U.S. Interior needs to strengthen fracking rules: lawmakers
Calling the Interior Department's draft rules for fracking on federal lands "a good first step," a group of 38 lawmakers called for disclosure of chemicals before and after drilling takes place.
"Increasing transparency by requiring the disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process is an important start to what we hope will be broader, comprehensive energy development policies that will embrace best practices for both traditional and renewable energy development," the lawmakers said in a letter to the Interior Department.
The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Maurice Hinchey, Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Raúl Grijalva, all proponents of tighter regulation of the fracking drilling technique.
The appeal from Democrats ratchets up pressure on the Obama administration, which has tried to walk a fine line between backing rapidly increase shale gas production and responding to environmental concerns about the development.
When the 32 families of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, found out that they were losing their homes to the state's latest fracking operation, the news didn't come from their landlord, or an eviction notice in the mail—they read about it in their morning paper.
The February 18 article, published in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, nonchalantly detailed the approval of three natural gas projects in Lycoming County, PA, including a water withdrawal station that would pipe millions of gallons of water from the Susquehanna River to fracking stations in the mountains further north. The article noted that an "added benefit" of the plans was "the removal of mobile homes," which were located in a potential flood plain.
To make an informed decision about a highly volatile subject, it might be best to first gather as much information as possible first-hand.
That was the mindset behind a recent visit that Livingston County decision-makers made to Towanda, Pa., in late April.
The 50 people who boarded the bus to the Pennsylvania fracking site were Livingston County town elected and appointed officials, plus Heather Ferrero from the county’s planning department. About a dozen of the 17 Livingston County towns were represented...
A Chesapeake Energy public relations spokesperson led the group on the tour.
“He reviewed all of their safety procedures they go through...the extent that they go to is way over and above what P.A.’s regulations state,” Schuster said.
About an hour and a half of the meeting was on the presentation of how the well gets drilled, he said, and then was followed by questions and answers. “There was a ton and a ton of good questions that were asked, just concerns that people had.”
After that portion, the representatives saw both a finished and an active drilling site.
Pros and cons
Investment opportunities. Corporate profits. High-skill jobs. Tax revenue. Low, stable energy prices for consumers and industry. The list of attributes and perks is long, including the fact that natural gas is a clean, efficient, and invisible fuel.
It has none of the negatives of crude oil or coal, except for one: Like the two others, natural gas is a fossil fuel and produces carbon dioxide, which, goes the scientific theory, is the primary source of greenhouse gases, or climate change.
The other negative may be even bigger: Fracking, especially hydraulic fracturing, comes with serious environmental questions of its own, specifically how drilling and extraction affect air and water quality. Other issues may surface over time.
Predictably enough, the lines drawn around this issue are starkly antithetical: Proponents say the waste water generated in the process can be disposed of or treated ; opponents say run-off, industrial accidents and cost-cutting make contamination inevitable.
If you go looking for evidence of Shell’s methane migration problem in Tioga County, as StateImpact did today, you won’t be able to see the 30 foot geyser of water and natural gas.
First, the flow has been reduced to a few feet over the course of the last week.
Second, the company has blocked off access to the site.
What you can see, though, are the large, loud flares burning off gas at nearby pads. They’re part of an effort to reduce underground pressure and bring methane leaks under control. “We’re seeing that brings down — it depressurizes — the gas that could be contributing to migration in the immediate area,” said Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh. For farmer Leo Shanlay, who lives a bit more than a mile from where the problems are occurring, evidence that something might be amiss came from his cows. Shanlay’s nine calves won’t drink any water from his drinking well. “Before, when I dumped water in, they drank it right away. Now they wait four or five hours before they drink it,” he said, standing in front of an idling tractor. The calves started losing interest in his well water on Tuesday. They’re happy to drink the water his uncle trucks in from another site, though.