Vermont has become the first state to ban a controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Governor Peter Shumlin signed the ban into law on Wednesday. He said the ban was needed, even though Vermont doesn’t have much of the shale rock targeted by energy companies for natural gas extraction.
"One of the biggest challenges that future generations are going to face is clean, drinkable water," Shumlin said. "We have an abundance of it in Vermont. I think it’s a great message that we’re going to protect it at all costs."
Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into the ground to split rock apart and release natural gas or oil.
Environmentalists point to water pollution and health problems experienced in other states where fracking is widespread. The executive director of Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Paul Burns, said "It is helpful to give a boost to citizens and organizations and policy makers in other states to see that one state has gone first, and that’s oftentimes what it takes in order for other states to follow. So I think Vermont is demonstrating real leadership today and that could have a positive impact elsewhere," Burns said.
America’s Natural Gas Alliance criticized the law as poor public policy. And the American Petroleum Institute said hydraulic fracturing is safe and that the ban ignored sound science, and the need for domestic energy production.