Ban federal fracking

The request from Senate Democrats to the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) for the "strongest possible" fracking regulations (“Senate Dems call for ‘strongest possible’ fracking regs,” Sept. 20) is indeed disappointing. Public disclosure of chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic or toxic, will not prevent the poisoning of water resources. Nor does a “transparent and permanent database to document the chemicals” address the risks inherent in fracking on our precious public lands.

While the rhetoric in the letter advocating for strong rules on “well constructions and integrity and wastewater management” sounds good, the impacts of fracking cannot be regulated. Beyond the fact that well casings often fail immediately, it is well documented that, over time, casings leak as the concrete degrades. Further, managing the millions of gallons of wastewater is a daunting and almost impossible task that is impossible to regulate effectively.

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Despite what President Obama and his administration claim, we now have more than 150 studies detailing the risks and impacts of fracking — from the long-term impacts on limited freshwater supplies to effects on public health. A large body of evidence exists that drilling and fracking, along with building the necessary pipelines and other infrastructure, fragments forests and mars the landscapes. Oil-and-gas companies are competing with farms for local water supplies, while the disposal of the massive volumes of toxic and radioactive waste causes earthquakes and risks drinking water. Extracting and processing gas and oil pumps tons of hazardous pollutants into the air and adversely impacts our global climate.

We applaud the senators who wrote to OMB for voicing their concerns, but the letter does not go far enough. It’s time for Congress to introduce legislation banning fracking on federal lands.

Washington, D.C.


Turn spotlight on credit unions

As the new head of the Credit Union National Association, Jim Nussle in his Sept. 30 op-ed (“Turn off the landing lights”) indicates that he is still learning about the industry he now represents. We’d like to help him learn some truths that credit unions may be unwilling to share:

  • Being a cooperative doesn’t entitle credit unions to a tax exemption. Mutual savings banks are also owned by their depositors. They and other cooperatives pay taxes on their income.
  • Credit unions don’t turn all their profits over to customers. They have used their profits, for instance, to expand aggressively, purchase naming rights to arenas and stadiums and build elaborate headquarters.
  • Credit unions were chartered to serve people of modest means, yet recent HMDA data show that just 1 percent of credit union mortgage loans went to low-income customers last year. The Office of Management and Budget, which Nussle used to lead, estimates the value of the credit union tax exemption at $2 billion a year. That’s a big payout for doing just one percent of your job.

Credit unions would like us to stop talking about their tax exemption because the conversation is interfering with their attempts to gain more powers and loosen what few membership restrictions remain. But credit unions are already getting something — $2 billion annually — for nothing. They shouldn’t expect to get more without serious congressional scrutiny.

If credit unions want to break free of their Depression Era policy restraints, they should have to jettison their Depression-era tax exemption as well.

From Frank Keating, president and CEO, American Bankers Association, Washington, D.C.


Seismic misstatements

This letter is in response to Oceana’s Sept. 29 letter to The Hill titled, “Consider all risks that come with new offshore drilling” and its claims about seismic surveys.

Over the recent months, there have been several allegations made by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) asserting that seismic surveys are destructive to marine life and threaten fishing and tourism. The Gulf of Mexico demonstrates that seismic survey activities, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and marine life can and do coexist successfully. In fact, in the Aug. 22 edition of Science Notes, the government explained its decision to authorize geological and geophysical activities stating, “ To date, there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical (G&G) seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities. This technology has been used for more than 30 years around the world. It is still used in U.S. waters off of the Gulf of Mexico with no known detrimental impact to marine animal populations or to commercial fishing.”

Despite this information, several organizations opposed to domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production continue to engage in an ongoing campaign, disseminating information that is not always accurate. Allegations against seismic surveys by these NGOs are unfounded and meant to stop future offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

Environmental stewardship is an industry value and priority. The industry shares care and concern for marine life and employs mitigation measures to protect marine life. For many years, industry has invested in independent research regarding potential effects of seismic surveys on marine animals, including fish and to foster new mitigation and monitoring technologies. That investment continues today. 

Whether you support offshore oil and gas exploration or not, it is only fair that the discussion about seismic surveys doesn’t include misstatements and misrepresentations of the facts. We encourage the public to find out more about seismic surveys at IAGC.org and soundandmarinelife.org and then make their own judgment. 

From Ken Wells, president, International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Houston