Research Paper: Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking") the Legal

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[. . .] Law School Student Willie -- Let States Regulate Fracking

Matt Willie takes a position similar to Spence; at the same time he admits that the debate over the potential negative environmental effects of fracking has caused "an outright firestorm" in public opinion (Willie, 2011, 1743). Writing in the Brigham Young University Law Review, Willie asserts that environmental concerns vis-a-vis fracking "should not be ignored" but on the other hand he says those concerns "…have been overstated" (1746). Willie also notes that in 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act which essentially "…exempted all fracking with the exception of diesel fuel from the definition of underground injection in Section 1421 of the Safe Drinking Water Act" (1743).

Willie goes on to point out several court actions with reference to fracking, most of which ruled in favor of energy companies fracking projects. However, Willie does point out a Colorado incident which Spencer failed to point out: a resident of Colorado reported that gas wells were fracked near his house and "…a water well on a neighbor's property exploded, and sand built up in his own water filter" (1759). Setting a glass of water out overnight, the resident testified before a congressional committee (in 2007), would result in "…a thin oily film" floating on top; moreover, his wife's eyes were burning and she had "nosebleeds" (Willie, 1759). The law student concludes his piece by taking sides: he doesn't use "environmental groups" but instead refers to opponents as "special interest groups"; they shouldn't be taken seriously he implies, because "…decades of study have revealed only minor concerns" (1780).

Hydraulic Fracking in the European Union

The European Union press release explains that Bulgaria and France have flatly prohibited fracking and the Netherlands has a "temporary moratorium" on fracking (EC). And while the European Commission has listened to concerns and is prepared to ensure that rules are met via environmental issues, "…it is up to the Member States to ensure, via appropriate assessment, licensing, permitting as well as monitoring and inspection regimes" (EC).

Legal Action in Wyoming / Controversy in California

The Los Angeles Times reports that California is at this time considering rules to regulate fracking -- and the initial legislation that the legislature has proposed will allow "…companies to file trade secret claims for chemicals they consider to be proprietary" (Mishak, 2013). There is certain to be resistance to that legislation if it reaches a point of fruition. Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental groups are suing the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for approving more than 50 secrecy claims by oil and gas companies (involving 190 chemicals) (Mishak). Environmental concerns have been raised in Wyoming because the EPA has linked "water contamination" to certain secret fluids used in fracking (Mishak).

The Opinion Portion of This Paper

Writer Matt Willie mentions that the first hydraulic fracturing project was completed in 1947 in Kansas, and it was done with a fracking fluid containing "a gasoline-based napalm gel," which he admits was "hazardous" for rig workers (1743). That kind of fracking of course would never be permitted today, but there are fracking procedures that do not come under federal or state regulation that may not be safe.

While this writer agrees with much of what the two legal-related articles present -- including the fact that states should be regulating fracking activities rather than the federal government -- there are so many unanswered questions about fracking that states should be cautious and error on the side of public and environmental safety. For one thing, states should put their most sensitive lands, including watersheds that are critical to ecosystems and wildlife, off limits to fracking. Even if there are gas deposits to be exploited, sensitive environments must be made off limits to fracking.

Moreover, the states should insist on sound well drilling practices; the cementing and casing issues must be standardized to assure safety during the process. The applicable federal laws (Clean Air, Clean Water, etc.) must be adhered to as well.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that America must be able to meet its energy needs, and must try to extract available natural gas where it is feasible and safe. Still, solar and wind energy sources must be developed at the same time that fracking is being done. After all, the future of U.S. energy sources will not be oil, will not be coal, and will not be natural gas; it will be clean, renewable energy. Getting there in safe and environmentally responsible ways is the only question.

Works Cited

Environmental Protection Agency. (2012). The Process of Hydraulic Fracturing. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from http://www.epa.gov.

European Union. (2012). Statement on the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the European Union. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from http://ec.europa.eu.

Federal Register. (2012). Executive order 13605 / Supporting Safe and Responsible

Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources. 77(74).

Mishak, Michael J. (2013). While California considers fracking rules, legal battles flare elsewhere. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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