There’s really no surprise here, but New West is reporting that H.R. 2766, the bill to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Safe Drinking Water Act, sponsored by Representative Diana DeGette, D-Colorado “probably won’t see a vote this year, either. She tells New West that fracking will see more studies before it sees more regulation”.
The Bugle has covered this subject before. Hydraulic Fracturing is the process by which oil and gas companies inject prodigious amounts of water and sand, spiked with lots of toxic chemicals, into production wells under extreme pressure to break up a geologic formation to release gases which can then be pumped to the surface along with some of the injected fluid. 40% of the fracturing fluid remains in the ground after the product is removed where it can make it’s way into drinking water supplies. Even though the bill has been introduced before, the oil and gas industry came out this time with all lobbyists blazing to stop the legislation.
In 2005, hydraulic fracturing was exempted from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act on the basis of a fuzzy study by EPA that concluded that there was no danger to drinking water from the process. The industry contends that there has never been a case of contamination by fracking, which of course is a big fat untruth. See here and here and here, among many other incidents. EPA’s own scientists disagreed with the findings, but oil and gas had powerful advocates in Dubya and Dick Cheney (former CEO of Halliburton, one of the worst offenders). The energy task force headed by Cheney also pushed the benefits of fracking while ignoring the science and recommending the exemption. At hearings on a similar bill in 2008 by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Dr. Theo Colborn, a Ph D. in zoology and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a non-profit group that focuses on health problems from low-dose chemical exposures, said,
“The toxic chemicals are employed for fracturing operations and are added to alter the underground strata to allow methane to escape up the well pipe. We have identified 171 products used in Colorado containing altogether 245 different chemicals, 92 percent of which have adverse health effects.”
Since the ingredients don’t legally have to be revealed by the companies, it is almost impossible to determine where chemical pollutant contamination came from or whether they were the result of drilling operations and that’s the way the companies want to keep it.
Nine of ten oil and gas wells drilled in the U.S. use the fracturing process. Halliburton makes about $1.5 billion a year from fracking. Each company claims that their own witches brew of chemicals is regarded as a trade secret and to reveal the contents would harm their competitiveness. The oil and gas industry lobbyists have come out screaming and hollering that federal regulation would mean the end of the profitible practice and would likely destroy the entire industry. They say that state regulation is sufficient. The truth however is slightly different,
“Currently Alabama is the ONLY state in the US with special provisions to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The other states do not have specific fracturing rules; they rely on general drilling rules – casing, logs, pressure monitoring, waste disposal, etc. – to indirectly cover hydraulic fracturing.”
The current legislation seeks merely to require companies to reveal the toxic chemicals in their fracturing fluid to regulators so they know what they are dealing with, not the exact recipe, just the specific bad stuff in case there is a problem. The short bill also would require companies to let medical personnel know what kinds of chemicals a patient might have been exposed to when there is a medical emergency. To not do so, might mean that a few people will die, but it’s the industry contention that it’s a small price to pay to save the entire oil and gas industry from embarassment and maybe a few more lawsuits.