Op/Ed by Ralph Hall
US Representative, TX 4th Congressional District
I make it a point to go home every weekend to visit with folks in the Fourth District of North East Texas, which I represent. The top concern I continue to hear from people is their personal security – their families, their pocketbooks, and their jobs.
The need to boost the Nation’s economy to help struggling Americans is great, and Texans are fortunate to be faring better than most. For the ninth year in a row, Chief Executive Magazine named Texas as the #1 State for doing business. A large part of Texas’ success is due to private and State initiatives – particularly in the energy sector – with Texas’ Governor playing a significant role. This is an accomplishment that this Administration should note.
Domestic energy is important to all Americans – energy production creates jobs, boosts the local and national economy, helps move our country toward energy independence, and ultimately strengthens our national security. Texas is making great strides with true comprehensive energy solutions that are reshaping the energy landscape. Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) plays a leading role in that development.
Fracking is the process by which a mixture of mostly water and sand are pumped into a well to create enough pressure to fracture formations deep within the Earth. The fractured formations release gas to flow up to the wellbore to be extracted for use. Fracking is not new, but recent advances to this 60-year old technology have transformed America’s role to be a leader in natural gas production. In fact, the U.S. recently overtook Russia to become the world’s top natural gas producer.
Increased access to natural gas is now driving State and local economic growth all around the country while providing new sources of domestic energy to meet growing demand. Texas received an extra $2.5 billion in revenue over three years from increased energy production in the Eagle Ford Shale alone.
According to a 2012 study by the research company HIS Global Insight, fracking supports an estimated 1.7 million U.S. jobs, and that number is projected to grow to 3.5 million jobs by 2035. The Energy Information Administration predicts that natural gas production will rise an estimated 44 percent through 2040, and a Purdue University study noted the new boom in production amounts to about $473 billion a year for the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, due to unfounded claims and flawed information, the EPA is attempting to block this successful energy source through a process based on non-transparent, non-peer-reviewed science. Congressional oversight exposed a number of uninformed allegations and misleading attacks by opponents of “fracking,” including by the EPA. Three times the EPA has alleged that hydraulic fracturing has been responsible for groundwater contamination – in Parker County, Texas; Dimock, Pennsylvania; and Pavilion, Wyoming – and three times the EPA has had to retract these allegations after proper scientific analysis and review exposed them to be unfounded.
Notably, witnesses I have questioned at Congressional hearings – including ones from the Obama Administration – have confirmed the safety of fracking and have been unable to offer a single bit of proof that these claims against fracking are true.
As with all energy development, concerns about potential environmental effects must be evaluated, using objective scientific processes and methodology that are vetted through an honest and open peer-reviewed process. Truth and transparency must drive energy solutions, and the federal government should not overstep its bounds into states’ sovereignty with unnecessary and harmful regulations.
Energy production in Texas is well regulated by the State’s own Railroad Commission. State regulators have the necessary expertise and experience with local geologic conditions and drilling operations to oversee their state’s energy production – and they have significantly more vested interest in protecting the environment and seeing their local communities succeed.
A one-size-fits-all government overreach is not the answer to our energy portfolio. Overbearing federal regulatory authority would raise production costs, leading to higher costs for goods and services, and also would stall job creation.
Our Nation needs environmentally safe, clean, and efficient energy for our future, and we are fortunate to have abundant resources in our backyard. The Obama Administration should recognize the proven safety and success of fracking and its future potential to further boost the economy and create jobs – and it should look to Texas’s leadership on this front.