Study: State oversight of gas drilling doing just fine

posted at 3:31 pm on May 20, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

In the past, we’ve talked about a lot of the hysteria and hype among environmentalists when it comes to regulation of natural gas drilling in general and fracking in particular. Many of the scientific studies we have cited in response to their claims were commissioned by people with an interest in the industry, such as The American Petroleum Institute or Chesapeake Energy. This resulted in much boo-hooing from the Green Caucus, questioning the motives rather than the science.

In case any of them are truly interested in finding out the facts, we now have a new study from the University of Buffalo which reveals something many of you should have known already. Letting the states regulate their own energy development programs without having Washington hanging over their shoulders has worked out pretty well.

A study released Tuesday by the University at Buffalo’s new shale gas institute concludes that state oversight of gas drilling has been effective at reducing environmental problems in Pennsylvania and will prevent major problems in New York if the state allows drilling to begin…

The authors found the overall number of violations tripled from 99 in 2008 to 331 in the first eight months of 2011 as the number of wells drilled in each period rose from 170 to more than 1,200. But the percentage of environmental violations compared to the number of wells fell from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010.

“The data in this study demonstrates that the odds of non-major environmental events, and the much smaller odds of major environmental events, are being reduced even further by enhanced regulation and improved industry practice,” lead author Timothy Considine said in a conference call with reporters.

The reason this study is important is because it highlights a critical choice we face as a nation, as well as the need to deal with the plans currently bubbling away in Washington. On the one hand, we can do as this university study seems to suggest and allow each state’s DEC and legislature to handle regulation of energy development in a way tailored to their individual resources and needs. Or we can try Barack Obama’s approach.

And what would that look like? We got a peek at that vision on April 13th when he signed an executive order creating a blue ribbon panel to provide “oversight” for natural gas exploration. The proposed commission drags people from not just the EPA and the Interior Department into the mix, but Commerce, Defense, HHS, Homeland Security, OMB, the National Economic Council and, “such other agencies or offices as the Chair may invite to participate.” (I’d have to double check, but I think the caterer from Barney Frank’s wedding is on there too.)

Read the full order here. That’s the choice we face when it comes to taking control of our own domestic energy future. This one should be an easy call, but I’ve been watching DC long enough to know that it won’t be.


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It’s always been about proper oversight at the state level of fracking operations, not punitive regulations at the national level effectively banning the practice, which is what Obama’s appointees would love to do.

Anytime you have an industry with the potential to earn people a lot of money in a very short time, you’re going to attract some people who are going to try and cut corners, and here in West Texas, there have been companies that have either done substandard work on casings that allow fracking materials to get into the aquifer, instead of into the formations 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 miles further down, and there have been others who have done faulty re-injection of brine, which can also harm aquifers also used for drinking water and irrigation. That’s why states do have to strongly oversee operations, but the problem isn’t with the process, it’s with some of the people involved in the process. To listen to the fanatical environmental groups, you can’t do the process without destroying the aquifers, and they take that attitude because they hate the idea of any sort of energy drilling (and the fact that they were all for development of systems relying on ‘clean natural gas’ in place of coal and oil-based systes — until the U.S. actually started developing thousands of new natural gas wells — shows you what their actual goals are).

jon1979 on May 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

The states can do the job better as they have their interests as the controlling concerns. The problem we have been facing and will continue to face is that the Federal Government owns so much land and therefore controls a very major portion of energy production. The Fed’s should not be in the real estate ownership business. The Fed’s should only own military bases and D.C. Not any other ground.

oldbearak on May 20, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Great comment, jon1979!

WhatNot on May 20, 2012 at 3:48 PM

I’ll bet $100 that the vast majority of environmental infractions are regarding not filling in the proper blank for paperwork or some such nonsense.

Kermit on May 20, 2012 at 3:57 PM

This country the way it was originally started worked very well. The federal goverment was meant to have very little power. The states governed themselves held only accountable to the constitution. The federal goverment has become a huge overbearing monster that is choking the well being out of the population. Unions and enviomentalists are also two big cancers that are helping to distroy our country.

newportmike on May 20, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Letting the states regulate their own energy development programs without having Washington hanging over their shoulders has worked out pretty well.

I don’t think they care. What works is obviously not on their list of priorities.

squint on May 20, 2012 at 4:13 PM

The authors found the overall number of violations tripled from 99 in 2008 to 331 in the first eight months of 2011 as the number of wells drilled in each period rose from 170 to more than 1,200. But the percentage of environmental violations compared to the number of wells fell from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010.

That’s how the EPA and enviro-nuts will read it. In isolation with no context at all, because the advancement of their agenda is far more important than things like honest reporting of the facts.

Meric1837 on May 20, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Hitler tried top-down management of resources. German resource allocation was always in chaos, as a result.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:19 PM

I have been reading Albert Speer’s excellent autobiography, “Inside the Third Reich” (1968) for bedtime reading. It’s the best picture of the mechanics of Hitler’s war machine I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it as an Amazon purchase.

The fascinating thing was how Hitler’s henchmen – (Goering, etc.) would twist and falsify the data coming from the industry captains so as not to displease the Fuehrer… and how most of them wouldn’t kowtow and change their numbers. It was the government staff who would twist the numbers, creating a source of constant intrigue among the top Nazis.

