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NYT: DOE Natural Gas Subcommittee report on hydraulic fracturing a “sensible way forward”

A New York Times editorial this morning discussed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Natural Gas Subcommittee draft report on hydraulic fracturing – calling the report a “sensible way forward.”

ACC found the report’s approach reasonable in two important respects.

First, the DOE report attests to the enormous potential of shale gas to drive job creation and economic growth while enhancing the nation’s energy security. A recent ACC study found that increased production of shale gas would produce nearly 400,000 new jobs in the chemical sector and among suppliers, increase U.S. economic output by more than $132 billion and provide $4.4 billion a year in local, state and federal taxes.

Second, the report affirms the importance of making information about chemicals used in shale gas production available to regulators and the public. Texas recently enacted a law related to chemical disclosure in hydraulic fracturing that we think could serve as a useful guide for other states. Ensuring appropriate protections for proprietary information remains a vital part of this effort.

For America’s chemistry industry, robust, responsible production of shale gas will be the deciding factor in whether shale gas is truly a game changer or a story of unfulfilled promise. We look forward to reading the DOE’s final report in November.

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The Debate on Fracturing

The New York Times

The argument over hydraulic fracturing — a technique used to extract natural gas from deep shale formations — has become increasingly polarized. Some environmental groups have demanded a nationwide moratorium because of complaints about polluted drinking water in wells. Meanwhile, industry officials and many politicians, including Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, extol fracturing and insist there is already more than enough regulation.

A new federal report from a panel of energy experts, convened by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, offers a sensible way forward. It agrees that natural gas is an abundant and increasingly important fuel because it emits only half the carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal and is an important bridge to a less carbon-intensive energy future. It also warns that hydraulic fracturing presents real risks to the air, water and land that must be addressed by energy companies and federal and state regulators.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping enormous amounts of fluid — a mixture of water, sand and chemicals — underground to crack the shale and drive the gas to the surface. A decade ago, the technique accounted for only 1 percent of America’s natural gas supply. Today the figure is 30 percent and climbing. Yet the industry cannot continue on this path if it loses public and political support, which the report says is certain to happen unless people can be sure the practice can be done safely.

The panel’s overriding message is the need for greater transparency. Industry must disclose the exact nature of the chemicals it uses in the fracturing process, and should routinely measure the impact that drilling operations have on air and water quality and make the information publicly available.

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