21 Top Scientists Praise Gov. Jerry Brown’s New Fracking Rules

By Barbara Boland | December 30, 2013 | 4:41pm EST

(CNSNews.com) – Twenty-one scientists sent a letter this month to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown praising the use of fracking in California by oil companies and the new regulations on the procedure put in place that, they believe, will allow for a safe way to develop the “extraordinary” potential of the state’s shale oil reserves, improve the economy, create jobs, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Jerry Brown is a long-time liberal Democrat and the California State Legislature, Senate and Assembly, is controlled by Democrats. In September, Brown signed the new fracking regulations into law.

“In our research, we have found nothing to suggest that shale development poses risks that are unknown or cannot be managed and mitigated with available technologies, best practices and smart regulation,” reads the Dec. 18 letter from the scientists. “The economic benefits that can be derived from the expanded development of shale oil and gas reserves in California are potentially significant, leading to more jobs, greater economic growth, lower energy bills, and cleaner air.”

The letter further states, “Although some have called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, we see no merit in that course of action, provided the right regulatory approach is followed. In our view, the regulations currently being drafted by the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) certainly meet that requirement.”

The letter is signed by leading geological, petroleum engineering, earth sciences and engineering scientists from some of the leading universities in the country, including Cornell, Penn State, UCal-Berkeley, Syracuse, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.  (See Letter-to-Governor-Brown-Dec-18(1).pdf)

California’s new regulations, considered some of the strictest in the country, were signed by Governor Brown on Sept. 20, 2013 and are set to go into full effect in 2015. The new rules require oil companies to acquire permits for drilling, test groundwater, and disclose the chemicals used in the “fracking” they pursue.

Some environmental groups in California sought to ban fracking altogether in the state while the Sierra Club wanted very stringent regulations on the process. In its national policy on fracking, the Sierra Club says "there are no 'clean' fossil fuels" and the "Sierra Club's goal is to wean ourselves from oil and natural gas as swiftly as possible and by no later than 2015. Climate science is clear that we must rapidly decrease fossil fuel use if we are to avert disasterous climate disruption."  (See NaturalGasFracking.pdf)

Although Gov. Brown has a strong track record as a liberal environmentalist and believer in man-made global warming,  he signed the regulatory legislation that Democrats had proposed.

California’s Monterey Shale formation is one of the largest unconventional shale reservoirs in the United States, containing an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or 64% of the entire estimated tight oil in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Monterey shale region stretches north and south of Monterey, Calif., along the coast and along some California islands, as well as going as far inshore as the San Joaquin Basin and to Bakersfield.

The oil from the Monterey shale would generate an estimated $24.6 billion a year in tax revenue and by year 2020, an additional 2.8 million jobs for the state, according to analysis conducted by the University of Southern California.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a technique where a mixture of water and sand (99.5%) and chemicals (0.5%) are injected into a wellbore at high pressure, creating small fractures in the rock from where fluids and natural gas, deep within the ground, can flow.

In their Dec. 18 letter to the governor, the scientists wrote: “According to the respected research firm IHS-CERA, shale development has increased average household income by roughly $1,200.  An analysis from Mercator Energy recently found that the energy cost-savings for low-income Americans last year was approximately $10 billion, or about three times the value of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.)”

“There is an enormous volume of oil in place in the Monterey Shale and other low quality reservoirs in California,” said Stephen Holditch, one of the signers of the letter, and a petroleum engineering professor emeritus at Texas A & M University.

In an interview with CNSNews.com, he said, “As we have clearly learned in developing other shale reservoirs in the United States over the last 5-10 years, it will require horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and a lot of capital to produce oil from such reservoirs in the coming years.  Any ban on hydraulic fracturing is essentially a ban on producing oil from shale reservoirs.”

“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That's that balance that's required,” Governor Brown, known for his support of green energy, said at a Mar. 13 press conference as reported by Reuters. "The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary.”

Currently, California is the fourth largest oil-and-gas-producing state in the United States, with the state receiving $5.8 billion in fuel excise, corporate and personal income taxes in 2009, according to data from Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).  Over 100,000 Californians are employed in oil and gas production, according to California's Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. 

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