic growth and lower energy bills for Californians.  From the letter:

“Oil and gas development has also reduced energy costs for families across the country. According to the respected research firm IHS-CERA, shale development has increased average household income by roughly $1,200.  An analysis from Mercator Energy recently found that the energy cost-savings for low-income Americans last year was approximately $10 billion, or about three times the value of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).”

The letter also notes the benefit of producing more energy at home rather than having to import oil:

“Obviously, the more of our own energy we can produce, the less we have to rely on imported oil. It was only a few short years ago that the United States was operating under the assumption that our energy supplies were scarce. Today, advanced technologies have allowed for the economic development of oil and gas that otherwise would not have been reachable. Domestic oil production now outstrips the volume that our country imports, and total U.S. production is at its highest level since 1989.”

Finally the experts echo what many Obama administration officials have affirmed: the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing are “manageable.”

“However, protecting the environment and public health must remain key components and focal points of future oil and gas development. California has always been at the forefront of environmental protection, and the state’s recent passage of new regulations governing the safe use of hydraulic fracturing technology is certainly part of that tradition.


Public concerns over development have given some communities pause in allowing such activity to proceed. To address these concerns, strong regulations are the best path forward, as they allow our country to realize the economic benefits of increased energy production, while also reducing and mitigating risks that attend those activities. In our research, we have found nothing to suggest that shale development poses risks that are unknown or cannot be managed and mitigated with available technologies, best practices and smart regulation.”

The authors further note that the state’s strong regulations “can and will ensure that shale resources in California are developed responsibly.” As for a potential ban on hydraulic fracturing, the signers “see no merit in that course of action, provided the right regulatory approach is followed.”

As we’ve pointed out before, the regulations recently drafted by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) are some of the strongest in the country – if not the strongest. The legislation that the regulations will implement – SB 4 — reached so far beyond issues related to hydraulic fracturing that California’s oil and gas industry did not endorse it. Still, the law and implementing regulations explicitly allow development to continue, and the industry will work with regulators, as it always has, to ensure that development is done safely and responsibly.

Unlike the 20 “climate scientists” who recently sent a letter to Governor Brown denying science and claiming that hydraulic fracturing causes environmental havoc (with no evidence to back it up), the scientists, engineers and technical experts who signed yesterday’s letter understand what the scientific evidence – not to mention the evidence of experience from a technology that has been used more than 1.2 million times over the past 65 years – tells us: fracking is safe and the risks can be managed.  Not only that, but responsible development will also bring jobs, economic growth, lower energy bills and energy security.


*Energy in Depth helped to organize the letter, but exerted no editorial control over the content.


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