A coalition of 48 House lawmakers led by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have fired off a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing their support for the department's plans to require public disclosure of the chemicals that producers use in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process for development of shale gas.
The political coalition's letter comes as industry groups already are constructing an online registry of chemicals used in fracking and providing information for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study of fracking.
"As oil and natural gas development expands across many regions of our country, the use of hydraulic fracturing is growing as well, bringing drilling operations closer and closer to communities and sources of drinking water," the congressmen said.
"The process of developing natural gas by injecting a mixture of chemicals, water and sand into underground rock formations has resulted in complaints from neighboring communities that their water supplies have become contaminated." Hinchey and DeGette have been at the forefront of congressional efforts to regulate fracking at the federal level.
In late November, Salazar signaled that the department was weighing how it would move forward with a policy requiring producers to disclose the fluids associated with fracking on public lands (see Daily GPI, Dec. 1, 2010). Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees 250 million acres, which contains 11% of the nation's natural gas supply. Approximately 90% of the wells currently drilled on public lands are stimulated by the fracking technique, according to BLM.
In the meantime, however, the industry has been proactive in disclosing chemicals and setting up an online registry of chemicals (see Shale Daily, Jan. 5). Gas producers have already begun disclosing the components of their fracking fluids, while the major national and regional fracking service providers have agreed to submit "timely and complete information" to help the EPA conduct its study on fracking and its impact on drinking water quality (see Shale Daily, Dec. 16, 2010; Nov. 3, 2010).
The Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure Registry and Education website (http://www.hydraulicfracturingdisclosure.org/) is currently under construction. It is hosted by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
"Wherever hydraulic fracturing occurs, public lands or off, we must ensure that the appropriate oversight is in place so we can tell if and when dangerous chemicals are being used, endangering water sources and the public's health," Polis noted.
Last July, the House Natural Resources Committee defeated an attempt to pass a law requiring oil and gas operators to publicly disclose the chemicals used during fracking on public land. With Republicans now in control of the House, it's unlikely that Democratic legislation calling for disclosure of fracking fluids will fare any better this year.