Here we go again.
Just when we thought it was safe for everyone to emerge from their foxholes without being hit by flak from fracking’s proponents and detractors, the air is once more filled with the sounds of conflict.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to bar hydrofracking in New York state had seemed to settle the situation. Of course, we knew there would be lawsuits galore challenging the governor’s position, but those tend to take a long time to be adjudicated, and there is no guarantee they would be successful.
Then last week, President Barack Obama’s administration weighed in with a set of rules governing fracking on federal land.
As could have been readily predicted, the guidelines, set to go into effect in June, have totally pleased neither side.
While environmentalist organizations have generally expressed approval, they said they would much prefer an outright ban on the process that uses chemicals and massive amounts of water to extract oil and natural gas from shale deposits.
Fracking’s supporters were not at all happy. Some industry groups filed suit within hours of Obama’s announcement.
“At a time when the oil and natural gas industry faces incredible cost uncertainties, these so-called baseline standards will threaten America’s economic upturn, while further deterring energy development on federal lands,” said Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Republicans in Congress chimed in, too. Louisiana being an oil state, one of its representatives, Steve Scalise, said the regulations “represent yet another attack on American jobs by President Obama, and continue his attack on American-made energy.”
Here in New York, Republican Congressman Tom Reed doesn’t like Obama’s regulations but said he much prefers them to Cuomo’s outright ban.
“To see that Gov. Cuomo can’t do in New York state what the Obama administration is doing on the federal level is amazing,” Reed said Monday. “Clearly, the Obama administration has relied on the best scientists, the best data, the best information that is out there.”
Actually, the new regs do not appear to be all that onerous. For one thing, they affect only federal land. They require validating “well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the well passes.”
They also force the drilling companies to publicly disclose to the Bureau of Land Management all the chemicals they are pouring into the ground. We have been advocating that for a long time, figuring the companies’ reluctance to do it may have something to do with the chemicals not being all that healthy for everybody.
Other requirements concern higher standards for storage of waste fluids resulting from the fracturing process, and measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination.
It’s obvious that the loud fracking debate is resuming. The peace and quiet sure were nice while they lasted.