Fmr. Top Mich. Environmental Watchdog: Since the ‘40s, Fracturing’s “Been done safely, without environmental damage”

In a recent white paper analysis, under the headline “Hydraulic Fracturing the Key to Michigan’s Energy Future,” Russ Harding of the Midland, Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy writes that hydraulic fracturing has “been done safely and without environmental damage in America dating back to the 1940s.”

Harding — who served as director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from 1995 through 2002, having previously held senior management posts in environmental and natural resources departments in Arizona, Alaska and Missouri — writes this in his analysis about hydraulic fracturing’s long and clear record of environmental safety:

Fracking is the process of creating fissures in underground formations to allow natural gas to flow. Horizontal drilling is utilized to access deep shale formations that contain natural gas. Fluid comprised of 99 percent water and sand and containing small amounts of chemicals found in common consumer products is injected into formations to create fissures from which the natural gas can be economically recovered. The wells are encased in multiple layers of steel and surrounded by cement to protect groundwater.

But natural gas development activities, including fracking, are already subject to several federal and state environmental laws. Regulators at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment should be allowed to do their job without political interference. Fracking operations to recover natural gas have been done safely and without environmental damage in America dating back to the 1940s.

Safely developing the country’s vast natural gas reserves is critical to both the nation’s economy and national security. It is also important to hold the oil and gas industry to the highest safety and environmental standards in developing deep shale reserves. Oil and gas development is never 100 percent free from environmental risk, but fracking has proven to be a safe and effective technology in helping to meet the nation’s energy needs. Efforts to prevent use of the technology by overregulation will increase energy costs and decrease jobs.

But Mr. Harding isn’t alone in his efforts to better inform and educate folks about the overwhelmingly positive economic, environmental and national security benefits associated with domestic oil and natural gas production enable by fracture stimulation technologies. Here’s what other scientific experts are saying about fracturing and job-creating domestic energy development:

  • Western PA Geologist: “The scientific facts of geology and drilling are not a mystery, something of which they appear not to have an understanding. Commencing in 1859 at Titusville, Pa., there have been some 350,000 oil and gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania, long before the discovery of the Marcellus gas play in 2004. … There has not been one documented public death or health issue due to the drilling, fracking and extraction process for hydrocarbons. The council’s vote is a vote against science, knowledge and being educated about things they just don’t want to understand. If council is so concerned about the chemicals in the fracking process, they should first look at the household chemicals used in their own homes. (Post-Gazette, 11/21/10)
  • Texas Alliance of Energy Producers’ Alex Mills: “The truth is states have regulated hydraulic fracturing since the 1950s and there has never been an incident of ground water pollution caused by a frac. These facts were conveniently left out of her report. EPA is in the process of doing another study of hydraulic fracturing, but this will be the second in recent years. The first found no pollution of ground water from fracturing. (San Angelo Standard Times, 11/19/10)
  • Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Kathryn Klaber: “Your readers should understand that fracturing fluids are 99.5 percent water and sand, with a fraction of additives used to reduce friction in the well bore and to kill bacteria (all components are listed on the state DEP’s website). These fluids have never impacted groundwater, a fact that has been confirmed by DEP Secretary John Hanger. The shale-gas industry – which, according to experts at Penn State, will have helped create 88,000 jobs in the commonwealth by year’s end – is committed to responsibly ensuring that we maximize the economic, energy security, and environmental benefits of the Marcellus Shale for all Pennsylvanians. We are devoted to getting this opportunity right. Our industry is taking commonsense steps to ensure that groundwater is protected and that responsible Marcellus development will continue to help put tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians to work. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/20/10)

Given these facts, it’s no wonder why film critic (not the bourbon) Evan Williams of The Australian writes this in a critique of the anti-clean-burning natural gas development film Gasland:

I wish I could say that GasLand is a well-made film, that it does justice to its story. But it doesn’t. It has all the hallmarks of today’s self-consciously improvised documentary style: erratic camera work, jerky editing, tiresomely repetitive shots of unrolling backwoods highways, all accompanied by bursts of hillbilly music. No shot of a rig is too blurred or unsteady to be cut. … GasLand would have been a more powerful and effective film had Fox shown more professional discipline and the opposing arguments had at least been heard

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