The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released draft regulations covering the use of diesel fuels injected underground during hydraulic fracturing or fracking to get natural gas and oil. EPA said it was attempting to clarify how companies can comply with a law passed by Congress in 2005 regulating diesel fuel if it is used as a fracking fluid.
The law is controversial because in pay-to-play Washington, Congress exempted most fracking fluids from the regulation of fluids injected into the ground required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In environmental circles, this became known as the Halliburton loophole. Then U.S. vice-president Richard Cheney ran Halliburton – the biggest fracking services company in the country – before he was elected, of course.
The draft guidance outlines requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, technical recommendations for permitting those wells, and a description of diesel fuels for EPA underground injection control permitting.
Virtually all natural gas extraction today uses fracking, where potentially dangerous chemicals are mixed with large quantities of water and sand and injected into wells at extremely high pressure. Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
States regulate fracking, and the rules vary widely. According to a Congressional Research Service report dated 10 April 2012, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Issues,” numerous states are reviewing or have revised their oil and gas rules to address the increased use of fracking. Right now, EPA is performing a long-term study on fracking and how it may impact drinking water, but it will never be released before the 2012 election, I’m betting.
There are fracking bills pending in a Congress awash with special interest money. House of Representatives bill H.R. 1084 and Senate bill S.587 would allow the EPA to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but it faces fierce opposition from the industry. Senate bill S.2248 and House of Representatives bill H.R. 4322 would make states the only authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands within state boundaries.
More information: http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/hydraulic-fracturing.cfm