On August 23rd, Mayor Bloomberg and George Mitchell, the designer of hydraulic fracturing for nature gas, announced in an op-ed article in the Washington Post that through their foundations they are supporting research to make fracking safe. A day later the New York Times reported that Bloomberg Philanthropies was giving $6 million to the Environmental Defense Fund to get stronger regulations in the states that now allow fracking. Mitchell's foundation is contributing $1.6 million.

Bloomberg successfully opposed fracking in the New York City watershed and has opposed fracking in the Delaware River Basin. His turnabout seems to be based at least in part on his strong opposition to coal buring power plants and the air pollution they have caused in the northeast. In the Post article, Bloomberg and Mitchell cite for reasons for their support:

  • The new supply of natural gas through fracking should reduce the price of energy to consumers:
  • It should spur industrial job growth by lowering energy costs;
  • It will reduce dependence on coal, which should improve air quality and fight climate change; and
  • It allows renewable energy to be integrated more easily into the electric grid.

The article calls for five principles for sensible fracking:

  • Full disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process;
  • Better regulation of well construction and operation;
  • Minimal water consumption, protection of groundwater, and safe disposal of flowback;
  • Improved air pollution controls by stopping the leaks of methane to the atmosphere; and
  • Reduced impacts on roads, ecosystems and communities.

EDF has been active on fracking for some time. The five principles announced by Bloomberg are already being advanced by EDF in their fracking critique, Getting It Right. EDF has a history of stepping up to work with industry. Memorably, in 1990 EDF worked with McDonald's to find a way to reduce the solid waste produced by their restaurants, including elimination of the polystyrene "clamshell" package for hamburgers. One can only hope their work here will bring safer operations to states already authorizing fracking and cause those not yet fracking to wait for improved regulations and policies. Unfortunately, the more they succeed, the less competitive become alternative energy sources.