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Water Issues: Fracking a Violation of Safe Drinking Water Act!

February 1, 2011

I have written on this subject since seeing the film, Gasland, about the unsafe practice of ‘fracking’ which is used to extract natural gas at the expense of fresh water. I am thrilled at this minor victory. Now we need to get these companies to actually stop what they are doing.

Representative Henry A. Waxman of California and two other Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in the letter. “This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

NY Times reports today:

Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.

The diesel fuel was used by drillers as part of a contentious process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives — including diesel fuel — into rock formations deep underground. The process, which has opened up vast new deposits of natural gas to drilling, creates and props open fissures in the rock to ease the release of oil and gas.

But concerns have been growing over the potential for fracking chemicals — particularly those found in diesel fuel — to contaminate underground sources of drinking water.

“We learned that no oil and gas service companies have sought — and no state and federal regulators have issued — permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California and two other Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in the letter. “This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

Oil and gas companies acknowledged using diesel fuel in their fracking fluids, but they rejected the House Democrats’ assertion that it was illegal. They said that the E.P.A. had never properly developed rules and procedures to regulate the use of diesel in fracking, despite a clear grant of authority from Congress over the issue.

“Everyone understands that E.P.A. is at least interested in regulating fracking,” said Matt Armstrong, a lawyer with the Washington firm Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents several oil and gas companies. “Whether the E.P.A. has the chutzpah to try to impose retroactive liability for use of diesel in fracking, well, everyone is in a wait-and-see mode. I suspect it will have a significant fight on its hands if it tried it do that.”

Regardless of the legal outcome, the Waxman findings are certain to intensify an already contentious debate among legislators, natural gas companies and environmentalists over the safety of oil and gas development in general, and fracking in particular.

Entire article, click here

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