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….

CHESAPEAKE BAY PROTECTION AND RESTORATION

If you live in PA and are not aware of it…most of Eastern PA all the way up to New York is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary______________________________________________
For Immediate Release             May 12, 2009

EXECUTIVE ORDER- – – – – – –

CHESAPEAKE BAY PROTECTION AND RESTORATION

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America and in furtherance of the purposes of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), and other laws, and to protect and restore the health, heritage, natural resources, and social and economic value of the Nation’s largest estuarine ecosystem and the natural sustainability of its watershed, it is hereby ordered as follows:
PART 1 – PREAMBLE
The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure constituting the largest estuary in the United States and one of the largest and most biologically productive estuaries in the world. The Federal Government has nationally significant assets in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed in the form of public lands, facilities, military installations, parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and museums.
Despite significant efforts by Federal, State, and local governments and other interested parties, water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay prevents the attainment of existing State water quality standards and the “fishable and swimmable” goals of the Clean Water Act. At the current level and scope of pollution control within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed, restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is not expected for many years. The pollutants that are largely responsible for pollution of the Chesapeake Bay are nutrients, in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment. These pollutants come from many sources, including sewage treatment plants, city streets, development sites, agricultural operations, and deposition from the air onto the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the lands of the watershed.Restoration of the health of the Chesapeake Bay will require a renewed commitment to controlling pollution from all sources as well as protecting and restoring habitat and living resources, conserving lands, and improving management of natural resources, all of which contribute to improved water quality and ecosystem health. The Federal Government should lead this effort. Executive departments and agencies (agencies), working in collaboration, can use their expertise and resources to contribute significantly to improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Progress in restoring the Chesapeake Bay also

