Shane Thielges | Shale Plays Media
A slew of legislation aimed at banning hydraulic fracturing and the byproducts it creates has passed in the US in recent weeks.
From the east to west coast, and lots of places in between, governments from the local to the state level have been putting their feet down on fracking – even, in many cases, far away from any place the drilling technique is used.
In April, the Town Board of Amherst, NY agreed to draft a local law banning hydraulic fracturing and the storage of waste products generated by the procedure. It joins the list of New York towns like Buffalo and Erie County to enact such rules. Locals cited environmental concerns for their decision. There are no fracking wells near the town, and a recent study showed that drilling for gas anywhere in New York would be unprofitable.
Last Tuesday, May 6th, the town of Beverly Hills in California voted to suspend all fracking activities in town and put a total moratorium on any new operations. This follows a decision by the city council to end decades of drilling beneath Beverly Hills High School by 2016. The new ban will go into effect on June 6.
That same day, the city of Youngstown in Ohio rejected a fracking ban for the third time in a year. Despite an almost 10% lead favoring continued operations, fracking opponents say they will introduce the legislation – again and again, if necessary – until it passes. “It doesn’t matter how many times we have to fight for our inalienable rights to clean water and clean air,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee that led the effort.
One day later, the House of Representatives of Connecticut overwhelmingly passed a ban on storage, treatment and disposal of waste products. The 128 to 9 vote will put a three year minimum ban on hydraulic fracturing, and require the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to declare waste products to be treated as hazardous waste. Connecticut currently has no active fracking operations.
The town of Denton in Texas announced the same day its intentions to enact a fracking ban, although no legislation is currently drafted.
On Monday, the 12th of May, the New Jersey Senate became the latest ruling body to approve a moratorium on fracking waste treatment and storage. Gov. Chris Christie has previously vetoed such legislation, saying it violates the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution. Fracking opponents say the situation has changed now that more is known about the procedure. New Jersey also has no current fracking operations.
Also related to these regulations is an announcement made today by the towns of Longmont, Broomfield and Lafayette in Colorado. All enacted fracking moratoriums last November, and revealed that they have spent a combined $100,000 defending their bans. They cited the costs of drafting legislation and defending the cities from lawsuits aimed at deconstructing the laws, but ban advocates say the cost is nothing compared to environmental effects they have escaped.
On one hand, environmental concerns are understandable. Hydraulic fracturing and its effects are still not fully understood. Only one drilling company has volunteered to disclose the chemical makeup of its injection formula. The process is also starting to be confirmed to increase chances of earthquakes in seismically sensitive areas.
These towns and states are concerned with keeping themselves and their neighbors safe, and that’s perfectly understandable.
On the other hand, the many benefits of the shale boom are undeniable and they don’t come only to developed areas. Newly brimming energy stockpiles mean vast supplies for the entire country, and at much lower prices than we’d see without drilling. Construction and operation of well pads, pump jacks and pipelines mean tons of jobs, invaluable in a country that’s still recovering from a 6-year-old recession at a snail’s pace. Widespread adoption of natural gas as a power source has severely reduced the emission of gases and byproducts harmful to the environment. All of these are direct results of the shale boom, and they’re good for everyone in the country.
Yes, there’s risk involved. But it’s not fair to push all that risk onto a few states while everyone reaps the rewards.