Together with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA School of Law invites the public to a forum that will convene
leading thinkers and key stakeholders for a candid discussion on how the
best available science can help communities make informed decisions on
hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") amidst the current expansion in
drilling for shale oil and gas across the United States.
The event is one of a series of Forums organized by the Center for Science and Democracy
to address constraints on the roles of science, evidence-based
decision-making and constructive debate in American public discourse and
The forum will convene leading thinkers from academia, industry,
government, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups to delve
into some of the most complex challenges around fracking, centered on
the following themes:
• the current state of the science and knowledge gaps;
• the current policy and regulatory landscape; and
• public access to information and civic engagement.
Join us in person or via webcast for a half-day event where leading
experts will address these three themes, answer your questions, and
invite your ideas on how communities can make more informed
Working group sessions on each of the three themes will precede the
public event on July 24-25. The discussions will also be critical in
shaping the forum's primary product, a toolkit that empowers concerned
citizens and policy makers by providing practical advice and resources
on critical questions to ask when faced with fracking-related decisions,
reliable sources of information on fracking impacts, and ways to
influence fracking decisions.
See the full program, speaker bios, and working group participants.
Hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")
involves drilling a well into shale formations deep underground and
injecting millions of gallons of water, chemicals, and sand under high
pressure to break open fissures in the rocks and release oil and natural
gas. Recent advances in horizontal drilling and fracking techniques
have dramatically changed the American energy landscape. Fracking makes
it easier to reach previously inaccessible oil and natural gas reserves,
leading to a rapid expansion in domestic oil and gas production.
As public attention to fracking has
increased significantly over the past few years, policy decisions and
public discussions throughout the country have become impassioned and
polarized. Opinions, rhetoric, and approaches to decision making on
fracking at both the local and national level are extremely diverse.
While some states and towns are restricting fracking as they determine
how to proceed, others are allowing development at an exponential pace.
In many cases, fracking projects are moving forward without sufficient
consideration or availability of robust and independent scientific
information and data. Many people believe that better information and
stronger regulations are needed to understand and reduce the potential
environmental and public health risks of fracking.
In policy debates, we hear much
discussion about the immense potential for cheaper energy production.
Some also perceive the growth in natural gas production as positive news
for mitigating climate change, since burning natural gas produces fewer
global warming emissions than coal and oil. However, the drilling and
extraction of natural gas from wells, and its transportation in
pipelines, results in the leakage of methane—a far more potent
heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide. Methane losses must be kept below
2-3 percent for natural gas power plants to have lower lifecycle
emissions than coal and below one percent and 1.6 percent if burning
natural gas in a vehicle is to deliver even marginal benefits compared
to diesel fuel and gasoline.
Fracking is also being used to extract
oil from unconventional sources such as shale formations, which
requires a higher number of drilling wells per barrel of crude oil as
compared to conventional oil extraction, leading to potentially higher
lifecycle emissions for shale oil extraction. Moreover, indirect impacts
of fracking operations, including the largely unknown composition of
fracking fluid, the fate and disposal of waste fluid, high levels of
fresh water use, industrialization of rural landscapes, increased
traffic and air pollution, and the impacts of mining the sand needed for
fracking, have raised public health, environmental, and economic
A stronger role for independent
science to inform public dialogue and decision making on fracking is
essential for communities to responsibly approach this complex issue.