Editorial: Government must ensure safety in face of growing energy boom – Bozeman Daily Chronicle, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014

Categories: Fossil Fuels, News, Oil and gas


The domestic energy boom from fracking technology caught most of us off guard – not the least of whom were the federal authorities. The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas and is poised to become energy independent in just a few years.

But at what price?

An Associated Press report published in the June 15 Chronicle revealed that nationwide four in 10 wells in environmentally sensitive areas have gone uninspected by federal regulators in agencies stretched thin by the rapid expansion in energy production.

The boom is fueled by the development of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to fracture geologic formations and release fossil fuels. Little is known about the long-term effects of this new technology on groundwater or the dangers it could pose to surrounding lands.

Much of this production is happening on or near public forest and grasslands. And yet federal agencies tasked with ensuring these oil and gas wells are reasonably safe have been unable to inspect a disturbingly large number of them. And there are thousands of them, including many in Montana.

The rush to cash in on this energy boom means that many firms with little or no experience in this new technology are drilling on or near our public lands. That will almost certainly be a recipe for disaster in or near some environmentally sensitive national forest or wilderness area.

This is a problem with an easy fix. The federal government needs to exact enough revenue from this energy rush to ensure it is conducted as safely as possible. And Montana’s congressional should lead the way in enacting legislation that will get the job done.

Some scorn any form of government intervention in private industry. But ensuring this kind of technology doesn’t destroy the environment, especially on our public lands, is clearly an appropriate role for government regulators.

The fracking boom has the potential to keep energy costs low. And achieving energy independence will bode well for our future national security.

But let’s not let the energy boom blow up in our face.


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