Let's face it, the majority of people involved with shales have no clue as to what is going on around them. They don't know the history of drilling, they don't know the regulations, and they don't know the environmental protection advances the industry has made over the past 50 years since the start of hydraulic fracturing. I'm not saying this in a negative way. Why would people know anything about these new technologies? If instead a "shale boom", let's imagine there was a "maplewood boom" and people wanted to rip the sides off of my log cabin. What would I do? I would likely become extremely protective of my pricey wood cabin, and would likely have a defensive stance. It doesn't necessarily mean the loggers are wreckless, but that defensive mechanism is the natural human response.
The kneejerk response to this shale boom isn't much different. Instead of your log cabin, you are protecting your land, your water, your environment. It's new to people, and that is fine, but before we start pointing fingers at who is responsible for safe drilling we have to understand the specific roles of the people involved. I feel as though the claims of "We have to stop these oil companies from steamrolling through our land! Let's petition against them" are pointed in the wrong direction. Energy companies follow strict laws and operate under the watchful eye of governing bodies. They abide by their rules or they can't drill. I feel as though an analogy everybody can relate to can clear this up.
Let's say Joe gets on a highway in Texas. Joe sees the speed limit is listed as 70. Joe knows this enforcing agency is extremely strict with violations, fines up to a million dollars, so Joe will never go over that limit. This speed limit number has been revised over the past 50 years and it works. It's safe.
Joe then hears a brand new highway has opened up in the Appalachian basin and wants to test it out. This highway is new to the Appalachian Basin residents who are used to their 25 mile per hour side roads. A 70 mile per hour limit is unheard of, so the agencies tighten up and set it at 60. As always, Joe abides by this limit set by the agencies. In fact, Joe must present written documents for his speed across every mile he drives or he can not use it. Still, this new highway is extremely new to current residents. They see Joe on the road and they develop an anger towards Joe, even though he has been safely driving on these types of roads for the past 50 years. The residents make a lot of noise to try and slow down the speed limit to 45 on the highway. It passes. The New York residents slow it down to ZERO. Nobody is on that highway. No tolls are paid. Still, the anger is towards Joe.
My question is, why would Joe be to blame for following the speed limit? In the same sense, why would energy companies be to blame for following the set of laws in place? These restrictions aren't new to the industry. They were created and refined over the past 50 years. You don't hear about the people using the Texas highways that safely abide by the speed limit - which include thousands of drivers everyday. What you hear of are the 1 or 2 incidents per year where somebody drove over the limit, likely because of a mechanical problem, and got in a fatal accident. Those are the incidents that make the news. This creates an overwhelmingly biased view of those Texas highways.
There are two points here:
1. These restrictions and techniques may be new to the Appalachian basin, but they are far from a new technique and set of rules. They have been refined for you already across the country. Even though this speed limit is a lot higher than we're used to, they are still much stricter than the majority of the country.
2. Even if you still have a problem with the "speed limit", why blame Joe? Why is it the energy companies are responsible for making even stricter regulations? If you drove on that highway, would you ever get out of your car and change the speed limit from "60" to "30"? ..... or even in the most drastic cases "0". It's not the driver's job to change the limits. People have anger towards the wrong group. You want Joe to slow his speed down? Then try and get the limits changed. You don't ask Joe to do that, you ask the enforcing agency. Joe really isn't such a bad guy you know.
The limits are there. They're stricter than most of the country. They are abided by, and these companies have a watchful eye on them at all times. If we shut down these highways we'll have to resort to our horse and buggies like New York is doing right now. Did I mention those buggy axels are imported from foreign countries?
Let's let Joe drive. Go Marcellus.