The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Hydraulic Fracturing 'Distortion'

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 12, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had hoped to hold hearings on hydraulic fracturing in New York this week. They were scheduled at Binghamton University, but when it was learned that potentially thousands of people would attend, the EPA moved them to a larger venue in Syracuse, 65 miles north. The move prompted howls among groups who had planned to fly-in from all over the country, leading EPA to postpone the hearings until next month.

The fact that thousands would flock to a hearing about a time-honored oil field practice is indicative of the concern--and misperceptions--that swirl around hydraulic fracturing. Andy Leahy of Syracuse has concluded that "anti-fracking propagandists...have orchestrated a virally contagious chorus of spin, distortion and untruth."

In a letter to his local newspaper, Leahy cites a couple of examples. For instance, he says there is no truth to the claim that the oil and natural gas industry received special treatment when Congress chose not to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As he explains:

"For more than two decades since passage in 1974, no one in authority on any state or federal level interpreted underground injection control as encompassing oil and gas well 'stimulation,' or fracturing, as had long been routinely deployed during development of these resources. Then in the late 1990s, there was a very effective lawsuit brought by an environmental group having to do with hydraulic fracturing for coalbed methane in Alabama. This environmental challenger won a series of rulings on the question of whether hydraulic fracture for exploration purposes shouldn't be treated as essentially equivalent to underground injection for disposal purposes. That judge agreed with the environmentalists, and this ultimately compelled creation of an ad hoc federal regulatory program overseeing hydraulic fracture -- but it only had jurisdiction in Alabama.

"The Energy Policy Act of 2005, among many other things, rendered this Alabama legal decision ineffective by clarifying congressional intent within SDWA [Safe Water Drinking Act]. It said clearly that hydraulic fracturing was not meant, and was never meant, by Congress to be covered under the federal underground injection control program. So that's the exemption, the so-called 'Halliburton loophole.' It just confirmed the status quo, which is that the states remain the primary regulators of oil and gas exploration activity."

Leahy ends his letter-to-the-editor by saying, "I just really wish we could have an honest debate..." I agree wholeheartedly.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in one million wells during the past 60 years, and there is not one confirmed case of groundwater contamination. For the facts on hydraulic fracturing, check out the information here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.