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May 9, 2013

Fracking criticism not true, expert says

ENID — The controversial drilling technique hydraulic fracturing uses 90 percent water, and criticism that it harms the environment is not true, Brian Woodard, of Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said Monday.

Woodard, OIPA vice president of regulatory affairs, was featured speaker at the weekly Enid Rotary Club meeting at Hiland Partners Tower.

Hydraulic fracturing — commonly called fracking — involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into wells to free the oil and natural gas trapped in rock formations underground.

Hydraulic fracturing has been in existence at least 60 years, Woodard said. The first time it was used was on a well near Velma in 1949.

“It has a strong environmental safety record,” he said.

There are a number of Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulations governing fracking, as well as rules from Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations that govern its use. The Bureau of Land Management recently announced it will issue new rules pertaining to hydraulic fracturing, Woodard said.

“Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are the reasons for the recent oil drilling success,” Woodard said.

He said 90 percent of the wells in the United States produce 68 percent of America’s crude oil and 85 percent of domestic natural gas.

“America is projected to be energy independent in 2020,” Woodard said, giving some of the credit to fracking and horizontal drilling.

While fracking is safe and effective, allowing oil companies to produce oil and gas at a profit, Woodard said, there has been a recent debate about the safety of the process and a call for more regulations. Woodard said those attempts come from a number of sources that oppose fracking for a number of reasons. Some of them, he said, are funded by foreign oil-producing companies. Other opposition comes from environmental groups and the coal industry, which is threatened, Woodard said, by the surge in oil and natural gas production.

The public perception of fracking is formed by what Woodard termed a point-counter point debate, originated by false allegations from opponents and fueled by metropolitan media sources in large markets such as Los Angeles and New York City. Public perception results in new regulation, he said.

Woodard said there are no instances where hydraulic fracturing has led to groundwater contamination. There are reports of such instances, he said, but none have been verified to date. Officials in the Obama administration also have stated they found no cases of hydraulic fracturing causing chemicals to enter groundwater, Woodard said.

However, he said the industry has never faced the type of opposition it currently is experiencing. There have been more major regulations proposed over the past three years than the previous few decades, he said. The regulations have lasting implications, carry substantial financial burdens and threaten the livelihood of independent producers in addition to America’s quest for energy independence, Woodard said.

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