Yaw: The Empty Rhetoric of Fracking Bans

HARRISBURG – As the public comment period on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s latest round of anti-fracking regulations winds down, I’m reminded of how hollow the rhetoric on this issue has become in recent years.

It should come as little surprise then that the commission’s efforts over the decade to limit interaction with natural gas drilling operations has changed nothing about the river’s water quality. Why? Because both conventional and unconventional well operators in Pennsylvania don’t want or need to use public sources of drinking water.

Just ask the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group representing most unconventional drillers in the state, who say the industry discontinued sending liquid waste to publicly owned treatment facilities in 2011. Some 90% of the wastewater created is reused to stimulate new wells, while the rest is injected into deep underground wells regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, which represents conventional well operators, likewise purports that the wastewater produced during these drilling operations is recycled.

And as for contamination from drilling itself? Never borne out by reliable science. Hydraulic fracturing occurs 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet below the surface, 50 to 80 times deeper than most aquifers.

So the entire idea that hydraulic fracturing routinely contributes to water pollution remains a fallacy, one conjured up and repeated often by the environmental lobby bent on stamping out fossil fuels at all costs.

Except, bans don’t work. Proponents of this misguided policy hope constraining the supply of natural gas will translate into lowered demand. But that’s not how supply and demand work, actually. Fracking bans only take us backward to a time when we imported the majority of our gas and oil from foreign countries.

Look at California, for example, a state that touts some of the most aggressive anti-fossil fuel policies in the nation. Their reliance on foreign oil imports since the late 1990s has grown exponentially, according to data collected by the California Air Resources Board. This, even as the state discontinued drilling for oil in favor of backing electrification.

Or, take a look closer to home in New York, a state that banned fracking in 2014. It’s also one of the four states that vote on DRBC proposals, often in favor of regulations that weaken Pennsylvania. In fact, New York has routinely discouraged the exportation of Pennsylvania’s plentiful natural gas supply to New England, instead forcing those states to import from Russia instead.

Even President Joe Biden rejected calls from the progressive arm of his party to ban fracking because federal data showed it would cost 32,000 jobs alone in Pennsylvania.

So why do we give the DRBC such power? Notably, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division – the DRBC’s fifth member – abstained from the February 2021 vote to ban fracking in the watershed. But that didn’t stop the governors of New York, New Jersey and Delaware from joining Pennsylvania’s own Gov. Tom Wolf in adopting the ban, citing questionable science and their own out-of-touch ideology.

The Wolf administration fails time and time again to prioritize Pennsylvania’s best interests. Instead, our governor punts to other prominent progressive leaders with entirely different, self-serving goals who would love nothing more than to diminish our state’s role as a top natural gas producer and exporter.

Pennsylvania needs real leadership, not an administration content with damaging our economic vitality in favor of policies that appease environmental lobbyists and progressive ideologues that live anywhere but here.

CONTACT: Nick Troutman, Chief of Staff, 717-787-3280

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