Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beat Back Fracking

According to the Office of the State Geologist, fracking is "probably not" coming to Massachusetts. You can read all the FAQs about the Hartford Basin here, but in the meantime, here's the answer to the question "Is hydraulic fracturing for shale gas coming to Massachusetts?":
Probably not.  Based on a survey of all available scientific data, the geologic conditions in the Connecticut Valley in western Massachusetts are not optimum for shale gas development.  Black shale units in the Hartford Basin are generally too thin, laterally discontinuous, and are cut by too many pre-existing natural fractures and extinct faults. This makes extraction of hydrocarbons economically not feasible with today’s technology at current market prices (see below). However, more data need to be collected to completely rule out that possibility. 
In addition, oil and gas wells used for conventional or enhanced hydrocarbon recovery are defined as Class 2 wells under the Massachusetts Underground Injection Control Regulations (310 CMR 27.00).  Class 2 wells are currently prohibited in the Commonwealth.
This is good news, and I was relieved to read it. But while Massachusetts itself is likely to remain frack-free, we are still complicit in the practice. After all, most of the electricity we generate in Massachusetts comes from natural gas. So every time we switch on the light (or type a blog post, for that matter) we can be sure that it's because somebody somewhere is having their land fracked. Massachusetts could use its market power to require that any company selling natural-gas based electricity in Massachusetts has to certify that the extraction process did not pollute anyone's drinking water.

That was the idea behind a bill the Sierra Club promoted in the last legislative session, and that deserves more support in the next session. The bill won the support of the Massachusetts Democratic Party's state convention in 2011. If you'd like to help the bill become law, please let me know.

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