EDF fighting for strong rules and enforcement on fracking

Jack Rafuse painted a pretty rosy picture of hydraulic fracturing and the supposed lack of potential harm in a Nov. 26 op-ed in The Hill. (“Don’t let extremists undermine fracking boom”). Unfortunately, Rafuse twists science and recent events to tell fiction instead of reality.

Rafuse begins by presenting a narrow view that asserts concerns about methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, are outdated and inaccurate. He notes correctly that the University of Texas at Austin recently released a study, of which the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was a supporter, of methane emissions at the well sites. It found that if well sites follow new national regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency called “green completions” during the extraction process, methane emissions could be dramatically controlled during that procedure. This is great news, but not the whole story. 

First of all, roughly 80 percent of current onshore production isn’t covered by the federal regulations that now require this effective technology at the sites the university tested. Second, the study also found that methane emissions are significantly higher than estimated from leaking equipment or emissions routinely vented from valves, compressors and the like. Something else Rafuse left out? The University of Texas study is the first in a series of 16 studies to examine methane emissions across the natural-gas supply chain, which means this study focused on one part of one process of the entire supply chain. 

Not the rosy picture Rafuse promises.

Rafuse also champions state authority over hydraulic fracturing as the solution to regulation. He claims there is a “clear consensus” that states should have regulatory authority on drilling. Rafuse specifically mentions H.R. 2728, a terrible bill now headed for the Senate that would block federal environmental standards of hydraulic fracturing on public lands. It is nonsensical for the federal government to surrender all rights to implement protections on land it oversees. After years of working with federal and state governments, as well as companies, scientists, academics, community leaders and more, the EDF’s experience shows clearly that the best outcomes are found when we work together to find the solutions. On that note, we do agree on one important point: the regulations proposed in Colorado are good news and a great model for the future, and we’re happy that Rafuse agrees.

Rafuse is eager throughout his piece to characterize the EDF’s position on natural gas, so let me take the opportunity to correct him: the Environmental Defense Fund is not pro-natural-gas. We are pro-safety, pro-environment and pro-public health, irrespective of how much or how little gas gets produced. Oil-and-gas development is heavy industrial activity, and it creates real impacts that must be reduced. The EDF is fighting for strong rules and enforcement because people living among the oil-and-gas fields deserve nothing less.

 Rafuse says “opposition activists [to fracking] don’t want the facts to get in the way of their story.” Takes one to know one, I guess.

From Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel, US Energy & Climate Program, Environmental Defense Fund, New York City

Healthcare law only a personal gain for Obama

Congress exempted itself from ObamaCare. President Obama delayed the mandate for Big Business. Why shouldn’t mandate be delayed for all of the American people?

The rollout of HealthCare.gov has been a complete disaster. Stories of the site malfunctioning are being reported everywhere. Regular Americans are having extreme difficulty signing up.

This is clearly a political nightmare with only personal gain for Obama and his selected administration.

From Mike Pitzer, La Plata, Md.

FISA court needs to see revisions to stop abuses

The recent discussions about privacy issues and balancing security should include revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act-established court to ensure that abuses don’t occur that encompass dragnet surveillance of citizens. A good place to start would be for FISA court judges to be nominated and then confirmed by members of Congress instead being appointed by the chief Supreme Court justice. Nominating FISA court judges could help in making sure the process is a little more fair. 

The next thing that should be considered in revising the FISA court is for transparency with regards to decisions made in cases where records are requested so the public can be informed as to what’s occurring. Transparency would allow citizens to grasp the scope of what’s occurring and give feedback to their elected officials if they have questions, as well as comments on such government programs. 

The third revision that should be made to the FISA Court is a more narrow interpretation of what records can be collected in regards to investigations. The last but not least would be to have an opposite party arguing against such requests like in other courts so that there could be a counterweight to protect citizens’ right to privacy, which also impacts free speech. The aforementioned revisions would not be the perfect answer to privacy issue but a good step forward.

From Bill Miller, Las Vegas