The recent boom in natural gas production has piqued the interest of oil and gas companies looking to explore the potential profitability of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in new areas nationwide. Northwest Georgia is one area of interest and SELC Senior Attorney Kurt Ebersbach joined the debate on Atlanta’s NPR station this week to discuss what it could mean if this emerging industry officially moves into the Peach State.
The lack of protective regulations around fracking activities is a primary concern, as new techniques and developing technologies make horizontal drilling a feasible way for companies to extract natural gas from shale. In the past, this type of rock was too brittle and the gas was too widely dispersed for it to be a profitable mining technique. Now that fracking is becoming more of a common industry practice, both private companies and nearby communities are experiencing the effects of these activities.
Fracking can adversely impact rivers, streams, groundwater, drinking water supplies, rural landscapes, farms, forests, and air quality. Many states are grappling with these implications, including North Carolina, where regulations are still under discussion. The amount of water required for fracking is a particular concern in Georgia, which is facing a decades-long water dispute with Florida and Alabama. Florida claims Georgia is overusing water in the tri-state river systems that span the three states and introducing fracking would undoubtedly increase Georgia’s water withdrawals.
For now, low market prices have quelled drilling demand but industry interest around fracking in Georgia could heat up if the price of natural gas rises.
“Before that happens, it’s very important for there to be an appropriate regulatory structure in place that’s protective of local communities and the environment,” Ebersbach told WABE.