I live in Oklahoma and the oil and gas industry plays a big role in my life. Not only do I depend on fossil fuels to run my life, energy production is the leading industry in Oklahoma. Approximately, one-quarter of working Oklahomans are employed directly or indirectly by the energy industry. Our hotels are often full of oil field workers, and you see Halliburton and other oil company trucks around town every day. About 20 % of all jobs in Oklahoma are tied to oil and gas.
As an activist concerned about my family’s health, I’d love to see the energy industry move quicker to safer and sustainable renewable energy. Wind energy is growing rapidly in Oklahoma, and I am excited to see progress being made. However, there is still work to do on infrastructure to allow us to make this switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Since we need to use fossil fuels, our goal should be to make it efficient and safe. One of the big concerns is groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
Ironically, groundwater contamination risks were part of a 2016 EPA study that found no systemic threat to groundwater from hydraulic fracturing. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) also said they found no proof of groundwater contamination. One reason for the dismissal of the groundwater concern is the assertion that fracking occurs far beneath aquifers and wells are sealed off with cement. Yet, as the use of hydraulic fracturing has grown in Oklahoma, high-volume fracking is getting shallower and many old wells were built without the protections now used to protect our water and air.
Fracking now has the concerns of an unlikely group: the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma – highlighted here in a recent article from E&E News:
“It’s no longer just environmentalists who suspect hydraulic fracturing is contaminating groundwater.
Oil companies here in Oklahoma — ones that produce from older vertical wells — have raised that prospect as they complain about the practices of their larger brethren.” – from HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: Now it’s oilmen who say fracking could harm groundwater
I spoke with Mike Cantrell, co-chairman of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance (OEPA) about his thoughts on this. He shared his concerns:
“We have had two EPA studies that have basically concluded that fracking has not endangered groundwater on any significant basis. While I believe those studies to be basically accurate they do not conclude that it doesn’t or cannot happen.”
Cantrell wants to be sure we prevent groundwater contamination and not just fix individual problems.
“Do we want to destroy a major groundwater acquire “before” we take action? I would hope not.”
Fossil fuels and hydraulic fracturing aren’t going anywhere soon, especially with our former attorney general, Scott Pruitt at the helm of EPA. So when the oil and gas industry voices concerns about the hazards of fracking in Oklahoma, we all need to take notice.