will depend on the support of State and local governments, the enterprise of the private sector, and the stewardship provided to the Chesapeake Bay by all the people who make this region their home.
PART 2 – SHARED FEDERAL LEADERSHIP, PLANNING, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sec. 201. Federal Leadership Committee. In order to begin a new era of shared Federal leadership with respect to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, a Federal Leadership Committee (Committee) for the Chesapeake Bay is established to oversee the development and coordination of programs and activities, including data management and reporting, of agencies participating in protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall manage the development of strategies and program plans for the watershed and ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay and oversee their implementation. The Committee shall be chaired by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the Administrator’s designee, and include senior representatives of the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Commerce (DOC), Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), the Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), and such other agencies as determined by the Committee. Representatives serving on the Committee shall be officers of the United States.
Sec. 202. Reports on Key Challenges to Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the agencies identified in this section as the lead agencies shall prepare and submit draft reports to the Committee making recommendations for accomplishing the following steps to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay:
(a) define the next generation of tools and actions to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and describe the changes to be made to regulations, programs, and policies to implement these actions;
(b) target resources to better protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters, including resources under the Food Security Act of 1985 as amended, the Clean Water Act, and other laws;
(c) strengthen storm water management practices at Federal facilities and on Federal lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and develop storm water best practices guidance;
(d) assess the impacts of a changing climate on the Chesapeake Bay and develop a strategy for adapting natural resource programs and public infrastructure to the impacts of a changing climate on water quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(e) expand public access to waters and open spaces of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from Federal lands and conserve landscapes and ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(f) strengthen scientific support for decisionmaking to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, including expanded environmental research and monitoring and observing systems; and
(g) develop focused and coordinated habitat and research activities that protect and restore living resources and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
The EPA shall be the lead agency for subsection (a) of this section and the development of the storm water best practices guide under subsection (c). The USDA shall be the lead agency for subsection (b). The DOD shall lead on storm water management practices at Federal facilities and on Federal lands under subsection (c). The DOI and the DOC shall share the lead on subsections (d), (f), and (g), and the DOI shall be lead on subsection (e). The lead agencies shall provide final reports to the Committee within 180 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 203. Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall prepare and publish a strategy for coordinated implementation of existing programs and projects to guide efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. The strategy shall, to the extent permitted by law:
(a) define environmental goals for the Chesapeake Bay and describe milestones for making progress toward attainment of these goals;
(b) identify key measureable indicators of environmental condition and changes that are critical to effective Federal leadership;
(c) describe the specific programs and strategies to be implemented, including the programs and strategies described in draft reports developed under section 202 of this order;
(d) identify the mechanisms that will assure that governmental and other activities, including data collection and distribution, are coordinated and effective, relying on existing mechanisms where appropriate; and
(e) describe a process for the implementation of adaptive management principles, including a periodic evaluation of protection and restoration activities.
The Committee shall review the draft reports submitted by lead agencies under section 202 of this order and, in consultation with relevant State agencies, suggest appropriate revisions to the agency that provided the draft report. It shall then integrate these reports into a coordinated strategy for restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay consistent with the requirements of this order. Together with the final reports prepared by the lead agencies, the draft strategy shall be published for public review and comment within 180 days of the date of this order and a final strategy shall be published within 1 year. To the extent practicable and authorized under their existing authorities, agencies may begin implementing core elements of restoration and protection programs and strategies,
in consultation with the Committee, as soon as possible and prior to release of a final strategy.
Sec. 204. Collaboration with State Partners. In preparing the reports under section 202 and the strategy under section 203, the lead agencies and the Committee shall consult extensively with the States of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Delaware and the District of Columbia. The goal of this consultation is to ensure that Federal actions to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay are closely coordinated with actions by State and local agencies in the watershed and that the resources, authorities, and expertise of Federal, State, and local agencies are used as efficiently as possible for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality and ecosystem and habitat health and viability.
Sec. 205. Annual Action Plan and Progress Report. Beginning in 2010, the Committee shall publish an annual Chesapeake Bay Action Plan (Action Plan) describing how Federal funding proposed in the President’s Budget will be used to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay during the upcoming fiscal year. This plan will be accompanied by an Annual Progress Report reviewing indicators of environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay, assessing implementation of the Action Plan during the preceding fiscal year, and recommending steps to improve progress in restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall consult with stakeholders (including relevant State agencies) and members of the public in developing the Action Plan and Annual Progress Report.
Sec. 206. Strengthen Accountability. The Committee, in collaboration with State agencies, shall ensure that an independent evaluator periodically reports to the Committee on progress toward meeting the goals of this order. The Committee shall ensure that all program evaluation reports, including data on practice or system implementation and maintenance funded through agency programs, as appropriate, are made available to the public by posting on a website maintained by the Chair of the Committee.
PART 3 – RESTORE CHESAPEAKE BAY WATER QUALITY
Sec. 301. Water Pollution Control Strategies. In preparing the report required by subsection 202(a) of this order, the Administrator of the EPA (Administrator) shall, after consulting with appropriate State agencies, examine how to make full use of its authorities under the Clean Water Act to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters and, as appropriate, shall consider revising any guidance and regulations. The Administrator shall identify pollution control strategies and actions authorized by the EPA’s existing authorities to restore the Chesapeake Bay that:
