The following is the opening statement by the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Sen. Inhofe offers comments from state regulators about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, and his opinion on federal vs. state regulation of it.
On March 17, 1949, more than 60 years ago, the first hydraulic fracturing job was performed on a well 12 miles east of Duncan, in my home state of Oklahoma. The practice has now been used on more than 1 million currently producing wells, 35,000 wells per year, without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these fracked formations. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear what the experts, the State regulators, have said:
Nick Tew, Alabama State Geologist & Oil and Gas Supervisor
"There have been no documented cases of drinking water contamination that have resulted from hydraulic fracturing operations to stimulate oil and gas wells in the State of Alabama."
Cathy Foerster, Commissioner of Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
"There have been no verified cases of harm to ground water in the State of Alaska as a result of hydraulic fracturing."
Harold Fitch Director, Michigan Office of Geological Survey of the Department of Environmental Quality
"There is no indication that hydraulic fracturing has ever caused damage to ground water or other resources in Michigan. In fact, the OGS has never received a complaint or allegation that hydraulic fracturing has impacted groundwater in any way."
Victor Carrillo, Chairman Railroad Commission of Texas
"Though hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years in Texas, our Railroad Commission records do not reflect a single documented surface or groundwater contamination case associated with hydraulic fracturing."
Fred Steece, Oil and Gas Supervisor of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
"In the 41 years that I have supervised oil and gas exploration, production and development in South Dakota, no documented case of water well or aquifer damage by the fracking of oil or gas wells, has been brought to my attention. Nor am I aware of any such cases before my time."
And I have statements from 8 more oil and gas producing states that I would like to submit for the record. They all state that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate ground water.
Now let me show you why this is the case. This chart illustrates a cross section of a typical well drilled in the Marcellus shale in southwest Pennsylvania. Do you see the small blue line at the top of the chart? That illustrates the ground water aquifer. In between that groundwater aquifer and the Marcellus shale are dozens of layers of solid rock—more than a mile of it. Let me say that again: there is more than a mile that separates the groundwater aquifer and the well.
See the small blue box at the top? That’s a picture of the Empire State Building. For groundwater contamination to occur, frack fluids would have to migrate through 7,000 feet of that solid rock. Once again, that’s about the same distance as from the West front of the Capitol all the way to the Washington Monument—of solid rock. That fluid migration can’t happen and it doesn’t happen.
Given these facts, what can possibly explain calls to regulate fracking from Washington, D.C.? It’s simple: the Obama Administration wants to regulate fossil fuels out of existence. And they haven’t been shy about it. Energy Secretary Steven Chu actually said, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." For my colleagues who might not know, prices are $8 per gallon in Europe. Or consider Alan Krueger of the Treasury Department, who said, "The Administration believes that it is no longer sufficient to address our nation’s energy needs by finding more fossil fuels…"
Mr. Krueger’s belief is now reality. Gas at the pump is fast approaching $4.00 a gallon. Drilling in federal offshore waters is nearly non-existent. As for federal lands, the Western Energy Alliance recently reported that oil and gas leasing has dropped by 67 percent since 2005.
If you think these data points are bad, they will grow far worse under EPA’s cap-and-trade agenda. As part of that agenda, the agency is maneuvering to regulate hydraulic fracturing, a practice that has always been regulated by the states.
But testimony today will confirm that the states don’t need EPA. The nation’s immense shale deposits are predominantly located in states that effectively and efficiently regulate oil and gas. In states such as Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, and North Dakota, a virtual boom in natural gas development is transforming America’s energy security—due in no small measure to the absence of federal regulation.
For this reason, let’s keep the states in charge of hydraulic fracturing, for the benefit of consumers, jobs, economic growth and expansion, and our nation’s energy security.
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (Apr 12, 2011) – Inhofe Hearing Statement: Natural Gas Drilling: Public Health and Environmental Impacts