While the offshore oil-and-gas industry is fighting for its survival under an outright shut down of all operations in the Gulf of Mexico, there is growing concern over another major issue that could result in the destruction of the entire domestic oil-and-gas industry.
In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been pressured by many “green” and anti-fossil-fuel organizations to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Briefly, the process involves pumping water, sand and less than 1 percent of chemicals into the wellbore under high pressure. At nearly two miles below the surface, the mixture is forced out through perforations in the production casing into the targeted rock formation. This pressure inevitably results in the fracturing of the geological formation. The ultimate goal is to create a “fairway” connecting the reservoir to the well and allow the released gas to flow to the wellbore.
Environmentalists argue that the fracturing process can contaminate water supplies and should be regulated by the federal government under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Hydraulic fracturing is now regulated effectively by state agencies.
Bob Anthony, Oklahoma Corp. commissioner, said in an address to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in July, “In my 20-plus years as a commissioner, I can’t think of anything that can compare to the all-out assault on hydraulic fracturing by groups that are obviously using it to put a stop to the tapping of America’s abundant natural-gas supplies.”
Over the more than 60 years of use and nearly 1 million wells that have been drilled in the U.S. with this process, hydraulic fracturing is a technology that has been proven by experience to be safe and effective.
The Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators have studied the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on underground drinking water sources and have found no confirmed evidence of any contamination of drinking water wells in connection with hydraulic fracturing operations.
Should the EPA become the regulator for hydraulic fracturing, the EPA with the stroke of a pen could shut down the entire domestic oil-and-natural-gas industry almost overnight.
This issue will have far-reaching effects on all Americans. For instance, consumers will see higher energy costs to heat and cool their homes where natural gas is the fuel for electric generation.
Realizing the significance of this policy, one would think it impossible to implement. However, who would have believed that a year ago operations in the Gulf would be brought to a screeching halt?
Hydraulic fracturing is essential for the production of natural gas from unconventional shale plays such as the Haynesville Shale in north Louisiana.
It’s estimated that nearly 80 percent of the wells drilled in the U.S. use hydraulic fracturing. These wells have been drilled successfully under the regulations of the states in which they are drilled.
It is the state regulators, not Washington bureaucrats, who have the knowledge of the local geology and geography of their respective regions to effectively regulate this process.