Oil and Gas Companies Illegally Using Diesel in Fracking

By Adam Federman, Earth Island Journal

Posted on February 1, 2011

The 2005 Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act famously exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. But it made one small exception: diesel fuel. The Policy Act states that the term “underground injection,” as it relates to the Safe Drinking Water Act, “excludes the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities [italics added by author].” But a congressional investigation has found that oil and gas service companies used tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel in fracking operations between 2005 and 2009, thus violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. Hydraulic fracturing is a method of drilling that injects large volumes of water, chemicals, and sand underground at high pressure to break open rock formations and release stores of natural gas. In some cases, however, water based fluids are less effective and diesel fuel or other hydrocarbons may be used.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the congressional committee noted that between 2005 and 2009, “oil and gas service companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states.” None of the companies sought or received permits to do so. “This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” the letter states. “It also means that the companies injecting diesel fuel have not performed the environmental reviews required by the law.”

Moreover, because the necessary environmental reviews were circumvented, the companies were unable to provide data on whether they had used diesel in fracking operations in or near underground sources of drinking water. Diesel fuel contains a number of toxic constituents including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

In the last few years, shale gas extraction has increased exponentially, raising fears that drinking water wells and underground aquifers may be at risk. It has become a particularly sensitive issue in the northeast’s Marcellus Shale, which underlies parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Later this month the Delaware River Basin Commission will hold public hearings on drilling in the watershed—a source of drinking water for more than 15 million people.

The EPA is currently conducting its own study of the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies due out in late 2012. But will companies that have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2005 be held accountable?

Matt Armstrong, a lawyer with the Washington firm Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents several oil and gas companies, told the New York Times, “Everyone understands that E.P.A. is at least interested in regulating fracking.” But: “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.”

To read this article online, click here:

http://www.alternet.org/story/149760/oil_and_gas_companies_illegally_using_diesel_in_fracking_

To read the New York Times coverage of this issue, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/business/energy-environment/01gas.html

To read the Energy policy Act, click here: http://www.epa.gov/oust/fedlaws/publ_109-058.pdf

To read the letter from the Congressional Committee to EPA Administrator Jackson, click here: http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/waxman-markey-and-degette-investigation-finds-continued-use-of-diesel-in-hydraulic-fracturing-f

NOTE: The letter states, “In 2003, EPA signed a memorandum of agreement with the three largest providers of hydraulic fracturing to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in coalbed methane formations in underground sources of drinking water. Two years later, Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act except when the fracturing fluids contain diesel. As a result, many assumed that the industry stopped using diesel fuel altogether in hydraulic fracturing…

According to EPA, any company that performs hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel must receive a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. 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…

In a 2004 report, EPA stated that the ‘use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids poses the greatest threat’ to underground sources of drinking water….

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which contained a provision addressing the application of Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to hydraulic fracturing. Congress modified the definition of ‘underground injection to exclude’ ‘the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas… The effect of this law is to exempt hydraulic fracturing from the underground injection control (UIC) permit requirements unless the fluid being injected is diesel fuel. As EPA states on its website: While the SDWA specifically excludes hydraulic fracturing from UIC regulation … the use of diesel fuel during hydraulic fracturing is still regulated by the UIC program. Any service company that performs hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel must receive prior authorization from the UIC program….

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Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

The following is a blog – a personal perspective –  on visiting Dimock, PA and seeing for the first time gas drilling’s impact on that area. After taking the last couple of weekends to travel around PA to see this sort of thing for myself I know how scary and powerful it can be. This blog is well done and I wanted to share it with all of you. Thanks for the link Anne!

Visiting Dimock, Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

Kate Sinding
Senior Attorney, New York City
Posted April 15, 2010 in Curbing Pollution

Like so many who have been following controversial gas drilling issues in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale region (the geological formation that stretches from West Virginia to upstate New York), I have been hearing and reading about, and seeing images of, Dimock, PA for the past roughly year-and-a-half.  For those not in the know, Dimock has become the unfortunate poster child for all that can go wrong when industrial gas drilling in the Marcellus isn’t adequately regulated and companies make mistakes.  Residents have experienced the wide array of adverse effects associated with shale gas production – many of them, it should be noted, inherent in the activity even under the best of circumstances. These impacts include: exploding water wells, contaminated water supplies necessitating daily fresh water deliveries (complete with home invasion in order to accept the regular deliveries), rural landscapes utterly transformed into industrial zones, constant diesel fumes, 24-hour-a-day traffic and noise that literally shakes the walls of homes.

