MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont's passage of a bill that bans hydraulic fracturing pleased environmentalists.
But the Green Mountain State, which became the first to enact such legislation, may have set itself up for future battles with environmentalists as Vermont continues to be highly dependent on nuclear energy.
"This is a big deal," said Gov. Peter Shumlin when he signed into law the bill that outlaws "fracking" on May 17. "We don't know that we don't have natural gas in Vermont. This bill will ensure that we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy."
Fracking is a process in which fractures in rocks below the earth's surface are opened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure to extract natural gas or oil.
The process has been a boon for American energy supplies in recent years, having revitalized not only the economies of states such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania but it has furnished Americans with cheap energy.
Shumlin, a Democrat, said that fracking contaminates groundwater and the science behind it is "uncertain at best." He said he wants other states to follow his lead.
While Shumlin warns about the "desperate pursuit of energy," he neglected to say that his state gets about three-fourths of the electricity generated within Vermont from nuclear power, a greater percentage than any other state.
Environmentalists - like the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) which praised the governor for signing the fracking ban bill - have called for the closing of a nuclear power plant in Vermont.
Uprisings against fracking are occurring in other parts of the country. In Dish, Texas, residents say fracking causes a variety of ailments.
But, as a May 16 National Public Radio report indicated, "...scientists say it's just not clear whether pollutants from gas wells are hurting people in Dish or anywhere else. What is clear, they say, is that the evidence the town has presented so far doesn't have much scientific heft."
In Dimrock, Penn., a town located near the state's Marcellus Shale fracking field, environmentalists and residents say their drinking water is polluted because of fracking.
But, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did extensive testing and found in March that the water was safe. Environmentalists accused EPA of misrepresenting data.
Dr. Kenneth Green, an environmental scientist and policy analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, opined that much of the controversy about fracking may have to do with money or ideology.
"The boom in shale-gas production threatens to overturn the rationale for many things held dear by different groups, ranging from environmentalists, to NIMBYists, to anti-fossil-fuelists, to anti-trade and anti-capitalists, and a lot of others," said
Because domestic supplies of oil and natural gas are at a peak, fracking is seen as a threat by fossil fuel opponents and others invested in alternate energy sources.
"Abundant shale gas undercuts the case for wind and solar power," he said.
"The oil that's being produced with it would undermine the case for things like vehicle electrification, and various fuel conservation efforts like mass-transit, compact development, etc. There must be a dozen independent agendas that are threatened by the new discoveries. I would expect innumerable challenges to the shale-gas boom for this reason alone."