Political candidates and opposition groups have vilified fracking. But without this productive and safe oilfield technology, we all face more economic hardship
Does hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California’s oilfields harm the environment? Cause earthquakes? Degrade groundwater quality?
That’s what some political candidates and oil opposition groups want you to believe.
But are their claims valid? Not according to scientific findings and the government agencies that oversee California’s energy sector.
In fact, California regulators announced in February they would resume issuing Well Stimulation Treatment (hydraulic fracturing) permits after an 8-month moratorium.
“The people of California can have confidence that Aera, our industry and the state are all deeply committed to protecting public health, safety and the environment.”
During that freeze, the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) and third-party validators conducted a comprehensive, detailed review of oil and gas permitting in California. CalGEM is the primary regulating agency for the state’s oil, natural gas, and geothermal industries.
Their findings led CalGEM to resume approval of Aera’s pending WST permits.
“We are certain that the people of California can have confidence that Aera, our industry and the state are all deeply committed to protecting public health, safety and the environment,” Aera CEO and President Christina Sistrunk said following CalGEM’s February announcement.
The permitting approvals for Aera, which accounts for 25% of the state’s oil production, “will also help preserve the jobs of the tens of thousands of men and women whose families depend on the oil and gas industry every day,” Sistrunk added.
Proven safe and sound
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting fluid under pressure into underground rock formations to create hairline fractures that free trapped oil and gas. It’s been safely used here for more than 60 years.
In 2013, California established the nation’s most stringent regulations on well stimulation activities when it passed SB-4.
That legislation also calls for various state agencies to study and report on hydraulic fracturing operations to ensure they meet California requirements. All have reported that hydraulic fracturing does not damage the state’s environment, contaminate groundwater supplies or pose any risk to nearby residents.
The University of Southern California’s Induced Seismicity Consortium (ISC) reported in 2014 it had found no correlation between hydraulic fracturing and induced seismic activity in California.
Thomas Johnson Associates, a California water and environmental consulting firm, studied hydraulic fracturing operations in California and determined they had not impacted groundwater resources.
Costs of a fracking ban
Calls to ban hydraulic fracturing not only ignore the science on the safety of California’s hydraulic fracturing operations. They also overlook a dire outcome: Removing “fracking” from oil and gas production would create major economic hardship for the U.S. economy.
“A U.S. ban on fracking would just shift the source of oil and gas production to other nations.”
Writing in CNN’s Business Perspectives, Mark P. Mills said a fracking ban would wreak economic havoc on the U.S. and trigger a global recession.
Fracking opponents claim a ban would accelerate the clean-energy transition and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, says Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a partner in Cottonwood Venture Partners, an energy-tech venture fund.
“But a U.S. ban would just shift the source of oil and gas production to other nations,” he noted. “Meanwhile, millions of Americans who are employed directly and indirectly in the enormous shale oil and gas industry would be out of work.”
Both the American Petroleum Institute and Global Energy Institute recently released studies forecasting dramatic losses in American jobs and the nation’s gross domestic product if hydraulic fracturing were banned. Further, they say, stopping its use would sharply cut domestic energy production, resulting in reduced energy security for the U.S.
“Simply put, a ban on fracking would be catastrophic for our economy,” GEI said.