(a) establish a clear path to meeting, as expeditiously as practicable, water quality and environmental restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay;
(b) are based on sound science and reflect adaptive management principles;
(c) are performance oriented and publicly accountable;
(d) apply innovative and cost-effective pollution control measures;
(e) can be replicated in efforts to protect other bodies of water, where appropriate; and
(f) build on the strengths and expertise of Federal, State, and local governments, the private sector, and citizen organizations.
Sec. 302. Elements of EPA Reports. The strategies and actions identified by the Administrator of the EPA in preparing the report under subsection 202(a) shall include, to the extent permitted by law:
(a) using Clean Water Act tools, including strengthening existing permit programs and extending coverage where appropriate;
(b) establishing new, minimum standards of performance where appropriate, including:
(i) establishing a schedule for the implementation of key actions in cooperation with States, local governments, and others;
(ii) constructing watershed-based frameworks that assign pollution reduction responsibilities to pollution sources and maximize the reliability and cost-effectiveness of pollution reduction programs; and
(iii) implementing a compliance and enforcement strategy.
PART 4 – AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES TO PROTECT THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Sec. 401. In developing recommendations for focusing resources to protect the Chesapeake Bay in the report required by subsection 202(b) of this order, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, as appropriate, concentrate the USDA’s working lands and land retirement programs within priority watersheds in counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These programs should apply priority conservation practices that most efficiently reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay, as identified by USDA and EPA data and scientific analysis. The Secretary of Agriculture shall work with State agriculture and conservation agencies in developing the report.
PART 5 – REDUCE WATER POLLUTION FROM FEDERAL LANDS AND FACILITIES
Sec. 501. Agencies with land, facilities, or installation management responsibilities affecting ten or more acres within the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay shall, as expeditiously as practicable and to the extent permitted by law, implement land management practices to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its
tributary waters consistent with the report required by section 202 of this order and as described in guidance published by the EPA under section 502.
Sec. 502. The Administrator of the EPA shall, within 1 year of the date of this order and after consulting with the Committee and providing for public review and comment, publish guidance for Federal land management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed describing proven, cost-effective tools and practices that reduce water pollution, including practices that are available for use by Federal agencies.
PART 6 – PROTECT CHESAPEAKE BAY AS THE CLIMATE CHANGES
Sec. 601. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, organize and conduct research and scientific assessments to support development of the strategy to adapt to climate change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay watershed as required in section 202 of this order and to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay in future years. Such research should include assessment of:
(a) the impact of sea level rise on the aquatic ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay, including nutrient and sediment load contributions from stream banks and shorelines;
(b) the impacts of increasing temperature, acidity, and salinity levels of waters in the Chesapeake Bay;
(c) the impacts of changing rainfall levels and changes in rainfall intensity on water quality and aquatic life;
(d) potential impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and their habitats in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed; and
(e) potential impacts of more severe storms on Chesapeake Bay resources.
PART 7 – EXPAND PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND CONSERVE LANDSCAPES AND ECOSYSTEMS
Sec. 701. (a) Agencies participating in the Committee shall assist the Secretary of the Interior in development of the report addressing expanded public access to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and conservation of landscapes and ecosystems required in subsection 202(e) of this order by providing to the Secretary:
(i) a list and description of existing sites on agency lands and facilities where public access to the Chesapeake Bay or its tributary waters is offered;
(ii) a description of options for expanding public access at these agency sites;
(iii) a description of agency sites where new opportunities for public access might be provided;
(iv) a description of safety and national security issues related to expanded public access to Department of Defense installations;
(v) a description of landscapes and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that merit recognition for their historical, cultural, ecological, or scientific values; and
(vi) options for conserving these landscapes and ecosystems.
(b) In developing the report addressing expanded public access on agency lands to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and options for conserving landscapes and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay, as required in subsection 202(e) of this order, the Secretary of the Interior shall coordinate any recommendations with State and local agencies in the watershed and programs such as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.
PART 8 – MONITORING AND DECISION SUPPORT FOR ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
Sec. 801. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, organize and conduct their monitoring, research, and scientific assessments to support decisionmaking for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and to develop the report addressing strengthening environmental monitoring of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed required in section 202 of this order. This report will assess existing monitoring programs and gaps in data collection, and shall also include the following topics:
(a) the health of fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(b) factors affecting changes in water quality and habitat conditions; and
(c) using adaptive management to plan, monitor, evaluate, and adjust environmental management actions.
PART 9 – LIVING RESOURCES PROTECTION AND RESTORATION
Sec. 901. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, identify and prioritize critical living resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, conduct collaborative research and habitat protection activities that address expected outcomes for these species, and develop a report addressing these topics as required in section 202 of this order. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall coordinate agency activities related to living resources in estuarine waters to ensure maximum benefit to the Chesapeake Bay resources.
PART 10 – EXCEPTIONS
Sec. 1001. The heads of agencies may authorize exceptions to this order, in the following circumstances:
(a) during time of war or national emergency;
(b) when necessary for reasons of national security;
(c) during emergencies posing an unacceptable threat to human health or safety or to the marine environment and admitting of no other feasible solution; or
(d) in any case that constitutes a danger to human life or a real threat to vessels, aircraft, platforms, or other man-made structures at sea, such as cases of force majeure caused by stress of weather or other act of God.
PART 11 – GENERAL PROVISIONS
Sec. 1101. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to a department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary,
administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 12, 2009.

