In what appears to be a major, positive stride for environmental quality preservation, congressional investigators submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency charging that hydraulic fracturing — known as ‘fracking’ — violates the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Amassing data from a dozen states for the period 2005 – 2009, investigators assert that tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel were pumped into onshore wells as part of the fracking process which utilizes highly pressurized water, sand, and chemicals (like diesel) to fracture bedrock and release trapped oil and gas.
Investigators — including representative Henry Waxman of California — learned that no State or Federal permits were issued allowing for the use of diesel fuel and claimed that groundwater in these states has been put at risk.
Industry advocates counter that use of the industrial fuel is not illegal as the EPA never issued guidelines and/or procedures to regulate its use. They cite a “grant from Congress” during this time period that allowed fracking and, as expected, admit no liability for any potential contamination.
Such claims may be supported in future lawsuits against such companies (and those in other extraction businesses) as enforcement of the Clean Air and Water Acts (and other environmental laws) was virtually non-existent, or radically undermined, for most of the two terms of George Bush. A 2004 study on fracking found no evidence of leaking or contamination. At the time, critics claimed that the integrity of the findings were compromised by political pressure from the administration.
The EPA, as it starts to get its legs and muscle back, is finding itself limited and caught up with the anti-environmental legacy of that era. One thing is for sure, the battle over “home-grown” energy and profits verses clean and safe drinking water will be heating up in a big way.
One can easily foresee the industry claiming an “anti-business” bias, or a lack of concern for our “energy security”, on the part of the Obama administration — all because it’s suddenly now trying to enforce the laws that have been on the books for years, even decades.
Under the previous administration, Federal over-sight of public lands, waterways and other resources was quite lax. One prominent example of this was the Mineral Management Service which approved a one-page, British Petroleum application for deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that contained no risk management plan.
Environmentalists fear that the diesel fuel, which contains toluene, xylene and benzene (a known carcinogen), will escape the bore holes, or leak through the fractured rock, and seep out into the soil and possibly the water table.
Read the New York Times op-ed: Gas Drilling Technique Is Labeled Violation by Tom Zeller Jr.
Get more more information on Safe Drinking Water.