Tags: Sally Jewell | hydraulic fracturing | U.S. Geological Survey

Interior Secretary: Fracking Bans Are 'Wrong Way To Go'

Image: Interior Secretary: Fracking Bans Are 'Wrong Way To Go'
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 02 Jan 2015 03:27 PM

While a growing number of states and localities are passing bans on hydraulic fracking, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell argues that banning the practice "is the wrong way to go" and simply creates more confusion for oil and gas producers.

“I would say that is the wrong way to go. I think it’s going to be very difficult for industry to figure out what the rules are if different counties have different rules," said Jewell in an interview on Friday with KQED radio.

Jewell said local bans, such as those passed in November by voters in California's San Benito and Mendocino counties, are a consequence of the public's fears and misunderstanding of the fracking process.

“There are a lot of fears out there in the general public and that manifests itself with local laws or regional laws,” argued Jewell.

"There is a lot of misinformation about fracking,” Jewell said, adding that "in many cases [people] don’t understand the science behind it and I think there needs to be more science.”

Hydraulic fracturing, which is known in common parlance as "fracking," is a process of gas development by which sand water and small amounts of chemicals are injected into deep oil- and gas-containing formations. That step results in the cracking of rocks and allows the trapped gas and oil to be recovered.

The interior secretary said she would continue to rely on government scientists, such as those at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The issue of fracking has long been surrounded by debate with environmental activists arguing that it endangers residents' health and increases the occurrence of earthquakes.

In December, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would prohibit gas development using the process of hydraulic fracturing, according to the New York Daily News.

“I consider the people of the State of New York as my patients. We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great,” said acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in announcing the state's ban.

One of the arguments employed against fracking is that it will result in more earthquakes, but a USGS study found that man-made earthquakes that are a side effect of fracking are less disruptive than natural ones, CBC News reported in August.

In addition, the USGS found that fracking-related earthquakes are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude.

Jewell is not the first Cabinet-level Obama administration official to defend fracking as a safe way to develop oil and gas.

"This is something you can do in a safe way,” former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said during a September 2013 event, according to The Washington Examiner.

Chu's comments echoed remarks made by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who declared that "hydraulic fracking is safe,” and was “creating an energy revolution in the United States.”

The number of bans and related lawsuits are likely to increase in the coming year, say environmentalists such as the Environmental Defense Fund's Fred Krupp.

"These bans demonstrate what can happen when oil and gas producers erode public trust by brushing aside legitimate questions. Increasingly, regulators and the energy industry will be called upon to show that unacceptable risks from fracking can be minimized. Minimizing those risks requires strong, sensible regulation. Industry must finally recognize that it is in its own interest to work with regulators to make that happen," Krupp argued in a recent Washington Post editorial.

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While a growing number of states and localities are passing bans on hydraulic fracking, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell argues that banning the practice "is the wrong way" to go and simply creates more confusion for oil and gas producers.
Sally Jewell, hydraulic fracturing, U.S. Geological Survey
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2015-27-02
Friday, 02 Jan 2015 03:27 PM
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