Editorial: States should make 'fracking' rulesJust because western North Dakota is unusually green this time of year, we shouldn’t forget nothing is more valuable to North Dakota and the American West than water.
Just because western North Dakota is unusually green this time of year, we shouldn’t forget nothing is more valuable to North Dakota and the American West than water.
So it is fair to question the process of hydraulic fracturing and the potential hazards, if any, to precious groundwater.
Hydraulic fracturing is a practice among oil and gas companies, done by forcing pressurized injections of sand, water and chemicals into oil, gas and shale formations to break them up, allowing more oil and gas to flow.
Hydraulic fracturing is a key strategy in recovering oil and natural gas from oil fields like the Bakken and Three Forks-Sanish oil formations.
Oil and gas producing companies are exempt from disclosing which chemicals are being injected, covered by an exemption in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005. However, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., introduced a Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives on June 9 to require oil and gas companies to adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards and require disclosure of chemicals used during the “fracking” process.
The oil and gas industry argues against the legislation because: A. The practice is already regulated by the states. B. Federal legislation would be duplicative, cause delays and be expensive. C. The practice has been used for more than 50 years and seems to be safe. D. The chemicals are injected thousands of feet below the water table, and there is rock in North Dakota, but not in all states, that acts as a barrier to keep the chemicals where they are re-injected and very difficult for them to get back up to the water table again.
Eliminating hydraulic fracturing would eliminate the possibility of extracting most oil from the Bakken and Three Forks-Sanish oil formations. The process of fracturing is already the object of intense scrutiny in our state by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The industry is correct that there has never been a problem with groundwater from fracturing in North Dakota.
All drilling sites are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to maintain Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals on site including those used in the fracturing process. So, in fact the chemicals used in fracturing are open to governmental review, just not the mix. Add to that there are two layers of steel and concrete and 2,000 feet of natural shell between oil shale and well water in North Dakota serves as a natural buffer, as well.
Oil fields like the Bakken and Three Forks-Sanish hold unlimited economic potential for or state. Creating barriers that would eliminate extraction of oil and natural gas would certainly not be in the best interests, but neither is the catastrophic disaster that would be contaminating state aquifers.
All oil producing states are not the same geologically and creating new one-size-fits-all national regulations doesn’t make sense. Since states are not equal geologically, then if legislation is required, it should be determined by each state.
— Editorial Board members meet weekly to discuss issues of importance to the community.