Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin [official website] signed into law on Thursday a bill [H 464 materials] outlawing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking [JURIST news archive], making Vermont the first US state to ban the controversial technique used to extract natural gas from the ground. Fracking is the process of injecting a high pressured mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break through rock and release oil and natural gas. Most major oil companies [CNN report], including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, employ this technique to obtain shale oil and gas. Proponents of fracking say that the practice could reduce US dependency on foreign oil by increasing energy production. At the moment there is no drilling [AP report] taking place in Vermont, and there is no evidence of a reserve of oil or gas in the state. Shumlin stated that:
This bill will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy. It is a big moment. I hope other states will follow us. The science on fracking is uncertain at best. Let the other states be the guinea pigs. Let the Green Mountain State preserve its clean water, its lakes, its rivers and its quality of life.Those opposed to fracking worry that the practice may cause mild earthquakes and the chemicals used may pollute the groundwater.
Fracking has been a contentious issue both in the US and abroad. In January the New Jersey Legislature passed an amendment to a bill [JURIST report] that establishes a one-year ban on fracking. Legislators re-introduced the bill this year after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed legislation last June that would have permanently banned fracking in New Jersey [JURIST report]. In October the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] announced plans to develop standards [JURIST report] for wastewater discharge from fracking. Last June New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the US government [JURIST report] for its alleged failure to study the risks of fracking. In May 2011 France's lower house approved a nationwide ban on fracking [JURIST report].