The General Assembly recently rushed through a bill essentially lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in North Carolina, even before the rules being drafted by a state appointed commission to regulate the process have had a public hearing.
“Even for those of us who believe in property rights and the free market, and who oppose unnecessary government regulation and interference in the economy, some provisions of the bill are troubling,” said J.J. Summerell, LPNC chair.
The bill allows companies to keep secret the chemicals they inject into the ground during the process. It also allows them to drill under land without the owners permission. And it limits the drilling company's liability for cleanup after the drilling is finished and for any pollution their business activity may cause.
“All these issues need to be addressed in a reasonable and rational discussion,” Summerell said. “But whether or not you are opposed to or support fracking, there is a third course that may be the most practical: doing nothing.”
“Partisans on both sides of the issue have, and probably will continue to, talk past one other, rather than honestly and reasonable discuss the merits or dangers associated with the process,” observed Summerell. “This seems another clear case where petty partisan politics gets in the way of good government.”
Libertarians recommend the third option for three reasons: the lack of good scientific data, the low price of natural gas, and the inevitable improvement of fracking technology.
“If the environmental risks are unknown, then there are environmental risks,” said Summerell. “If we delay a decision by five years, or fifty, we'll have a much more confident assessment of the risks involved in, and the costs of mitigating those risks.”
Summerell said that since the price of natural gas is currently very low, it makes better economic sense to wait to drill. It also makes economic sense to wait, because fracking technology will inevitable improve over time.
“If we've learned anything at all from the computer industry, the cost of technologies generally decrease over time,” Summerell said.
“So, if we can maximize revenues and minimize costs in order to maximize profits, all while developing a much more sound and reliable environmental strategy, it would be our most prudent course of action,” he concluded
“By doing nothing we're actually doing something very important. We're gifting this resource to our unborn grandchildren and great grandchildren.”