by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.
After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.
Although the results are preliminary — the study is still ongoing — they are a boost to a natural gas industry that has fought complaints from environmental groups and property owners who call fracking dangerous.
Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface, but were not detected in a monitoring zone 3,000 feet higher. That means the potentially dangerous substances stayed about a mile away from drinking water supplies.
The finding is not new in research literature nor to readers of JLF’s Agenda 2012:
Numerous studies have found no link between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. Even U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson, testifying under oath before Congress in May 2011, stated she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, though there are investigations ongoing.”
Well, with water pollution not a credible risk, there’s always “hope” for air pollution, right? Not so fast, as Julie’s link explains:
Critics of fracking also repeat claims of extreme air pollution threats, even as evidence mounts that the natural gas boom is in some ways contributing to cleaner air.
Marcellus air pollution “will cause a massive public health crisis,” claims a section of the Marcellus Shale Protest website.
Yet data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the shale gas boom is helping to turn many large power plants away from coal, which emits far more pollution. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed new rules to force drillers to limit releases of methane from wells and pumping stations.
Some environmental groups now say that natural gas is having a positive effect on air quality.
That is also not news to astute JLF readers. A portion of my Spotlight report on North Carolina’s renewable energy portfolio standards mandate explained:
Along with boosting energy security, the shale gas boom is also responsible for lowering energy-related carbon emissions in the U.S. It is furthermore boosting manufacturing and job creation. As economist James Pethokoukis observed, despite U.S. government policies heavily favoring “green” energy industries, nearly 20 percent of the good-paying jobs actually being created in the U.S. are in oil and gas.
Facts on the ground concerning shale gas essentially cover purposes (b) through (d) of the state’s justification for its renewables mandate: it boosts “energy security,” encourages private investment and job creation, and lowers energy-related carbon emissions.