Fracking continues to be a highly contested debate within the media and in local communities. Those opposed to the process see public health risks due to the potential for water contamination and air emissions.
Environmental groups like Food & Water Watch claim that fracking is, "inherently unsafe and we cannot rely on regulation to protect communities' water, air and public health." The problem is, according to many in the Obama administration, these risks just don't exist.
Take recent statements from several high ranking administration officials. For example, Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the EPA has said, "there's nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can't accomplish." The inherent safety of fracking is echoed in recent comments by Sally Jewell the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. She said that, "fracking has been done safely for many, many years." In fact, many probably don't know that we've actually been fracking for more than 60 years.
Many other administration officials have specifically pointed to the safety of the process when it comes to groundwater. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, for example, has said that he still has, "not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater." He is not the only one to suggest that fracking isn't a threat to our water. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that she is, "not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
Jackson's comments are of particular interest because the EPA, under her watch, oversaw the Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE:COG) incident in Dimock, Pennsylvania. At the time, the EPA intended to test the water wells in the area even after Cabot had worked closely with the community and state and local residents on the concerns in the area. Cabot's CEO Dan Dinges actually wrote a letter to Jackson stating that in his view the EPA was in a sense overreaching and would cause undo confusion. Bottom line, Jackson is making a pretty bold statement supporting the safety of fracking when it comes to drinking water.
There is mounting evidence that supports the claims that fracking is safe. One recent example is a study by the University of Cincinnati that examined the groundwater in Carroll County, Ohio, which is the epicenter of the Utica Shale. Not one of the 25 samples tested contained any methane from oil and gas development nor did the samples contain hydraulic fracturing fluids.
That study is an important vindication for companies like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK). The company is one of the largest developers of the Utica Shale and has already drilled more than 375 wells in the state. Not only that, but it has the potential to drill many more future wells given its very large acreage position in the state. The mounting evidence that hydraulic fracturing is safe bodes well for Chesapeake's future.
One of the most important studies confirming the safety of our water came out this past July. The Department of Energy study showed that there was no evidence that chemicals from natural gas drilling had moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers. In fact, researchers found that fracking fluids were trapped thousands of feet below areas that supplied drinking water.
Despite this evidence, many still remain cautious. New York State still has a moratorium on fracking, while other communities around the country are banning the process. Other states like Wyoming recently strengthened the rules surrounding water testing, while Colorado is creating rules to reduce fracking emissions. However, the more balanced approaches in Wyoming and Colorado could be the key to alleviating the environmental and health concerns many have with fracking.
We have many invaluable resources here in America. It's important that we protect our environment, water and public health. However, it's also important that we don't let the fear of fracking overcome the mounting evidence that the process is safe. That's why we are seeing so many Obama administration officials support the process that's fueling the remarkable shift in America's energy future.
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