Four Big Takeaways From This Week’s Fracking Talk
In case you couldn’t make it, or don’t have time to watch the hour-plus recording, we pulled out the highlights.
Monday night, we hosted an in-depth discussion on the perils and promise of fracking at NYC’s Tenement Museum. In case you couldn’t make it, or don’t have time to watch the hour-plus recording, we pulled out the highlights.
(Need a primer on fracking? Check out our musical explainer: My Water’s On Fire Tonight.)
1. The public debate does not mirror the debate in the regulatory agencies. Stu Gruskin thinks it should.
Stu Gruskin, former executive deputy commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, would like to see a better-informed
public debate that mirrors the “objective,” nuanced discussion in the regulatory agencies. He thinks the current “philosophical” debate does a “great disservice” to the public. He cites the Midwest quakes as a perfect example of the public’s misunderstanding of the subtleties of fracking.
2. Some say the media’s fracking coverage is biased, but Abrahm Lustgarten thinks it emphasizes the real concerns.
“No one denies the economic benefits are happening,” Lustgarten said. “[But] It doesn’t take a lot of scrutiny ... to come up with a whole slew of concerns. From a reporter’s perspective, the question is, ‘Where do I start?’ Not, ‘Do I put those concerns aside and talk about the minority who reap an economic benefit?’”
3. How a sound well is supposed to work.
Southwestern Energy’s Mark Boling shows the mechanics of a functioning well – and a not-so-functioning well. He also reviews necessary regulations, and brings up an issue he thinks deserves more attention: moving water by pipe as much as possible.
4. Collaboration among industry, the public, environmental groups and regulators is key to making fracking as safe as possible, according to industry and regulatory representatives.
Gruskin mentioned it here, while talking about what New York state regulators need to do their jobs:
And Mark Boling mentioned it here. “If you’re looking for a sound bite, it’s collaboration, innovation and regulation,” he said. “And I believe it’s in that order.” He cited as an example the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program.
The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.
The Story So Far
The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.