Should the federal government seek to regulate a controversial extraction method for natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing?
The process, dubbed "fracking," involves forcefully shooting water and chemicals into rock formations miles under ground to release trapped natural gas. With possible federal regulation from Congress and EPA looming, environmental groups and the oil and natural gas industry are battling it out. Environmentalists claim the process could contaminate rivers and aquifers, while the natural gas companies point out that the fracking method has been used safely for decades and minimal state regulation should suffice. Hydraulic fracturing has gotten more national attention in the wake of new discoveries of massive amounts of gas, such as the Marcellus Shale in Appalachia.
EPA is currently studying the potential environmental risks of fracking and just completed its final public hearing on the process. It doesn't expect to release a final report until 2012. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have introduced legislation requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and the gas sector fears that is the beginning of a slew of congressionally mandated regulations.
Between now and when EPA issues its study, what should Congress do about the issue, if anything? What are the potential benefits and detriments the federal government should consider with fracking? The oil and gas sector says fracking will help create thousands of jobs in areas of new shale gas discoveries, like Pennsylvania. How can lawmakers balance the potential massive job creation with the potential environmental risks? Or is that a false choice?