Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters Thursday morning that the process of natural gas extraction called fracking was safe and should be used, provided it was properly regulated.
“I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” he said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Moniz’s comments represented a blunt rebuke to many in the environmental community, which has increasingly turned against fracking.
President Obama has generally rejected those concerns and regularly touted natural gas as a “bridge to a low carbon future,” a phrase Moniz used again Thursday. Natural gas releases a third to half as many carbon emissions than other fossil fuels.
Fracking is a process by which a solution of water, sand and chemicals is horizontally injected into shale rock formations deep underground and generally thousands of feet below the water table. Although it was first used in the 1960s in Oklahoma and Texas. Innovations in the 1990s have since created a boom in the industry, allowing the U.S. to become a net energy exporter for the first time in decades.
Environmental activists argue that it pollutes groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency has no found evidence despite three high-profile investigations. Most recently, it pulled out of an investigation in Pavillion, Wyoming.
Moniz said there had been a few cases where methane had seeped into groundwater due to faulty well design, but he added that that and other concerns related to fracking are “manageable.”
“Manageable means it still has to be managed,” he said, and that means the proper regulations. The administration is still working on those.
Asked if the abundance of natural gas was retarding investment in renewable energy resources, Moniz said the opposite was true. It was helping the US meet lower emissions targets, giving renewable technology a chance to catch up.
For more on the administration’s natural gas boosterism, see my column “Will Obama go down in history as ‘The Fracking President.’”