SHAHEEN: SHALE GAS PRODUCTION MUST BE SAFE, RESPONSIBLE

Senator chairs hearing to examine effects of production on water resources

October 20, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), chair of the Senate Energy Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power, today held a hearing to assess the effects of shale gas production on water resources in the Eastern United States.  While shale gas has the potential to provide significant amounts of affordable, clean electricity to both homeowners and businesses, Shaheen said, it must be produced responsibly.

“As our country becomes more reliant on shale gas, it’s imperative that we examine the full range of issues affecting our water resources,” Shaheen said.  “Although the benefits of abundant, domestically-produced shale gas are clear, we must make sure that shale gas production protects public health and the environment.”

The full text of the Senator’s prepared remarks is below:

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Subcommittee on Water and Power

Chairman Jeanne Shaheen

Opening Statement for Shale Gas Development and Water Resources in the Eastern U.S.

October, 20 2011

Good afternoon.  We are here today to examine the effects of shale gas development on the water resources of the Eastern United States.

The last decade has seen a dramatic change in the energy industry, as technological advances have opened up vast new stores of previously unrecoverable natural gas.  Like many in Congress, I believe that natural gas has an important role to play as we move to a clean energy economy and that the benefits of abundant, domestically-produced shale gas are clear.  Particularly in states like New Hampshire, where 45% of the electricity generated in our market comes from natural gas, shale gas has the potential to provide significant amounts of affordable, clean electricity to both homeowners and businesses.

However, serious concerns have been raised about the effects that shale gas production and hydraulic fracturing have on water resources, particularly in the Eastern U.S.  The process of fracking just a single well requires millions of gallons of water, which is often sourced from local streams and rivers.  In eastern shale formations, 20-40% of this water flows back up to the surface.  This water can contain radioactive elements, such as radium, or other materials known to be harmful to human health, such as carcinogens like benzene.  Furthermore, Duke University researchers have suggested that the improper construction of shale gas wells can lead to methane contamination of nearby surface waters.

The purpose of today’s hearing is not to focus exclusively on the risks associated with fracking, but rather, to take a holistic view of shale gas production and its effects on water quality and supply.  As our country becomes more reliant on shale gas, it is critical that we examine the full range of issues affecting our water resources. 

Recently, the full Committee heard testimony from the President’s Shale Gas Advisory Board, which stressed the need to address issues resulting from the acquisition, management, and disposal of the water used in shale gas production.  It is important to note that the board has found that by and large, shale gas development is being conducted responsibly and that the public should not be alarmed about any danger of widespread contamination. It is the purpose of this hearing to further explore that analysis and to examine any outlying issues that may be areas of concern. Today, we have a diverse panel of experts who will discuss how water is being handled in Eastern shale gas plays, what steps are being taken to safeguard the public, which efforts are working, and what more work needs to be done.

Our first panel includes Cynthia Dougherty who is director of EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and David Russ who is Northeast Regional Director at the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Our second panel includes Lori Wrotenbery, Director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, as well as a Board Member of the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation or “STRONGER.”  Tom Beauduy is the Deputy Executive Director and Counsel for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.  Cal Cooper is worldwide manager for environmental technologies, greenhouse gas and hydraulic fracturing for the Apache Corporation.  And finally Katy Dunlap is Eastern Water Program Director at Trout Unlimited.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about their experiences with shale gas development and the resulting impacts on water resources. 

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