Udall, Bennet push for liquefied natural gas exports

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As reported by Dennis Webb in Sunday’s Sentinel (“Udall, Bennet push for liquefied natural gas exports”), Colorado’s Senators have joined a bipartisan effort to expedite approvals of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export permits.

While economic benefits of increased natural gas production on the Western Slope may be temporarily “reinvigorating”, local boosters of accelerated LNG exports should not underestimate the environmental costs thereof.

Thus, first, by opening-up American natural gas market to overseas buyers, the expanded production needed to satisfy that increased demand will redouble the industry’s reliance on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and consequent threats to water supplies.

However, if (as the industry insists) “fracking” has become “completely safe”, then there is no further need for the so-called “Halliburton Exceptions” to the Safe Drinking Water Act (exempting “fracking” from “underground injection well” regulation) and/or to the Clean Water Act (exempting drilling sites from “storm water runoff” regulations).  Those dubious provisions of Cheney’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 should be promptly repealed.

Second, because environmentally-benign fracking fluids are now widely available (albeit more expensive than traditional cocktails of toxic fracking fluids and diesel fuel), public health and the environment need no longer be “trumped” by corporate pecuniary interests and demand strict prohibitions of all toxins in and/or resulting from proprietary formulas.

Third, because methane is a valuable resource and a potent “greenhouse gas”, operators should be required to comply with the Clean Air Act and employ “best available technology” to “capture” escaping methane – rather than waste it by flaring it off or polluting the atmosphere by venting un-flared methane into the environment.

Fourth, because (reportedly) 5% of well-casing cement jobs fail immediately and 50% over the well’s life, operators should be required to post substantial bonds – sufficient in amount and duration to remediate impacts on water supplies after the well is abandoned.

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