Study: State oversight of gas drilling doing just fine

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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David Strom 6:01 PM on February 01, 2023