"Hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking" is a new natural gas extraction technnique that promises to revolutionize America's energy future. Until just a couple years ago gas reserves had been falling here and the country was on track to becoming a net importer. Almost overnight the new method has miraculously turned that around, and now reserves of this clean-burning fuel are projected to cover current consumption levels for as much as a century. This is truly fabulous news for our nation.
How disappointing then to see an amendment to flat-out ban the new technology getting 16 Democratic "yes" votes in a party-line vote in the state Senate last month. Since then, legislation has been introduced to subject "fracking" to onerous state regulations, but not to ban it. (Similar regulatory proposals are popping up elsewhere around the country, reportedly promoted in part by large drilling companies trying to drive out smaller competitors less able to negotiate the red tape.)
Party-line roll call votes often say more about a legislative body's intra-caucus discipline and inter-caucus rivalry than about the sincere policy preferences of lawmakers. In addition, Democrats hardly have a monopoly on loading burdensome new environmental regulations and mandates onto business and energy providers: Legislative Republicans have been leaders and willing co-conspirators in passing major regulatory expansions in the past few years.
Nevertheless, it is disappointing that not one savvy Democrat — including ones generally considered "moderate" rather than anti-business or anti-energy — recognized this outright ban proposal as extremist.
Look for a rash of additional natural gas drilling regulation proposals in the next legislature, including bipartisan ones.