In April 2012, President Obama signed an executive order creating a six person committee to coordinate efforts among three government agencies to research the risks and benefits of unconventional oil and gas production. The committee is composed of two members each from the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Geological Survey, which is part of the Department of the Interior. It was set up to use each agency’s particular competencies to address concerns about unconventional technologies and shale development and to make sure the industry properly mitigates any risks involved. The first meeting of the group was in May 2012. The overall goal of the committee is to develop a research plan for prudent development of U.S. oil and gas reserves.
The Energy Department representative who is up heading the committee, Christopher Smith, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas, in May 2012 told a breakfast meeting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, Texas, that he believes shale drilling can be done safely. He later toured the manufacturing facility of FTS International, formerly called Frac Tech, which makes equipment for hydraulic fracturing-the “controversial” technology involved in getting oil and gas from shale. Mr. Smith is a Fort Worth native who graduated from Southwest High School in 1986 and is also a graduate of both West Point and Cambridge University.
This was Mr. Smith’s second visit to the Fort Worth area in his official capacity since his appointment at the Department of Energy in 2009. Two years ago he was in Fort Worth with a Chinese delegation in the US to learn more about hydraulic fracturing. At the time, Mr. Smith told the Chinese that the Barnett Shale is ground zero for learning about shale oil and gas development, because “they can see the benefits, but also the ways the City has worked with some of the environmental concerns.”
These environmental concerns would include air pollution and also any potential groundwater contamination. He also called shale production of relatively inexpensive natural gas an “opportunity” for both consumers and businesses. He discussed harnessing the scientific capacity of 10,000 scientists and engineers available to the Department of Energy to learn how to prudently and safely develop these crucial fossil fuel resources and how this shows the government is taking concerns about this kind of technology seriously. He said that incidents and complaints must be examined, but that shale oil and gas is a resource that can be developed safely.
So, even the President’s own committee understands the real science about hydraulic fracturing and shale extraction technology. The evidence demonstrates that it is safe for the environment and safe for the communities nearby. Hopefully we will soon see the end of the day when the fracing “bogeyman” is used as a cynical political tool for personal political gain.
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