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#

Backlash to Natural Gas

The pictures did not carry through with this article but you get the idea by reading it. Our water supplies are at risk and hydraulic fracturing is too new a technology to really be sure what may or may not happen. (This is not news to many of us living in shale country) There is a lot of info and history laid out in this article and it is worth the time it takes to read it. Exxon (who now owns XTO Energy) has been lobbying in Washington this week because they do not want Congress changing the drilling regulations in regards to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

DRILLING TACTIC UNLEASHES  a TROVE of NATURAL GAS – AND a BACKLASH // WSJ 1/21/10

SHREVEPORT, La.—A mounting backlash against a technique used in natural-gas drilling is threatening to slow development of the huge gas fields that some hope will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and polluting coal.
The U.S. energy industry says there is enough untapped domestic natural gas to last a century—but getting to that gas requires injecting millions of gallons of water into the ground to crack open the dense rocks holding the deposits. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, has turned gas deposits in shale formations into an energy bonanza.

The industry’s success has triggered increasing debate over whether the drilling process could pollute freshwater supplies. Federal and state authorities are considering action that could regulate hydraulic fracturing, potentially making drilling less profitable and giving companies less reason to tap into this ample supply of natural gas.
Exxon Mobil Corp. placed itself squarely in the middle of the wrangling when it agreed last month to pay $29 billion for gas producer XTO Energy Inc., a fracturing pioneer. Wary of the rising outcry, Exxon negotiated the right to back out of its deal if Congress passes a law to make hydraulic fracturing illegal or “commercially impracticable.”
On Wednesday, Exxon Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson faced questions about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing at a Capitol Hill hearing on the merger.
“We can now find and produce unconventional natural-gas supplies miles below the surface in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner,” Mr. Tillerson told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Criticism of hydraulic fracturing was muted at the hearing, with most representatives focusing on the potential benefits of increased gas use. But the merger has given drilling opponents a new target.
“It puts Exxon at front and center of this whole issue,” said Michael Passoff, associate director of As You Sow, an environmental-minded investment group.
Even before the Exxon-XTO deal, the controversy over hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking” or “fracing,” was growing.
Oilmen were injecting water into wells to free up valuable oil and gas as far back as the 1940s. But in the past decade the technique has really taken off. First in East Texas and in the outskirts of Fort Worth, companies began pumping water under enormous pressure to see if they could break open dense shale-rock formations to release gas.

