Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

House Lawmakers, Director Put Focus on Hydrofracking

The Gasland documentary film continues to dog the footsteps of the natural gas industry (see Shale Daily, Feb. 16). The film's director Josh Fox and actor-turned-activist Mark Ruffalo flanked Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) Thursday as they announced plans to reintroduce legislation to regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) at the federal level.

The House legislation, which was first introduced in 2009, would require oil and natural gas producers to disclose to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the chemicals they use in the hydrofracking process to produce (see Daily GPI, June 10, 2009). The Safe Drinking Water Water Act exempts oil and gas producers from federal restrictions on hydrofracking. Disclosure of hydrofracking chemicals currently is required at the state level, but not all states enforce this.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) was not at the briefing, but "she absolutely still is a co-sponsor of [the] FRAC Act and is supportive of that legislation," said DeGette spokesman Peter Baumann. The bill is formally known as the Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or FRAC Act for short.

The EPA is studying the potential risks of hydrofracking on water quality and public health. Environmentalists and some lawmakers contend that the chemicals used in hydrofracking are a health risk, but producers say they are confident that the study -- if conducted objectively -- will show hydrofracking to be safe (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010).

"If hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why is the industry afraid of letting the EPA make sure? If the chemicals they are using aren't seeping into people's drinking water, why is the industry so afraid of a requirement that they tell us what they are injection into the ground?" Hinchey asked.

"The natural gas community has stepped forward and pledged its support for public disclosure of the chemical components used in the hydraulic fracturing process. This is a new and positive development since this legislation was last introduced," said Daniel Whitten, vice president for strategic communications for America's Natural Gas Alliance, which represents gas exploration and production companies.

"With regard to the increasingly extreme claims being made by activist Josh Fox, the notion that natural gas production is not regulated is patently false. Federal, state and local regulations cover everything from initial permits to well construction to water protection. His continuing denial of the veracity of forensic water testing done by state regulators and the [EPA] is an affront to anyone who believes sound science should remain at the center of our energy and environment policy conversations as a nation," he said.

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