I finally had the opportunity to visit Dimock in person earlier this week.  This is the first of a series of posts that I’ll file giving some of my impressions.  I’m doing this not because I have something new or unique to offer, but because the experience so affected me.  And the people who invited me into their homes deserve to have their stories told. I have been working on the Marcellus Shale gas drilling issue for about two-and-a-half years, but as much as I have read, listened to stories, seen photos and video footage and talked about the potential adverse impacts, nothing can compare to seeing, hearing and smelling them live….

Only when you’re standing in the front yard of someone’s dream home – which was once surrounded only by their residential neighbors and farms – and see, hear, smell and feel the vibrations of the incessant truck traffic that passes at all hours of the day and night can you truly understand how transformative it is when gas production arrives in a community.  Only when you hear the constant industrial noise from every direction as new well pads are cleared, well bores drilled and then fracked – noise that likewise exists around the clock – can you comprehend how those whose lives have already been turned upside down by drilling gone wrong can never escape the constant auditory reminders.  And only when you stand in the backyard of a family who moved to the beautiful Dimock countryside after their last home burned to the ground and see the well pads to both their immediate left and right does it become clear that – even if everything had gone “right” – this family now lives in an industrial zone….

Visiting  Dimock, Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

To read the full blog, see photos and read others’ reactions to the blog, click here:

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ksinding/visiting_dimock_seeing_gas_dri.html

Health Effects of Water Contamination from Fracking

World-Renowned Scientist Dr. Theo Colborn on the Health Effects of Water Contamination from Fracking

Coburn

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun a review of how the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can affect drinking water quality. We speak to Dr. Theo Colborn, the president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange and one of the foremost experts on the health and environmental effects of the toxic chemicals used in fracking.

To listen to the webcast or read the transcript of the program, click here:

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/4/14/world_renowned_scientist_dr_theo_colborn#

What PA residents think of Range Resources

Here is some excellent video of the meeting with range Resources that took place in Washington County, PA today. Thanks txSharon!

http://txsharon.blogspot.com/2010/04/7-videos-what-pa-residents-thinks-of.html

Just a few Faces in Frackland

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in this struggle to get the real story about drilling for natural gas into the eyes and ears of the residents in the areas where this is happening. For this reason I decided to take a larger step in getting closer to the truth.

This past weekend I took a trip to Washington County, PA to visit some of the folks in Hickory. This is the site of some of the very first hydro-fracked wells that existed in PA.After all, some of these wells went in back in 2005 so it seems that by this point they should all be millionaires living the good life, the economy should be well on the upturn with plenty of jobs…..at least this is what the gas industry keep telling us will be.

I have to say that isn’t quite how it’s gone down for the residents there.

I met with Ron Gulla who lost his 141 acre farm due to water pollution and dirty drilling practices by Range Resources.  Terry Greenwood and his wife are also farmers who have lost at least 7 cows due to contaminated pond and spring water. They are wondering when they might get sick too. Terry’s royalties are just enough to cover the cost of him meeting with his lawyer for 1 hour per month! He stuck in a perpetual lease signed in 1921.

Hickory Pa stinks…literally! Would you like to know what the smell of toluene, benzene, butane, ethane, propane and other NGL’s (natural gas liquids) smell like? Do you know what it’s like to go out your backdoor and walk 30 feet to the top of the ridge and get hit in the face with a blast of this stuff coming from a compressor station less than a mile from your house? Stephanie Hallowich sure does. After spending about 20 minutes in her yard I felt sick to my stomach and had a headache. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to live there!

