Posted June 22, 2011
Finding the facts about hydraulic fracturing is a little like - well, striking oil or natural gas in a brand-new field. It takes some work. Especially amid what can seem like a blizzard of fracking misinformation. Some important facts:
- Water - Last month Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a congressional hearing she knew of no cases of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing, during which a high-pressure solution is used to create tiny cracks in subterranean rock, freeing trapped oil and natural gas. The process occurs thousands of feet below groundwater levels.
- Chemicals - Get this: 99.51 percent of the solution used in fracking is water and sand. The chemical content in the fracking "cocktail," as opponents like to say, is less than a half of a percent. A list of more than four dozen chemicals that are used to reduce friction, eliminate bacteria that cause pipe corrosion and other things can be found on the FracFocus chemical disclosure registry.
- Taxes - Energy companies opposed new taxes in Pennsylvania - where work in the Marcellus shale formation is creating a boom economy - because a new levy would make the state less competitive in attracting new capital investment. Pennsylvania already has one of the country's highest corporate income tax rates (9.99 percent); an additional tax would cause capital dollars to go elsewhere, says Rolf Hanson, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.
- Infrastructure - Last year industry spent more than $200 million in Pennsylvania on roads, Hanson says.
- Regulation - Industry supported an increase of more than 1000 percent in Pennsylvania's permitting fee with the understanding the state would hire more inspectors, Hanson says - which it did, adding 78 new regulators.
- Standards - API and its members have developed a series of best practices and guidance documents on fracking that are reviewed regularly to ensure currency. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
"Many of our standards are referenced in federal and state regulations because they are recognized as industry best practices. The HF Series was developed with state regulators in mind, noting that regulation of oil and gas operations is most effectively done at the state level."
- Environment - A recent MIT study called the environmental impacts of shale development "challenging but manageable." A study for the Manhattan Institute's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment said fracking's environmental impact is "far smaller than the economic benefits that drilling can provide." Professor Timothy Considine, the study's lead author:
"The expected environmental costs are so low because the probability of an environmental event is small, and those that do occur are minor and localized in their effects. Those environmental problems that have arisen in connection with hydraulic fracturing in no way call into question the soundness of the procedure."
The fact is fracking is key to guaranteeing the United States a 100-year supply of clean-burning natural gas. Development of shale gas regions across the country is creating thousands of new jobs and generating overall economic growth. Where there are environmental and community concerns there should be dialogue, and the compilation of best practices is a continuing process. All should be based on facts, not generalizations or fear tactics.
Additional resources:API Hydraulic Fracturing Backgrounders, Video
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.