Today, the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released its recommendations regarding the regulation of U.S. shale gas production. With six out of seven of the subcommittee’s members having direct financial ties to the natural gas industry, their recommendations will not go nearly far enough in protecting consumers and the environment from the risks associated with shale gas obtained through the process of hydraulic fracturing. The report does outline the major environmental and public health issues associated with shale gas drilling.
While the natural gas industry has advocated for, and has been granted exemptions from key environmental regulations, it has racked up countless violations of the rules that do apply to them, and has been questioned about the validity of their gas production forecasts. Yet the subcommittee nonetheless suggests that natural gas producers should play a large role in ensuring that hydraulic fracturing operations do not endanger consumers or natural resources by providing the public information about shale gas production and adopting industry-wide ‘best practices.’
Just last week The New York Times reported that players within the natural gas industry helped bury evidence produced by the Environmental Protection Agency that hydraulic fracturing had, contrary to industry claims, contaminated drinking water supplies. How can we trust the industry to show ‘leadership in improving environmental impact’ when it has actually gone to great lengths to cover up its detrimental impacts to public health and natural resources?
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Much like the hearings it convened in the months leading up to the study, which mainly reflected the views of the natural gas industry and policymakers, this study downplays the concerns of those affected by fracking—communities that have been turned into sacrifice zones at the expense of the natural gas industry’s desire to turn a profit.
While the report recommends allowing the natural gas industry to create a new national organization to police its own practices, it proposes leaving protection of public health and the environment to ‘each relevant jurisdiction.’ We know that industry has gone to great lengths to influence local governments, and even greater lengths to avoid culpability at a national level. Why should we let the industry police itself while leaving localities to fight for themselves?
Moreover, we are extremely disappointed that federal involvement in this matter will focus on providing money to the natural gas industry for research and development to help greenwash their practices, rather than removing exemptions from key environmental regulations. The federal government should be taking an active role in protecting consumers and the environment from hydraulic fracturing, not throwing money at a destructive and unprofitable industry.