Vermont takes symbolic stand with first fracking ban

The following post was written by John Stodder, The Dolan Company National Affairs Correspondent. Dolan is the parent company of Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

If the much-hyped dream of U.S. energy independence must involve hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) to extract natural gas from shale deposits deep underneath the surface of the earth, the State ofVermont wants no part of it.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law May 16 banning fracking, a practice that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground for energy production. The move makes Vermont the first state in the nation with such a ban, establishing a model that anti-fracking activists hope will be followed by other states.

For Vermont, the new law is largely symbolic. No energy company in the state engages in fracking, according to the Burlington Free Press, and none has been proposed because there are no known exploitable shale deposits available within the state’s jurisdiction.Vermont lies a few hundred miles east of the northeastern edge of the vast Marcellus Shale, much of which lies under the neighboring state of New York.

Gov. Shumlin conceded that it was easier to pass such a ban in a state where the energy industry has no apparent stake in the outcome.

“We don’t know that we don’t have natural gas inVermont,” Shumlin said. “This bill will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.” 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to study whether fracking is, in fact, a threat to groundwater supplies. A recent study by the Energy Institute at theUniversity ofAustin found that fracking had “no direct link” to groundwater contamination, mostly due to the fact that groundwater aquifers tend to be found closer to the surface than shale deposits. Groundwater is threatened by energy development, the study said, due to the potential for surface spills of onsite chemicals, but that threat could be mitigated by tighter industry controls and better state regulation.

American’s Natural Gas Alliance objected to the newVermont law, calling it “poor policy that ignores fact, science and technology.” The American Petroleum Institute said Vermont was following an “irresponsible path that ignores three major needs: jobs, government revenue and energy security.” 

Industry’s main concern with Vermont’s law appears to be whether it will inspire similar legislation in states with significant natural gas resources, including the state of New York. Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which favored the ban, said that state’s action had encouraged fracking opponents, who were rallying in Albany, N.Y. on May 16.

1 thought on “Vermont takes symbolic stand with first fracking ban

  1. Symbolic or not (Vermont may have “natural” gas underneath some of its land, especially in the southwestern part of the state), this act displays prudence and responsibility on the part of the state’s lawmakers, who have apparently been paying attention to the grave stories now legion about the environmental and health detrimental effects of fracking — unlike lawmakers in other states.

    And they’ve apparently also recognized that the fracked gas is being shipped abroad to the highest bidders, so this is hardly the “patriotic” anti-NIMBY story we’re being told by the fracking industry. And they see that that the industrialization of rural and wild landscapes is happening at breakneck speed in places like Pennsylvania; that the entire cradle-to-grave process of fracking is energy consumptive and contributes a huge amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, hastening climate change and the resulting weather catastrophes that have become the new “normal”; that the economic “boom” leads inevitably to a “bust”; that naturally occurring radioactive materials com eo the surface in this process and are neither being monitored nor sequestered; that fracking has much to do with the frequent occurrence of earthquakes in areas where it’s taking place; that there are not enough places to store the millions and millions and millions of gallons of toxic waste created in the processs; and that communities and famiies, as well as the ground beneath us, are being fractured.

    So, hats off to Vermont’s intelligent, caring, wise, and foresighted lawmakers. It’s time MIchigan’s, New York’s, Ohio’s, Pennsylvania’s, West Virginia’s, Wyoming’s, Texas’s, Colorado’s, and so many other states’ legislators decided to follow suit. But perhaps they’re just too deep in the pockets of industry to remember their oaths of office.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s