Wayne and Angel smith live near Clearville, PA and they’ve lost livestock as well as beloved pets due to contaminated drinking water. Both Angel and her husband Wayne are sick themselves. They’ve spent over $10,000.00 on a system to treat their water which they also use to water livestock. They hope this system is working on their water problems but what’s going to clean the air that is full of contaminates from a nearby gas storage facility? Both Spectra Energy and the DEP have been called out many times to test and view these issues and each time they have turned a blind eye to the problems in this valley.

For more information on any of these people and their stories please click on their names.

In the future you will be able to find all their faces at http://pafaces.wordpress.com/

We will post a new face and new story each day. If you have a situation that you want others to hear about please contact me through a comment on this blog or directly from the site below.

http://pafaces.wordpress.com/

My Turn by Joe Sestak

Pike County Courier > Opinion

MY TURN By Joe Sestak

Published: December 24, 2009

Caution required in gas drilling

I believe in the responsible development of Pennsylvania’s energy resources, including natural gas, as part of the transition to a cleaner, more renewable and more secure energy supply. In Pennsylvania alone, there are several hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas — enough to supply this country’s demand for decades to come. Natural gas can boost our economy and cut our dependence on foreign oil. And it also causes less than half the carbon emissions of coal, allowing us to reduce our impact on climate change in the near term.

Our abundant natural resources are a blessing for our Commonwealth. We should never have to sacrifice our health and safety, clean air and water, natural lands, and communities to companies seeking access to our natural wealth. Clear regulations and strict accountability for violators can protect us from abuse and carelessness. Reasonable fees can offset the cost of these protections and provide a sustainable investment in Pennsylvania.

Done improperly, drilling can seriously harm our health and safety, environment, and land values. It should be done only with clear and transparent reporting and strong oversight. That’s why I have written to the Secretary of DEP urging the Department to make its reports on the oversight of the drilling operations readily available to the public.

It’s also important that Pennsylvanians know that this drilling, called hydrofracking, falls under the so-called “Halliburtron Loophole” that was slipped into President Bush’s energy bill in 2005 and allows energy companies to ignore the rules of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. These protections exist for a reason. Fracking involves using huge amounts of water laced with chemicals, and it has already contaminated drinking water in seven counties across Pennsylvania. That’s why I co-sponsored the FRAC Act to close this loophole. I also helped pass legislation calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to look into threats this drilling method poses to our water supply.

Right now, the Pennsylvania legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection have the power and responsibility to protect the people of Pennsylvania from potential harmful effects of drilling. Wastewater regulations that have been proposed by DEP are a start, but much more needs to be done.

New regulations should not favor, by grandfathering, the use of older, less capable treatment processes at the expense of encouraging use of state of the art facilities. Regulations should cover all major components of fracking wastewater so that harmful substances don’t end up in our streams and rivers. Furthermore, the Commonwealth owes it to this, and future, generations to make sure drilling does not cause irreparable harm to our natural resources, especially our protected state lands.

I believe the state legislature and DEP must establish clear and effective regulation prior to further expansion of drilling in order to decide how best to protect our citizens and our natural resources. There is no doubt in my mind that if proper forces come to bare this can be done, and done quickly, so that we can move into a new era of economic prosperity for the Commonwealth while ensuring Pennsylvanians that their health and natural resources are adequately protected.

I am not convinced we currently have strong enough environmental, health, and property safeguards — and I am not satisfied that people will have the access to just compensation should even the best safeguards fail.

Let’s take a lesson from an earlier generation of energy development. Acid mine drainage is the legacy of abandoned coal mines. It has left 2,500 miles of deteriorated streams and 250,000 acres of contaminated land in Pennsylvania at an expense of $15 billion to clean up.

We have a real opportunity in Pennsylvania to benefit from the resources of Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas reserves on the planet. There is no reason to allow this bounty to ultimately turn out to be a net harm for our state and our families.

Let’s not cash in on our resources today in a way that causes disproportionate harm, brings little lasting benefit, and results in a greater cost in the future. This is our state, these are our resources. Let’s utilize them in a way that is best for all the people of Pennsylvania and the generations that follow.

Editor’s note: This statement was delivered by US Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak (D-7-PA) At an Environmental Quality Board Public Hearing on the Proposed Wastewater Treatment Requirements Regulations: