If Wyoming Can, Then So Can Everywhere Else

10/08/2010 12:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

Frank Sinatra once said that if he could make it in New York, he could make it anywhere. Thanks to new drilling rules that I examine in my new newspaper column, environmentalists can now say the same about Wyoming.

To review: Wyoming is as politically red and pro-fossil fuel a place as exists in America. Nicknamed the "Cowboy State" for its hostility to authority, the square swath of rangeland most recently made headlines when its tax department temporarily suspended levies at gun shows for fear of inciting an armed insurrection. The derrick-scarred home of oilman Dick Cheney, the state emits more carbon emissions per capita than any other, and is as close as our country gets to an industry-owned energy colony.

So, to put it mildly, Wyoming is not known for its activist government or its embrace of green policies.

But that changed last month when Wyoming officials enacted first-in-the-nation regulations forcing energy companies to disclose the compounds they use in a drilling technique called "fracking."

From an ecological standpoint, fracking is inherently risky. Looking to pulverize gas-trapping subterranean rock, drillers inject poisonous solvents into the ground -- and often right near groundwater supplies. That raises the prospect of toxins leaking into drinking water -- a frightening possibility that prompted Wyoming's regulatory move. Indeed, state officials acted after learning that various local water sources were contaminated by carcinogens linked to fracking.

While the Wyoming examples may seem of little concern to those living outside of Flyover Country, they are more like canaries in the national coal mine -- or gas well, as it were -- canaries potentially coming to a watershed near you. Today, 800,000 wells, many of which involve fracking, are being plumbed in a total of 34 states. That means fracking is now everywhere.

Read the full newspaper column here.