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Plans to increase gas exports brings new fracking worries

A fracking pump.

Lawmakers urge caution and studies before approving massive exports of liquid natural gas

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As the energy industry looks to boost sagging natural gas prices by exporting the resource overseas, a group of lawmakers, including Rep. Jared Polis, is asking the U.S. Department of Energy to take a close look at the potential impacts of those export plans.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Polis and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said they are concerned that increasing exports would lead to more  hydraulic fracturing, threatening public health and impacting jobs.

“For instance, increased natural gas production in communities across the nation could negatively impact farmers, residents, and local property values. The potential benefits from increased trade should be weighed against the increased health costs of additional fracking,” they wrote.

“Specifically, we request that the DOE/FE prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine how LNG exports may potentially increase environmental risks in communities where natural gas is extracted,” the letter continued.

The legislators want the Department of Energy to complete an Environmental Impact Statement before approving increased liquid natural gas exports.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 63 percent of the export demand for liquid natural gas would be met by increased production, 85 percent of which involves production from unconventional techniques, such as fracking. Fracking in densely populated areas would further threaten families and homes with cancer-causing pollution and noise.

Signers include: Polis, Hinchey, Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Bob Filner (CA), Charles Rangel (NY), John Olver (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), Gerald Connolly (VA), Pete Stark (CA), José Serrano (NY), Paul Tonko (NY), Betty McCollum (MN), Chellie Pingree (ME), Sam Farr (CA), Michael Honda (CA), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Steven Rothman (NJ), and Steve Cohen (TN).

The text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Chu:

As the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (DOE/FE) considers proposals to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), we urge the DOE/FE to consider the potential environmental impacts of increased U.S. gas production pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, we request that the DOE/FE prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine how LNG exports may potentially increase environmental risks in communities where natural gas is extracted.

Under NEPA, “all agencies of the Federal Government” must prepare an EIS for every “major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” Even though exporting nearly one-third of our domestic gas production certainly constitutes a major Federal action, the DOE has not yet conducted an EIS. A comprehensive EIS is essential to understanding the upstream public health and environmental effects resulting from increased domestic fracking. Further, an EIS ensures that decision-makers are fully analyzing the environmental risks posed by exporting LNG.

Before issuing any additional permits for the construction of LNG export facilities, we respectfully request that the DOE/FE complete a comprehensive EIS.  Such a review would inform your agency’s decision and address the environmental and health impacts in our communities that may result from the opportunity to increase LNG exports.

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