Concerns about hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking,” have prompted some in the state House of Representatives to introduce a legislative package — House Bills (HBs) 5149, 5150 and 5151 — that would, among other things, institute a one-year moratorium on the controversial process that is used to stimulate wells for the extraction of underground resources, including oil, natural gas, geothermal energy, or water, while a study on fracking is being conducted in other states. Because the process has the potential to cause significant harm to drinking water supplies and more information is needed on its possible consequences, lawmakers should enact the proposal.
Fracking is used by gas producers to stimulate wells and recover natural gas from sources such as coal beds and shale gas formations, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The process uses thousands of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals and sand, to create fissures in rock formations to release oil and natural gas.
A study conducted by the EPA in 2004 concluded that there was little-to-no risk of fracturing fluid contaminating underground sources of drinking water. In 2005, Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Since then, however, there have been complaints of water contamination following the use of fracking in several states, including Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
According to state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), the bill he is sponsoring — HB 5149 — requires oil and gas companies to follow the same rules as all other citizens with respect to water use. Another requires a one-year study to be conducted in order to look at the best practices of hydraulic fracturing in other states around the country, while a third bill requires a one-year moratorium on fracking while that study is being conducted.
While we whole-heartedly believe in the need to further pursue domestic energy production as a means to alleviate America’s dependence on foreign energy supplies, it only makes sense to be sure that the procedures by which that domestic energy is retrieved are safe. Holding off a year on obtaining natural resources through fracking is reasonable while more information on the process’ potential adverse effects, particularly given some issues that have been raised in other states relative to drinking water supplies — which are of the utmost importance. In the meantime, oil and gas can be tapped via other existing means.
Lawmakers should back the Democrats’ proposal and stand pat for a year on fracking.