Overflow Crowds of Concerned Residents Attend EPA Public Meetings across the Country
Thousands of Americans are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a comprehensive study of the environmental and health threats of natural gas fracturing. Pollution from this drilling technique – commonly known as fracking – has been the focus of three heavily attended public meetings in Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania this summer. The final meetings, next week in Binghamton, N.Y., drew so much interest that the EPA was initially forced to reschedule them.
“Natural gas companies should welcome additional scrutiny and embrace regulation that will protect public health and the environment,” said Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton. “Indeed some of them have already called for greater disclosure. EPA’s proposed scope of study is a good first step but it can and should go much further. This hydraulic fracturing study must be fully funded to allow an in-depth analysis of the data. We also need changes in federal and state regulations requiring this industry to protect our air, water, and communities.”
Fracking involves the high pressure injection of enormous amounts of water, sand and chemicals into drilling sites to force gas deposits to the surface. Estimates vary, but anywhere from 30% to 85% of fracking fluids remain underground and could potentially harm underground water resources. Most wells are fracked several times over the life of the well. The EPA should also study threats to geological formations from drilling and fracking to identify ground fractures that have the potential to carry fracking fluids to domestic drinking water supplies.
“Oil and gas drilling is spreading across the American landscape with little regulation, putting our air, water and health at risk,” says Gwen Lachelt, Director of EARTHWORKS’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “This industry is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and most other environmental laws. Hopefully this new EPA study will provide a scientifically reliable, independent analysis of the impacts of fracking.”
Improperly sealed drilling wells can also contaminate groundwater. The industry claims that less than 1 percent of fracking fluids are comprised of chemical agents but EARTHWORKS’ research shows that companies can use as much as 40 tons of chemicals for every million gallons of water used in fracking. There are no requirements at the federal level to compel industry to disclose what chemicals it is injecting into the ground, although just this week the EPA announced that it is asking natural gas companies to voluntarily disclose this information.
The EPA proposes to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential drinking water pollution. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board — an independent, external federal advisory committee — recently recommended that EPA’s study look at the entire life cycle of fracturing operations.
Oil and gas is produced in 34 states from an estimated 800,000 wells, according to the Energy Information Agency. Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil and gas producers are also exempted from part of the Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governing hazardous waste, the federal Superfund law, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (which requires companies to report their toxic releases), and part of the Clean Air Act. These exemptions threaten the air, water and health of communities affected by natural gas.
The final public meetings on the proposed EPA study are today and September 15, 2010 in Binghamton, NY, in the heart of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. For more information on these meetings, contact Roger Downs at email@example.com or Nadia Steinzor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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