Wyoming is not the sort of place that one generally thinks of as a leader in environmental activism. Besides being a rabidly conservative state, that also spawned Dick Cheney, recently its tax department actually temporarily suspended levies at gun shows for fear of inciting an angry armed insurrection from the populace.
Despite all of this, Wyoming has just become the first state in the nation to enact regulations which now force petroleum companies to disclose all of the toxic compounds that they have been utilizing in a dangerous drilling technique called “fracking“, or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is now threatening to pollute the collective water supply of our entire planet.
David Sirota has written an enlightening column about what Wyoming is trying to do to protect its citizens and groundwater from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing. Mr. Sirota explains a bit about what is at risk:
“From an ecological standpoint, fracking is inherently risky. Looking to pulverize gas-trapping subterranean rock, drillers inject poisonous solvents into the ground — and often right near groundwater supplies. That raises the prospect of toxins leaking into drinking water — a frightening possibility that prompted Wyoming’s regulatory move. Indeed, state officials acted after learning that various local water sources were contaminated by carcinogens linked to fracking.
While the Wyoming examples may seem of little concern to those living outside of Flyover Country, they are more like canaries in the national coal mine (or gas well, as it were) — canaries potentially coming to a watershed near you. Today, 800,000 wells — many of which involve fracking — are being plumbed in a total of 34 states. That means fracking is now everywhere.
Not surprisingly, reports of drilling-related groundwater pollution have been pouring in from Colorado to Pennsylvania — and lots of these dispatches come from sites near population centers. Worse, such crises could increase as an unintended consequence of much-needed environmental initiatives. Specifically, with coal-fired power plants being converted into cleaner natural gas-burning facilities, demand for more gas supplies — and, therefore, more fracking — is mounting.
If this wasn’t bad enough, the situation is further exacerbated by federal policymakers who have ignored the physician’s “first do no harm” principle. Rather than initiating an informed public debate about fracking by forcing companies to at least admit what chemicals they are using, Congress has preserved fracking disclosure loopholes in the Community Right-to-Know Act, exempted fracking from the 2005 Energy Policy Act and blocked new legislation to better regulate fracking.“
If the anti-authoritarian gas-loving state of Wyoming can force petroleum companies to disclose all of the various chemicals, as well as the amounts, that they are using in their drilling procedures, then all of the nation should do the same. Wyoming’s standard should be the minimum regulatory rule for all states. Our shared water supply depends upon it.
You can read David Sirota’s column in its entirety here.