Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States

Posted on: Monday May 21, 2012

Background

Hydraulic Fracturing, also known as hydrofracturing or fracking, is the extraction of natural gas from previously impermeable shale.  The process uses 1-4 millions of gallons of water withdrawn from streams and rivers, sand, and 20,000 pounds of chemicals injected at high pressure into horizontally drilled wells, some as deep as 10,000 feet below the surface.  The pressure causes the shale to crack.  These cracks are held open by the sand particles and chemicals to allow the natural gas to escape. 

Resolution

Whereas the Rabbinical Assembly has long called for moving toward energy independence by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and not drilling in environmentally sensitive areas (RA Resolutions in 1995, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008);

Whereas hydraulic fracturing is underway in a number of states and is being considered in several more;

Whereas the potentially largest unconventional repository of gas is found in the Marcellus Shale which lies under New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and which is expected to become the most desirable source for new drilling;

Whereas the Bible commands in Genesis 2:15 “to work the earth and to protect it (l’ovdah ul’shomrah),” and in the rich tradition of laws based on Deuteronomy 20:19, not to destroy wantonly (bal tashhit) any part of the created world;

Whereas Congress, as a result of industry lobbying, exempted the industry from reporting the liquid agents used in this process in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and also from regulation of runoff discharges required of the oil and gas industry generally under the Safe Drinking Water Act;

Whereas serious questions have been raised regarding the effects of these injected agents, runoff into streams and rivers, and the possible changing of the environmental structure of the shale itself deep within the earth; and

Whereas on December 8, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns of polluting based on its findings that groundwater in an aquifer in Wyoming contained “compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior to require companies undertaking this process to provide full disclosure to the appropriate governmental authorities of all materials used before, during and after the hydraulic fracturing process.  This includes levels and concentrations of toxicity, without exceptions for ‘trade secrets’, and assuring that all contracts with landowners clearly include this information;

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on Congress to remove the industry exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act;

Be it further resolved that the members of the Rabbinical Assembly participate in educational programs both in the Jewish and the general communities about the potential benefits and risks of hydraulic fracturing;

Be it further resolved that the permitting process for hydraulic fracturing require gathering, analyzing and publicizing all data related to this process so that the industry can demonstrate its good stewardship; and

Be it further resolved that financial guarantees be required of industry to cover costs of governmental regulation, clean-up, conservation and restoration of depleted sites.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, May, 2012