By Jennifer Krill
November 8, 2012
Congratulations again on your reelection. After our discussion yesterday regarding mining, today I’ve got some wisdom for you on energy.
It is clear from your victory speech that you support more drilling in unconventional oil and gas deposits across the country like the Marcellus Shale that underlies significant portions of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Mr. President, the country cannot afford to continue to ‘drill baby drill’. Here are three reasons why:
ONE: We do not know how to develop unconventional oil and gas safely.
None of the states that currently permitting drilling has performed a comprehensive analysis of the potential public health impacts of drilling. In fact, when petitioned by the public to examine the public health impacts of drilling, the states have refused.
Late last month, we published Gas Patch Roulette, a report that shows a clear pattern of negative health impacts. “Safe” oil and gas extraction means that no harm is done – the industry has not demonstrated that they can protect public health and the environment from the impacts of drilling.
TWO: States are not adequately enforcing the regulations that are necessary to protect the public.
Loopholes in federal environmental laws place the burden to regulate drilling on the states. And they are not doing their job. We surveyed New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York state government data and found that more than 50% of oil and gas wells operate with no annual inspections, violations are rarely penalized, and penalties are woefully inadequate and don’t prevent future violations.
THREE: Experts are sounding the alarm.
At your request, the Department of Energy convened an expert panel “to identify measures that can be taken to reduce the environmental impact and to help assure the safety of shale gas production”. Most of its recommendations declare or imply that more information is needed to determine if safe shale gas production is possible. And the most important recommendation, “to modernize rules and enforcement practices to ensure protection of drinking and surface waters” has not been implemented.
This system is failing. Current state oversight of oil and gas development provides little incentive to operate responsibly. Bad actors can ignore regulations with little fear of meaningful sanction.
Because the system is failing, new oil and gas development shouldn’t be permitted until communities and the environment can be protected.
It would be one thing if there were simply no alternatives to expanded oil and gas development. But there are: renewables and increased energy efficiency. At least as much time, money and resources should be expended on their development as we have historically spent on fossil fuels. But they are not.
Until we have more information, until we can legitimately say that we have tried our best to explore alternatives to polluting gas patch communities – until then, emphasizing unconventional oil and gas development as a solution to our energy problems is equivalent to sacrificing the environment and the health of American communities.
We can be better people than that.
Earthworks Executive Director
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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kim Feil says
I live, breathe, drink, and blog in BarnettShaleHell and have posted the top ten things to make drilling safer near people that local governments can stipulate in their gas drilling ordinances ( state and feds have failed us). It is located on the right side of the website and I hope after reading these….it might be clearer that renewables are more do-able than the so called “responsible” drilling…that concept currently does not exist as an actuality.
Fracking Crazy says
What a good looking kiddo!
I especially enjoyed the flare of that site.
I hope that kiddo and her family have found safety from drilling impacts.
Tim Ruggiero says
There are problems abound with natural gas development, and even Industry acknowledges and accepts the inevitable spills, leaks and emissions. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be constantly telling the world that they use the ‘latest technology to prevent spills and minimize emissions.” Notice that they never say ‘eliminate’, because they can’t.
One thing I would like to point out, is that in the last 3 years I’ve been ‘involved’ or at least paying close attention to, the ONLY people who claim hydraulic fracturing is safe (and everything that goes with it) is either the Industry themselves, or the people who stand to gain financially from it. I’ve yet to talk to, meet, or hear of one single person who doesn’t fall into one of these two categories that will also then claim natural gas development is ‘safe’.
So what I would ask of the president, is to recognize this simple fact, and understand that while we may all have a ‘vote’, we all have an EQUAL voice. Just because Range Resources’ David Poole says that fracking is safe doesn’t make it so, and his voice shouldn’t drown out anyone else’s.
The other thing I would like the president to recognize, is that when Industry sets up shop on PRIVATE property, it’s almost always the property of someone who doesn’t want it, and will not only gain nothing from it, is virtually guaranteed to lose in a number of ways.
Gasholes like David Poole are all too happy to drill in your backyard, but under no circumstances will he allow it next to his home. Same goes for Aubrey McClendon, Rex Tillerson and all the other CEO’s. So, if it’s about ‘reducing our dependence on foreign oil’ and ‘job creation’ and ‘tax revenue’, why are they so willing to require WE ‘take one for Team America” when they absolutely refuse to sacrifice anything themselves?
Because they are all cowards, that’s why. They come across as bullies, but deep down inside, they are afraid of their own shadow. But being a coward doesn’t necessarily mean they are stupid. They become very powerful and controlling. What they can’t get done themselves, they fund political campaigns to place bought off politicians to change the law in their favor, and pay millions in attorney fees to squash anyone who gets in their way.