Gold Rush or Fool’s Gold?: Congress Discusses the Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling

Striking a balance between public health, profit, and the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling is a debate that is drawing national attention. The development of the popular fossil fuel is a major economic gold rush for many states, creating new jobs and new revenue. Critics, however, see the boom as fool’s gold that puts people at risk by contaminating the air and drinking water. Both sides of the natural gas issue are playing out in the halls of Congress.

Otsego County (NY) Gas Group

“The United States has as much natural gas as Saudi Arabia has oil,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) at a Senate committee hearing on the public health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling. Many states are tapping into the economic benefits of the popular fossil fuel, which burns cleaner than oil and coal. But, Sen. Cardin also noted serious environmental and public health concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the processing of releasing natural gas from the ground.

Several lawmakers in the hearing called for greater transparency from oil and gas companies on the toxic chemicals they use during the fracking process. Other senators worried about government regulation interfering with energy development. Legislators also heard testimony from representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Healthy Environments & Communities, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox also attended the hearing.

Natural gas is a staple in America’s energy portfolio, and development must be done in an environmentally sound way. Striking gold doesn’t have to mean strikeouts for clean air, clean drinking water, and a healthy environment for people and wildlife. The FRAC Act, a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate, would close oil and gas loopholes in the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals. Click here to urge Congress to pass the FRAC Act and protect our drinking water from hydraulic fracturing.