On Friday, Lee Fuller, Vice President of Government Relations at IPAA, testified before the House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committees regarding proposed regulations on the George Washington (GW) National Forest. The regulation option addressed at the hearing would prohibit horizontal drilling and associated hydraulic fracturing in the forest due to “water concerns.” One of these concerns includes the fear propagated by anti-industry groups that hydraulic fracturing could poison the water supply. No such case has ever been recorded.
The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also claimed that the water used in horizontal drilling would take away from the water needed by the forest. However, as Fuller pointed out, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have “allow[ed] for prolific development” in natural gas production. In fact, horizontal drilling actually decreases the amount of vertical wells that need to be drilled, decreasing the amount of water used in production overall.
On the other side, Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Amy Mall praised the “caution” of the administration. She repeated that there is “limited scientific knowledge” and that “many uncertainties remain” about the effects of horizontal drilling on the environment. In response, Congressman Fleming of Louisiana pointed out that because of horizontal drilling’s huge economic benefits and the absence of environmental harm, the burden is then on environmental groups to give evidence to the contrary.
The committees relied on Fuller’s background as a petroleum engineer to explain the technology behind horizontal drilling. He refuted claims that hydraulic fracturing leads to methane contamination in drinking water. Fuller explained that although methane contamination can occur naturally (non-oil and gas sources) or from wells, there has been no case of contamination occurring from the process of hydraulic fracturing. He reminded the committees that there is “always going to be skepticism” about new technologies, but the industry’s technical guidance standards and the state’s regulations sufficiently address environmental safety concerns.
Maureen Matsen, Virginia’s deputy director of natural resources, testified that the proposed ban would “harm Virginia, and Virginians, by burdening business and preventing job growth.” She agreed with Fuller that the ban is unjustified and “without any tangible benefit that we can see beyond what is already accomplished by our well-established regulation of natural gas development.”
Lee stated in his testimony that the proposed ban “presents a far larger issue—the reluctance of the current Administration to support the development of the full spectrum of American resources.”
To view a further breakdown of Amy Mall’s claims versus Lee Fuller’s claims, please see IPAA’s Friday Fact Check.