The Los Angeles Times reports today on a statewide poll in California that contains some ominous numbers for the shale oil industry – numbers that echo concerns here in Pennsylvania about shale gas development. The Times writes:
More than half of voters — 58% — say they favor a moratorium on the process of injecting chemicals deep into the ground to tap oil and natural gas deposits embedded in rock until an independent commission has studied its environmental effects. More than seven in 10 say they either want the process banned outright or more heavily regulated, according to the poll by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times.
Almost three in five voters said fracking should be prohibited in areas immediately surrounding sources of groundwater.
Last month, in a poll by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College, an identical 58% of Pennsylvania voters supported "strongly" or "somewhat" a moratorium on gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
There are a lot of reasons for those numbers. Lack of both information and transparency. Incidents and accidents. Weak government oversight. And industry insistence on drilling in special places.
The stakes are high. Pennsylvania has been referred to as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas”, and California is home to one of the world's largest deep-shale oil reserves, according to the Times, “accounting for roughly two-thirds of such oil reachable by fracking nationwide.”
The shale industry’s social license to operate is clearly in jeopardy. There is an urgent need for more study of potential impacts of unconventional drilling on human health, the environment, and the climate. The industry needs to plan better, perform at ever-higher levels, and innovate faster. Governments – state and Federal - need to enact stronger regulations, enforce them, and continuously evaluate their effectiveness. Otherwise, that pesky 58% could grow enough to “halt the unconventional gas [and oil] revolution in its tracks.”