These initial efforts were largely welcomed by communities, with homeowners and landlords often receiving lucrative checks for the mineral rights that allowed companies to drill on their land.
When early efforts succeeded, the companies began running bigger fracturing jobs, using more water and higher pressure—and in turn searching for even more gas-bearing shale deposits.
This took the gas industry into places where drilling was less common in modern times, including downtown Fort Worth, northeastern Pennsylvania and within the city limits of Shreveport, La.
Hydraulic fracturing and some other technology improvements have created a way to tap a domestic fuel source that has proved abundant. U.S. natural-gas production has risen about 20% since 2005 in large part because of these developments, making gas a much bigger player in energy-policy planning.
Natural gas heats more than half of U.S. homes and generates a fifth of America’s electricity, far less than coal, which provides the U.S. with nearly half its power. The industry and its allies are promoting natural gas a bridge fuel to help wean the U.S. off coal, which emits more global-warming gases, and imported oil until renewable fuels are able to meet the demand.
What most worries environmentalists isn’t the water in the fracturing process—it’s the chemicals mixed in the water to reduce friction, kill bacteria and prevent mineral buildup. The chemicals make up less than 1% of the overall solution, but some are hazardous in low concentrations.
Today, the industry estimates that 90% of all new gas wells are fractured. Shale—a dense, nonporous gas-bearing rock—won’t release its gas unless it is cracked open, and other types of formations also produce more gas when fractured. Easier, more porous formations, which don’t require fracturing, were tapped in earlier decades and have largely dried up.
As the industry has honed its techniques, hydraulic-fracturing operations have become more complex, requiring far more water and chemicals—millions of gallons per well, rather than tens or hundreds of thousands of gallons in the past.
Environmentalists and some community activists fear hydraulic fracturing could contaminate drinking-water supplies. They point to recent incidents that they say are linked to fracturing, including a water-well explosion in Dimock, Pa., and a chemical spill here in Shreveport.
The industry says fracturing is safe and argues that there have been only a handful of incidents among the millions of wells that have been fractured over the past 50 years. “Hydraulic fracturing has been used since the 1940s in more than one million wells in the United States. It’s safe and effective,” says Exxon spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman.
Even if the industry can make its case, it still must deal with the public-relations and political fallout from some of the questionable incidents.
On a recent Friday morning, a crew from Cudd Energy Services worked to fracture a Chesapeake Energy Corp. well in Caddo Parish, La., the heart of the Haynesville Shale gas field. While cattle chewed grass in a field across the street, a team of Chesapeake and Cudd employees monitored computer readouts as 21 diesel-powered pumps forced nearly 3,800 gallons of water a minute down a well that reached two miles into the earth.
It is a process Chesapeake says it has learned how to do both efficiently and safely. “We’ve done it 10,000 times in the company’s history without incident,” said Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a separate interview.
But in a coffee shop in nearby Shreveport, Caddo Parish Commissioner Matthew Linn said he had concerns after more than a dozen cows died during a Chesapeake Energy fracturing operation last year. A preliminary investigation linked the deaths to chemicals that spilled off the well site into a nearby pasture. A Chesapeake spokesman says the company compensated the cattle’s owner and has taken steps to prevent a similar incident in the future.
“I’m all for drilling, and I want to get the gas out from underneath us,” Mr. Linn said. “But at the same time, how do you balance human life and quality of life and clean water against that?”
Natural-gas companies say what’s at work is fear of the new. “When you introduce something like hydraulic fracturing in a part of the country that hasn’t had any experience with it, I think it’s natural for there to be questions about the procedure,” says Mr. McClendon.
Regardless, the industry faces a real prospect of tightened rules that could make it harder, or impractical, to use hydraulic fracturing. In June, congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would regulate fracturing at the federal level for the first time. The bills remain in committee. In October, the house formally asked the Environmental Protection Agency to study the risks posed by fracturing.
Several states, including Colorado, Pennsylvania and New York, have either passed or are considering tightening regulations on fracturing and related activities. Members of the House of Representatives pushing for new legislation argue that federal oversight is needed to protect water supplies because state regulations vary widely.
The industry worries that new regulations would hurt the thin margins on many gas wells and cut the financial incentive to tap the U.S.’s vast supply of gas. “There is an anticipation that more federal oversight would add enough costs to make it uneconomical, even it wasn’t outright prohibited,” said Gary Adams, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP’s oil and gas consulting division.
Already, the growing concerns about the practice are causing some companies to rethink where they drill. Chesapeake last fall publicly abandoned plans to drill in the watershed that provides New York City with its drinking water after opposition from city officials and others who feared a spill could contaminate the water. Talisman Energy Inc. is shifting its drilling effort away from New York as well.
There have been attempts to regulate fracturing before. The 1974 Safe Water Drinking Act regulated wells that injected liquids underground. The federal courts ruled the law covered fracturing in a 1990s lawsuit from Alabama. But the technique was exempted from federal oversight in the 2005 Energy Bill.
Some argue there is little really known about whether fracturing poses a genuine risk to water supplies. Hannah Wiseman, a visiting law professor at the University of Texas, Austin, says tighter regulation may be warranted. “There just isn’t enough information out there right now about the effects,” she said.
Some of the potential threats are clearer than others, however. Gas-bearing shale formations typically lie a mile or more below the surface, with thousands of feet of nonporous rock separating them from even the deepest freshwater aquifers.
Most people agree that means that if a fracturing job is done correctly, it would be virtually impossible for water or chemicals to seep upward into drinking water supplies.
The industry argues that there has never been a proven case of water contamination caused by fracturing. But regulators have tied multiple incidents to oil and gas drilling more generally. Environmental groups point out that wells aren’t always constructed properly. Moreover, they say, storage ponds that hold chemical-laced water after fracturing is complete can overflow, and trucks carrying chemicals can crash.
A poorly sealed well is the alleged cause of gas escaping into an underground aquifer in Dimock, Pa. Gas also built up in one resident’s water well, causing an explosion in January 2009.
The company that drilled the wells, Cabot Oil & Gas, paid a $120,000 fine to settle the matter with the state, but has denied responsibility for the contamination and says fracturing couldn’t have been the cause.
“I could never sell this house now,” said Dimock resident Craig Sautner, who now has drinking water shipped to him by Cabot. “Our pristine water that we used to have? It’s done.”
Whether it is the act of fracturing itself or the risk of contamination from related activities is somewhat beside the point, says Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that has raised concerns about fracturing. “Ultimately it’s semantics. Somebody’s water got contaminated,” she says.
Still, for Exxon, the hearings this week presented an opportunity to highlight its investment in developing U.S. energy supplies and creating jobs. Most of its investments in recent years have been overseas. And Exxon executives usually face congressional grilling only when oil and gasoline prices skyrocket.
“This should probably be a very pleasant change of pace for Exxon Mobil because it’s not going to be an argument about high oil and gasoline prices,” says William Hederman, an energy analyst with Washington research firm Concept Capital.

—Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.

Frack Act-Act Now!!!!

Congressman Carney has publicly stated that he isn’t ready to commit his vote to the Frack Act, but he might be willing to get off that fence to vote in favor if enough people – in and out of his district – tell him he should. Please consider sending him a message that he should vote for the Frack Act, which among other things will force the makers of the toxic chemical blends used to frack wells to disclose their specific recipes. This information can be critical to first responders treating those exposed to the frack fluids.

You can click on this link to get to his site: http://carney.house.gov/contact.shtml

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: