Attempts to put pollution and other regulations on hydraulic fracturing are “undermining freedom” and hurting the economy, according to the president of America’s largest business lobbying group.
Thomas Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told a meeting of business executives Tuesday that an anticipated study set to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency next year could give grounds for tight federal regulations on fracking, Reuters reported. If that were to occur, Donohue reportedly said, it would “short-circuit America’s absolute explosion in energy opportunity that is creating millions of jobs.”
Fracking is a controversial method of extracting oil and gas by using a high pressure stream of water, sand, and potentially hazardous chemicals to blast through shale rock and ‘stimulate’ the flow of fuel from the ground. While many communities are increasingly concerned about the strain fracking places on local water supplies and the threat it poses to their health and safety, others — like Donohue — want to cash in on the boom.
Currently, fracking is largely regulated by states, but the EPA has been attempting to take the reins. In 2012, the Obama administration set the first-ever national standards to control air pollution from fracking wells, which were finalized in 2013. The Bureau of Land Management is also working on regulations for drill operators with leases on federal lands, which the Chamber of Commerce has also attacked for coming at a time “when America should be taking greater advantage of our natural resources to create jobs and improve our economy.”
The Chamber’s stance is at odds with many in the scientific community who warn of an increased human health risk, and increased methane and CO2 emissions from fracking. In mid-November, a group of twenty scientists — including James Hansen, former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Michael Mann, professor of meteorology at Penn State University — wrote a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown on the dangers of fracking. Approximately 25 percent of chemicals used in both the drilling and well stimulation processes are “known carcinogens,” the letter said, “and evidence indicates that these chemicals are making their way into aquifers and drinking water.”
Studies also suggest that fracking can increase levels of ground level ozone emissions and air pollution, including an increase in diesel particulate matter, benzene, and aliphatic hydrocarbons which may contribute to health problems among those living near oil and gas development sites.
“If what we’re trying to do is stop using the sky as a waste dump for our carbon pollution, and if we’re trying to transform our energy system, the way to do that is not by expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University who signed the letter.