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Natural Gas Moratorium Would Be Serious Mistake

Lee Fuller
Executive Director
Energy In Depth
Washington, D.C.
Aug. 12, 2010

In an Aug. 8 column ("Fracking puts state at risk for another disaster"), Flow for Water Coalition's Jim Olson lodges claims about hydraulic fracturing, a tightly regulated 60-year-old technology that's been safely used to stimulate oil and gas production across the nation more than a million times.

Fracturing is not new and is not "exempt from federal water laws," as Olson claims. Shale gas development is regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Community "Right to Know" Act, the Superfund law and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

While Olson claims that "Most states, like Michigan , have not evaluated the impacts" of this technology, your readers should know Harold Fitch, director of the Geological Survey (OGS) office at Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality -- which regulates every aspect of oil and gas production, including fracturing -- has said that "there is no indication that hydraulic fracturing has ever caused damage to ground water or other resources in Michigan." Fitch notes that "OGS has never received a complaint or allegation that hydraulic fracturing has impacted groundwater in any way."

Fitch also says, "Hydraulic fracturing has been utilized extensively for many years in Michigan, in both deep formations and in the relatively shallow Antrim Shale formation. There are about 9,900 Antrim wells in Michigan producing natural gas  at depths of 500 to 2000 feet. Hydraulic fracturing has been used in virtually every Antrim well."

Fracturing fluids are made up of more than 99.5% water and sand.A small percentage of fluids used to reduce friction and kill bacteria that are commonly found under one's kitchen sink, are added. Not only is a list of these fluids mandated by federal law to be available at every well site, many organizations -- including Energy In Depth -- list them online.

The "real blunder" would be for Michigan, which has a long and clear record of tightly regulating oil and gas production, to advance "an immediate moratorium" on responsible energy production, as Olson advocates.