More and more of our electricity is being generated by natural gas as an abundance of it floods the market, making it competitive with coal. Utilities are attracted to natural gas as an inexpensive, lower-carbon fuel source that provides an economically viable option for addressing climate change concerns.
However, although gas does burn cleaner than coal, its extraction and transportation presents a new set of serious environmental and public health concerns. Fracking, a method of natural gas extraction, requires massive amounts of sand, water and chemicals to carry out. What’s more, it regularly leads to contaminated drinking water supplies, leaving huge environmental scars in communities throughout the country. In many states, there are no laws governing this increasingly popular practice, despite the energy industry already investing billions of dollars to lease mineral rights and build test wells.
Separately, natural gas still presents an air and climate pollution concern where the unfiltered, cheap gas is burned – or, flared – off into the atmosphere as a byproduct of oil extraction. This is an increasing concern in North Dakota’s Bakken region, which has experienced a huge oil boom since 2006.
What is ELPC Doing?
ELPC is working on natural gas issues in two areas – fracking and flaring.
ELPC helped design, advance and enact one of the most stringent fracking laws in the nation, adopted in Illinois in 2013. While fracking, like all forms of energy extraction, can never be completely safe, ELPC believes that this standard will go a long way to prevent water pollution, demand industry transparency and protect public health in Illinois as well as provide a model for similar legislation in other states. Read more about Illinois fracking law.
But a law is only as good as its enforcement. Fracking industry interests are deeply invested in Illinois and working hard to undermine the law through the rulemaking and implementation period. That’s why ELPC’s dedicated advocacy is essential to realizing the original intent of the fracking standard. Our advocates are analyzing draft implementation rules, working with the regulatory agency to improve those rules, coordinating with allies to hold our ground against powerful forces, and communicating with the public about the importance of participating in this process. As a regional organization, ELPC’s experience in Illinois will be critical to fracking protections throughout the Midwest.
Flaring – burning natural gas that escapes from the ground when extracting oil – is wasteful economically and harmful environmentally. ELPC is working with a diverse group of allies in North Dakota to advocate for capturing that natural gas, rather than burning it off. That will create new sources of revenue for energy companies, create new jobs, and prevent air pollution that contributes to climate change and public health concerns.