Tighter Restrictions for Fracking Operations on Public Lands

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/20/obama-administration-tightens-rules-on-oil-and-gas-fracking/

This article talks about the Obama administration placing tighter restrictions on fracking being done on public land, in hopes to lower the risk of water contamination.

I liked this article because I think the writer did a nice job of being unbiased and pragmatic in his reporting. He successfully reports on the concerns and opinions of members from all groups involved in the practice – the Bureau of Land Management, an industry group, and an environmental activist group. Further, the writer provides relevant quotes to accompany each statement made by group members.

In terms of the structure of the article, there wasn’t much of a lede or anything that really painted a picture for the reader. Perhaps it was a hard topic for which to find an interesting scene, given that it was about policy. However, a picture of an oil field at the top of the article is a nice alternative. Otherwise, I thought the article was nicely organized with a nut graph, several quotes, and well-written kicker.

Fracking is something that has been talked about a lot. This article’s angle works as something new because of the new policy surrounding the practice. Further, reading through this article made me think of some potential stories about fracking from a new angle. For example, the writer mentions that while about 90,000 oil and gas wells are currently operating on public and tribal lands, at least four times as many fracking operations occur on private and state land. This is something I never knew and thought about. I think it could be interesting to write a piece about the distribution of public and private oil and gas wells in the United States, while examining the differences in their practices.

What were your general thoughts on this article? Do you see any new potential stories regarding fracking?

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2 Responses to “Tighter Restrictions for Fracking Operations on Public Lands”

  1. I agree, for the most part that this article had an unbiased and balanced reporting. I really liked the quotes from both sides that add context to both sides arguments. However, I wish there was more background information on why this issue is so controversial. It broadly talks about the problems of fracking but I think it would have made more of a “why now” impact if it cited more specific stats, like how much wells leak, more about the pools of contaminated water left behind and stuff like that.

    They also grossly understated the reasoning behind wanting to know what was injected into the wells by saying, “the liquid injected into fracking wells consists mainly of water and sand, with small amounts of other substances that can range from coffee grinds to acids and salts.” I know there are MANY credible sources that cite the problem with fracking fluid is that there are hundreds of chemicals, not “small amounts of other substances.”

    So I guess maybe the article could even be too unbiased. In my eyes, it’s easy to follow the arguments that pro-frackers have against the regulations but unless you know some background about the extent of fracking outside of what this article provided, the anti-fracking case comes off real weak. By adding more context to the claims made, this article could have made more of an impact.

  2. I agree that this article was objective and to the point, clearly stating what Obama’s goals were with quotes from his administration. The article also examines reaction to the rules– and both sides were understandably not happy. The quotes did a very good job of putting the issue in context for me, but I think that, as Nicholas said, there definitely could have been more hard statistics on the impact of fracking, in both its impact on the environment as well as the economy. I am somewhat confused on what Nicholas said about being “too unbiased”, which I don’t think is possible. I do think, however, that if the environmental agencies involved had provided some statistics it would’ve made their case sound a lot more compelling. It is a well written article that does not sap with emotion, but rather simply gets out information on Obama’s new policy.

    As far as new angles, as Rae said, the most interesting part is the private vs. public wells. I think it would be interesting to see an article done on how the government can influence private fracking, and how regulators of private drill sites are taking steps to follow suit on the government’s new policy.

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