A shale revolution, shale boom, achieving energy independence, energy security; these are all terms being used in speeches, on television, the Internet, newspapers and at the water cooler. Why? The game changer is hydraulic fracturing. This practice, while not brand new, has revolutionized the way the world is exploring for natural resources.
By 1989, over one million wells had been drilled using the fracturing process. Today, this number is exponentially greater. Louisiana alone has over 2,400 wells that have been drilled in four short years in the Haynesville Shale by the hydraulic fracturing process. Texas, North Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the list goes on and on for states that now have massive oil and natural gas activity.
It is a safe assumption to say that our country is truly on the right path to becoming less dependent on the Middle East and the OPEC cartel for our natural resources. Between the shale plays and the activity in the Gulf of Mexico, there is no shortage of resources in the United States. In fact, the United States has over a 100-year supply of natural gas available for the country’s future.
This 100-year supply of natural gas is now reachable thanks to hydraulic fracturing. However, on March 25th of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would be forming a Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Board. The Science Advisory Board will have oversight of this new fracturing board. The intent of this board is to study the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.
How many studies and boards need to exist? To date, the EPA has already conducted several studies that have determined no direct connection between hydraulic fracturing and surface or groundwater contamination. But, according to the acting EPA Administrator, Bob Perciasepe, this advisory board’s research “Must be based on sound science and take into account the latest practices being used by the industry.” A sigh of relief can felt across the nation. The EPA will be using sound science.
The EPA’s website says that “serious concerns have been raised by citizens and their representatives about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, human health and the environment.” As a side note, according to The Hill, a Washington D.C. blog, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, American Water Works Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) met with officials recently on this same matter. Also, no oil and gas company representatives sit on this new hydraulic fracturing board.
Healthy advisory boards do exist. Sometimes. It will be important, however, to keep informed on the progress of this particular EPA hydraulic fracturing board. While the federal government has insisted over and over that they have no desire to regulate hydraulic fracturing at the federal level, another board is being formed?
Perciasepe insists in his interview with The Hill, “We have worked to ensure that the study process be open and transparent throughout.”
The jury is still out. Stay tuned.
Don Briggs is the President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. To find out more go to www.loga.la.