Hydraulic fracturing, more familiarly now referred to as “fracking,” is a mining process to release previously unobtainable volumes of natural gas that has drawn deep divisions between the oil/gas industry, which insists that the process is not only safe, but contributes to American energy security by lessening dependence on foreign imports.
Its opponents cite the potential environmental damage, compounded by cozy arrangements between local and federal officials closely connected to the country’s hydrocarbon lobby.
Federal legislation on the issue has been sluggish, while individual states, looking at shrinking budgets, have also been slow to regulate the industry.
Now, New Mexico’s Mora county has set the cat amongst the canaries by becoming the first county in the country to ban drilling and fracking over concerns about groundwater reserves.
Even worse for fracking proponents, Mora’s new county ordinance also established a local Bill of Rights that confirms the county's right to clean air and water, a healthy environment, and self governance. Mora County Commissioner John Olivas stated: "There are plenty of resources out there for natural gas. I don't think it's necessary for them to come into our community. Leave us alone. Let us enjoy what we have."
Related article: US Energy Boom Threatened by Diminishing Returns from Shale Plays
Commissioner Alfonso Griego said, "he supported the measure because he feels that federal and state laws fail to adequately protect communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits. There is technology for them to do it right, but it's going to cost them more money. They're not willing to do that yet. So we don't want any oil and gas extraction in the county of Mora. It's beautiful here."
The county commissioners also adopted a bill of rights that asserts Mora County’s right to block drilling, even if the state or federal governments try to allow it.
What is New Mexican for “lawsuits?”
A water-stressed count in a water-stressed state has cast a most skeptical eye on the local benefits of hydraulic fracturing, introducing some muscular legislation that have virtually all the suits from Washington descend on the county to flatten the heretical statutes lest they spread well, like the wildfires currently torching southern California.
How’s fracking doing elsewhere in the Land of the Brave and Home of the Free?
Disclosure about what get pumped down the bore hole?
The issue has enormous implications beyond U.S. borders. According to a database operated by the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, fracking companies’ slurry of injected substances to promote fracking include toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol antifreeze.
On FracFocus.ca, oil and gas companies drilling in B.C. list some of the fluids injected deep into the ground at high pressure. Suncor Energy well #27583 in Peace River North, for example, is listed as using more than 30 ingredients, including hydrochloric acid, xylene, light aromatic naphtha, polyethylene glycol and kerosene.
But, apparently, nothing to see here, move along.
Related article: Manufacturing Sector Starting to Show Benefits of US Shale Boom
Closer to home, there are worrying further signs for the fracking community of supporters.
A California Assembly committee has introduced three bills that effectively would halt the practice for an interim period by calling for further study of the consequences of the industrial procedure. Three pieces of proposed legislation are on the table, including Senate Bill 4 introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, for instance, would prohibit the state from issuing new fracking permits only if a study on fracking was not completed by 1 January 2015.
So mark Mora County on your list of “must watch” sites. A country of less than 7,000 has thrown down the gauntlet to an industry receiving support virtually across the political spectrum, including in Washington.
New Mexican aquifers or profits for Big Oil to support U.S. energy security?
While one is loath to make predictions, amidst the gila monsters, Gucci-shod lawyers are going shortly to descend on New Mexico in a Lear Jet conflagration in order to convince Mora country commissioners of their short-sightedness.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com