Hitler was schizophrenic about it, alternately berating people for giving him false figures, and for giving him true figures.

Ken Salazar reminds me of those Nazis who massaged the numbers to please their boss, creating chaos in German industry, and repeated misdirection and waste of resources.

He showed us that, here in Louisiana, after the BP spill.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Coast Guard interdiction and control of the skimmers, based upon orders from Salazar, along with Salazar’s fudging of the numbers and twisting of the oil experts’ official opinions, was something the Nazis would have done.

The Nazi government wasn’t just a caricature; it was a real government controlling a real economy, and there are lessons to be drawn.

The 0bama administration has been repeating many of the Nazi leadership’s mistakes.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM

This resulted in much boo-hooing from the Green Caucus, questioning the motives rather than the science.

The greenies say the same thing about us non-believers of global warming.We never believe the science.The greens can’t prove any damage from fracking and the science of GW is a lie.

docflash on May 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM

jon1979 on May 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

…thank you for the insight.

KOOLAID2 on May 20, 2012 at 5:16 PM

We got a peek at that vision on April 13th when he signed an executive order creating a blue ribbon panel to provide “oversight” for natural gas exploration.

The 0bama administration has been repeating many of the Nazi leadership’s mistakes.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Maybe what we need is a “People’s order” (constitutional ammendment?) to stop executive orders that are clearly out of line of the executive and more in the legislative.

Nah. Just impeach the ?@#$%!

IrishEyes on May 20, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Texas RR commission has always been a very strong state agency in that state. They take the job of protecting the Texas environment seriously while still ensuring that oil and gas production are feasible.

There is a reason we have a Republic and why the fed was supposed to be a weak player. We need to get back to that model.

AZfederalist on May 20, 2012 at 5:55 PM

There is a reason we have a Republic and why the fed was supposed to be a weak player. We need to get back to that model.

AZfederalist on May 20, 2012 at 5:55 PM

A-EFFIN-MEN.

Tim Zank on May 20, 2012 at 6:34 PM

The Nazi government wasn’t just a caricature; it was a real government controlling a real economy, and there are lessons to be drawn.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM

And right there, folks, is why I love HA.

I teach history, including WWII, and the amount that people don’t know is frightening. The Nazis were very real, very charming, and put the EPA and USDA (etc.) to shame with their do-good, “it’s all for the children” attitude.

People would do well to study the Battle of Berlin and see how many of those children ended the War. A government powerful enough to give you everything you want, etc.

ChicagoJewishGuy on May 20, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Clarification: “how many of those children ended the war” meaning “in what state [dead on the front lines]” not “what amount”. Scary.

ChicagoJewishGuy on May 20, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Yeah but if asked, The Great Odogma would say he could do it better.

wtng2fish on May 21, 2012 at 2:47 AM

To listen to the fanatical environmental groups, you can’t do the process without destroying the aquifers, and they take that attitude because they hate the idea of any sort of energy drilling (and the fact that they were all for development of systems relying on ‘clean natural gas’ in place of coal and oil-based systems — until the U.S. actually started developing thousands of new natural gas wells — shows you what their actual goals are).

jon1979 on May 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Bingo

petefrt on May 21, 2012 at 7:27 AM

In Southern California, we’ve used fracking in offshore oil wells for over 30 years without any issues. If fracking can be used in an environmentally sensitive area as SoCal, it can be used anywhere in the US safely provided the EPA halts their war on oil production.

dthorny on May 21, 2012 at 11:01 AM

It’s always been about proper oversight at the state level of fracking operations, not punitive regulations at the national level effectively banning the practice, which is what Obama’s appointees would love to do.

Anytime you have an industry with the potential to earn people a lot of money in a very short time, you’re going to attract some people who are going to try and cut corners, and here in West Texas, there have been companies that have either done substandard work on casings that allow fracking materials to get into the aquifer, instead of into the formations 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 miles further down, and there have been others who have done faulty re-injection of brine, which can also harm aquifers also used for drinking water and irrigation. That’s why states do have to strongly oversee operations, but the problem isn’t with the process, it’s with some of the people involved in the process. To listen to the fanatical environmental groups, you can’t do the process without destroying the aquifers, and they take that attitude because they hate the idea of any sort of energy drilling (and the fact that they were all for development of systems relying on ‘clean natural gas’ in place of coal and oil-based systes — until the U.S. actually started developing thousands of new natural gas wells — shows you what their actual goals are).

jon1979 on May 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Anytime well casing and cement are in place in an oil well, a well pressure test must be witnessed by several federal and state agencies. The pressure test is used to verify the well casing compentecy and the cement will handle the pressure for 8 hours. Without this casing pressure test and agency approval to proceed with the well the well can’t be completed to produce oil or natural gas.

dthorny on May 21, 2012 at 11:14 AM

The 0bama administration has been repeating many of the Nazi leadership’s mistakes.

cane_loader on May 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM

If history is any guide, they’re about to start repeating many of the nazi leadership’s “successes” too. Eventually, the totalitarians have no choice but to force the people to work for the regime. Ignoring human nature ends the exact same way, every single time.

runawayyyy on May 21, 2012 at 11:16 AM