Fracking benefits extolled

Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Hydraulic fracturing hasn’t caused a single documented case of groundwater contamination, but has resulted in a dramatic increase in domestic energy production.

It’s important to consider the facts about “fracking” in an increasingly contentious debate because opponents have resorted to misinformation to provoke public antagonism and influence public policy, said Simon Lomax, research director for Energy in Depth.

“The activists who oppose hydraulic fracturing aren’t just anti-energy, they’re anti-business,” Lomax said. “But worse than that, they are really opposed to the facts and the findings of scientists, engineers and state and federal regulators who have concluded many times that hydraulic fracturing is fundamentally safe.”

Speaking at an energy briefing hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Lomax and Courtney Loper, Mountain States field director for Energy In Depth, presented evidence and statements from experts in government, academia and industry they said proves the safety of hydraulic fracturing and discredits misinformation about the practice put out by opponents.

Launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America in 2009, Energy In Depth is a research, education and public outreach campaign focusing on energy production in the United States.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into wells to create small fractures in underground rock formations and increase the production of oil and natural gas in those formations. The process has enabled energy companies to extract oil and gas from such so-called “tight” formations as shale. The combination of fracking and such  technological advances as horizontal drilling has substantially increased oil and natural gas production in the United States.

While opponents claim fracking can cause chemical contamination of ground water, government and industry officials have pointed out there’s never been a documented case.

Lomax and Loper offered statements from a variety of sources, including former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Environmental Protection Agency, the  Department of Energy Ground Water Protection Council, a Stanford University geophysicist and Energy Department advisor and others, all describing fracking as safe and posing no threat to groundwater. They cited such factors as the depth of fracking below groundwater, well construction and the lack of evidence fracking has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.

Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said it’s important to help Energy in Depth bring that message to the Western Slope.

“The environmentalist community is put there all the time presenting their message about hydraulic fracturing, some of it not based on fact,” Schwenke said. “Those of us who know the facts about fracking need to be talking to the public, friends and neighbors and getting the facts out there.

“Industry can’t do it alone. They need the business community, royalty owners, and all others who see the benefits of energy development to our communities to stand up and speak,” she added.

Lomax said the benefits of fracking and energy production to the business community is clear, and the consequences of fracking bans are equally apparent. “Demanding that an industry be wiped out overnight, which is what would happen to oil and gas if you banned hydraulic fracturing, is about as anti-business as it gets,” he said.

The broader effects of eliminating domestic energy production would be disastrous for the economy, the business community and workers as well, he said.

Schwenke agreed. “We have seen how dependent we are on energy, especially unconventional fuels and natural gas development. And we have seen what happens with economic development and growth without it. We need factual information available to show how the industry is improving so that we can have a truly all-the-above energy portfolio.”