Another View: Anti-energy campaign creates fear

Tom Tanton
Tom Tanton

The Center of Biological Diversity’s relentless campaign against domestic energy production in California has reached new lows for distortions and fear-mongering. The opinion piece the group published in The Sacramento Bee was a case in point (“Fracking wastewater threatens aquifers”; Viewpoints, Feb. 22).

The Center of Biological Diversity is part of an anti-energy movement that is sweeping California and has a penchant for sensational statements. For example, the center claimed California’s regulation of industrial wastewater “poses a profound threat to our future.”

In an effort to exploit a disagreement between two government bureaucracies for its own ideological agenda, the center claims the state has failed “to protect California’s water from oil industry pollution.” The California and the U.S. EPA are engaged in discussions about how California has regulated the Underground Injection Control program and how it will regulate it in the future.

California has acknowledged the need to address this issue and recently released a major work plan on how to bring management of the UIC program into conformity with EPA’s interpretation of the federal regulations.

But this disagreement between California and the EPA has not resulted in any contamination of California’s drinking water supplies. The State Water Resources Control Board tested a number of water wells near the disputed injection wells and found no evidence – none – that groundwater had been contaminated by the injection wells.

The opinion piece also repeated the claim that hydraulic fracturing flowback fluid contains high levels of benzene – suggesting that benzene-laden hydraulic fracturing fluids are being injected into drinking water supplies.

State regulators testified recently that hydraulic fracturing fluid does not contain benzene. Water injected into hydrocarbon zones – where it is mixed with crude oil and naturally occurring benzene – contains many ingredients that should not, and are not, exposed to drinking water supplies.

This type of industrial water has been safely disposed of under the strict regulation and oversight of the state of California without harming the state’s groundwater resources – and certainly have never impacted drinking water – for many decades.

It’s not clear what the Center of Biological Diversity hopes to accomplish with its anti-energy campaign, other than creating fear where none is warranted. Californians take great pride in their state’s environmental regulations and protecting our state’s natural resources and beauty. We also take comfort in our domestic energy resources and our ability to provide a level of energy independence for California businesses and consumers.

Tom Tanton is director of the Energy and Environment Legal Institute and a former principal policy adviser for California Energy Commission.