Vermont Is First State To Ban Fracking

By Amir Khan on May 17, 2012 11:55 AM EDT

Natural Gas - Fracking
Three earthquakes that hit Dallas over the weekend were caused by past instances of hydraulic fracturing, according to Cliff Frohlich, associate director and senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. (Photo: WikiCommons)

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill banning the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on Wednesday, making it the first state in the country to do so.

Fracking is a method of extracting natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, from underground rocks. Proponents of natural gas say it could reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil since vast majority of it comes from within the country.

Workers use high-pressure fluids to create fractures in rocks such as sandstone and shale to allow natural gas to flow out. The injection of these high-pressure fluids, a combination of water, sand and proprietary chemicals, is suspected of causing earthquakes and contaminating ground water.

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"[The measure] will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy," Shumlin said, according to the Burlington Free Press. "One of the biggest challenges that future generations are going to face is clean, drinkable water. We have an abundance of it in Vermont. I think it's a great message that we're going to protect it at all costs."

The bill met little opposition, according to the Burlington Free Press, as Vermont does not currently have any fracking wells. However, Shumlin said he hopes other states follow Vermont's lead and ban fracking as well.

"I hope other states will follow us," he told the Wall Street Journal. "The science on fracking is uncertain at best."

The American Petroleum Institute said that the bill, called H.464, may be unconstitutional.

"We are informed that H. 464 may be subject to constitutional challenge under both the commerce clause and the supremacy clause," Rolf Hanson, senior director of state government relations for the American Petroleum Institute, said in the letter to Shumlin, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Michael Duane, an assistant attorney general, however, told the Free Press that it's unlikely the ban is ruled unconstitutional.

"Subject to judicial discretion and review, we believe that the risk of H.464 being found unconstitutional is low," he said.

New York currently has a moratorium on fracking and environmental groups have lobbied New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo to turn it into an outright ban.

Shumlin said signing the ban helps preserve clean drinking water for future generations.

"Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and without natural gas," he told the Wall Street Journal. "We have never known humanity or life on this plant to survive without clean water."

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