UCLA School of Law > Centers and Programs > Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment > Events

Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking

A Lewis M. Branscomb Forum

Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking
Date/Time :7/25/2013 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Location :Grand Horizon Room Salon A, Covel Commons, UCLA
Website :http://www.ucsusa.org/center-for-science-and-democracy/events/community-decisions-on-fracking.html?autologin=true
Address :306 Covell Commons, 200 De Neve Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095
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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 public policy.


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 fracking-related decisions.

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 questions.
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.