Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp on the Benefits and Risks of Fracking

Fracking, the controversial drilling method of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth, was on trial at the Environment Forum, as Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp took to the stage to advocate for fracking’s potential utility and for tighter regulation of the natural gas industry.

Methane leaks contaminating water supply was a central issue in the debate over the environmental risk fracking poses. “The environmental implications of natural gas extraction are real, and they are largely not being addressed properly,” Krupp said. “The industry is in denial and hiding behind the idea that the fractures aren’t causing water contamination."

But Krupp said that with the right regulations, the environmental benefits of shale gas could be harnessed without the risks. “We get a lot of climate benefit out of natural gas only if we can reduce the leak rate of methane to 1% of less,” he said. To achieve this rate, Krupp stressed the necessity of laws that force adherence to environmental best practices, and was hopeful that the industry would go so far as to advocate for these laws themselves. “There are companies that use natural gas who understand that their license to operate is in jeopardy because of the erosion of public trust,” he said. “My hope is that we will see companies begin to come forward and say that the bar needs to be raised in a mandatory legal way.”

The conversation will continue at the Institute’s Ideas Festival, with a debate on the benefits and demerits of fracking.