Earlier this month, President Obama outlined his plans for a national energy policy by calling for a thirty-percent reduction in U.S. imports of foreign oil. A key factor in his energy plan is a call for the promotion and utilization of natural gas as a sustaining fuel to balance our addiction to unstable sources of overseas energy.
The President’s acknowledgement of clean burning natural gas as a substantial energy source was certainly a positive message for the natural gas industry. However, nearly a week later, the Administration announced that it would move to initiate a broad-based panel to be formed to examine potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.
The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), an independent advisory committee to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, has been tasked with forming a subcommittee to study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing. According to the President’s blueprint for energy security, the subcommittee will consist of representatives from federal agencies, industry, environmental experts and states, and will “work to identify, within 90 days, any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of fracking, and to develop, within six months, consensus [recommendations] on practices for shale extraction to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.”
The creation of this subcommittee comes at a time when the EPA is already in the process of conducting its study of the potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. The findings of the new subcommittee could potentially result in new federal rules and regulations over the hydraulic fracturing process in the next 90 to 180 days.
In a recent Senate committee hearing, EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe reiterated that the EPA has the authority to regulate natural gas drilling and is committed to doing so. Perciasepe commented, “We are taking action. EPA’s responsibility in oversight is one we are pushing forward in a very strong and strenuous way.”
Hydraulic Fracturing is the key component to ensuring future oil and gas production in the U.S. Even though America is awash with an abundance of natural gas, most resources require unconventional methods of recovery and depend on this vital technology.
For over sixty years, state agencies have effectively monitored the implementation of hydraulic fracturing, setting guidelines and best practices. Since it became a commercially viable practice, the process has not posed any discernible risk to drinking water. Of the more than one million wells fractured in the U.S., not a single case of drinking water contamination has ever been recorded.
Hydraulic fracturing is well-regulated and safe, and it has a proven track record. This technology helps fuel our economy by providing jobs and the energy needed to heat our homes, fill-up our cars, generate electricity and create the basic materials for such things as fertilizer and plastics of every variety. Federal oversight of this process will mean higher costs for all of these goods and services.
Double-talk and promoting economic uncertainty seem to be a recurring theme with the White House these days. It is difficult to find confidence while the Administration promotes the use of natural gas one day and then disingenuously seeks to implement overarching federal regulations on the most important process in extracting natural gas from the earth.