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Arguments Against Hydraulic Fracturing Unfounded

Bob Anthony
NewsOK
August 6, 2010

Many people are aware of the debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing and the accompanying claims of pending environmental disaster from those who want it stopped or placed under strict federal regulation.

In more than 20 years as a corporation commissioner, I've never seen anything that approaches this current unfounded and growing national hysteria.

Simply put, hydraulic fracturing (HF) is an essential oil and gas production technique used for reservoir stimulation. Ironically, given the opposition in the name of the environment, HF is also used for environmentally friendly applications such as geologic storage of carbon, developing water wells and "green” geothermal energy and even cleaning up Superfund sites.

Opponents portray hydraulic fracturing as some horrible practice that endangers our water supplies, polluting them with cancer-causing chemicals.

In fact, 99 percent of the materials injected are water and sand.

Other HF ingredients are no stronger than chemicals found around the house.

Furthermore, the fracturing process takes place thousands of feet below treatable (meaning potentially drinkable) groundwater, with layers of rock in between.

We've used HF for some 60 years in Oklahoma, and we have no confirmed cases where it is responsible for drinking water contamination — nor do any of the other natural gas-producing states.

Thanks to HF we have the ability to extract hydrocarbons from shale formations, and America now has a 100-year supply of natural gas, the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels.

This supply can and must play a key role in reducing our dependence on foreign energy, from transportation fuels to electric generation. As we expand our wind and solar power capacity, natural gas-fired electric generation is the only practical way of providing necessary supplementary power when needed.

Much of the debate is being orchestrated by those who seek to remove all fossil fuels from the American economy or those who want to make natural gas less competitive with other energy sources. However, don't be fooled.

Even though the rhetoric focuses on environmental issues, this is a fight about money. America is making multibillion-dollar infrastructure decisions about powering our economy. Without hydraulic fracturing, Oklahoma's oil and natural gas production would plummet, as would our economy. Our state is the nation's third-largest producer of natural gas and its fifth-largest land-based oil producer.

Maintaining regulation of oil and gas at the state level is essential. Doing the job properly requires knowledge of the unique geology and hydrology of formations. At the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, our oil and gas field inspectors and technical staff live, work and raise their families here.

We are committed to protecting our state resources and do not believe in a "one-size-fits-all” federal approach as advocated by some.

Many know at least part of the story of Chicken Little, who proclaimed, "The sky is falling!” Many don't know how the story ends. It ends badly for those not willing to find out the facts for themselves.

Anthony is chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Without hydraulic fracturing, Oklahoma's oil and natural gas production would plummet, as would our economy. Our state is the nation's third-largest producer of natural gas and its fifth-largest land-based oil producer. Maintaining regulation of oil and gas at the state level is essential. Doing the job properly requires knowledge of the unique geology and hydrology of formations.