By Mark Wolf
Hydraulic fracturing, the practice of extracting natural gas by using pressurized liquid to fracture rocks and commonly known as “fracking,” presents great opportunities if done well—and significant problems if not. Such was the framework the participants sketched during “The Natural Gas Bonanza,” a general session at NCSL’s Spring Forum.
“The controversy goes back to the advent of hydraulic fracturing,” said former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, now director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.
"We’ve had modernization of the rules but they haven’t kept up with the technology,” said Ritter, who acknowledged his administration “made some mistakes” in dealing with the issue.
Ritter said his message to states, the industry and environmentalists was that “We’re not going to see a cessation of this activity in America. It is important from an environmental and economic perspective,” and that questions have to be answered about whether it can be done in an environmentally friendly way.
Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Anadarko Petroleum Company, said fracturing, “is a highly-engineered, safe and proven technology that takes place miles underground.”
Dan Grossman, regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund's Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Boulder, Colo., who served 10 years in the Colrado General Assembly, said natural gas has the potential for creating less air pollution than coal but was fraught with risk, including ground- and surface-water contamination if not done correctly.
He said the industry must be held to zero tolerance standards regarding the emission of methane.
Tisha Conoly Schuller, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, advised legislators “to educate yourself, which is yeoman’s work. Be cognizant of the noisiness. What’s the experience of places that have had this activity?”