Washington is no hotbed for fracking and some lawmakers want to keep it that way. They’ve proposed a 10-year moratorium on the controversial technique, something Oregon lawmakers also recently tried.
Right now, there are no fracking wells in Washington — or Oregon. Some Washington state senators want to study the practice of hydraulic fracturing before any new natural gas or oil reserves are discovered.
“I think if there was a discovery of a potential deposit of gas where fracking could be used – I think it’s a lot harder to have that measured, cautious approach at that point,” said Andy Billig, D-Spokane, at an Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks committee hearing.
Hydraulic fracturing is used to access hard-to-reach oil and gas in shale and coal bed methane formations. It involves injecting liquid into a rock formation using high pressure, creating a fissure in the rock. The liquid is typically mixed with sand and other chemicals. That mixture keeps the fissures open and allows the oil or gas to permeate the rock.
In other states with large oil and gas reserves, fracking opponents have complained of contaminated well water and frequent earthquakes, induced by the technique. The industry, meanwhile, has disputed those claims.
So, Washington lawmakers are proposing a 10-year ban on fracking. The Washington Department of Natural Resources would deliver a recommendation on the practice in five years. The department and conservation groups supported the legislation at the committee hearing. A petroleum association opposed the bill. A similar proposal failed in the Oregon state Legislature last year.