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FRAC Act Wouldn't Impact Pennsylvania, Official Says

A congressional push to increase regulations on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) would have little impact on Pennsylvania, according to a regional director of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

"The fact is even if enacted, we don't believe that the FRAC Act will change regulation in Pennsylvania at all," George Jugovic Jr., director of the DEP Southwest Regional Office, told an audience in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) reintroduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or FRAC Act, earlier this month. The bill would repeal an exemption for hydrofracking in the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and would require companies to disclose the chemicals they use during the hydrofracking process (see Shale Daily, March 17).

Jugovic told attendees at the Marcellus Shale Gas Environmental Summit that existing regulations in Pennsylvania already address both issues.

The federal SWDA allows states to create programs for protecting drinking water supplies and "Pennsylvania already achieves what's sought to be achieved by the federal FRAC Act. We already require cementing and casing to protect underground drinking water sources," he said (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19, 2010).

Pennsylvania also already requires companies to report the chemicals they use for hydrofracking by percent volume, Jugovic said. The FRAC Act would require companies to disclose a list of chemicals used for hydrofracking, but not the "proprietary chemical formulas" of those additives unless the information is needed to respond to a medical emergency.

Jugovic also doesn't expect the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ongoing studying of the potential impact of hydrofracking on drinking water supplies to result in any major changes for the state (see Shale Daily, Feb. 9).

In 2004, before the exemption to hydrofracking in the SWDA went into effect, the EPA studied the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on coalbed methane reservoirs, shallower resources located closer to drinking water supplies.

"EPA concluded in that study that there was little or no risk of contamination of drinking water supplies across the United States from the operation of hydraulic fracturing," Jugovic said.

Many critics of natural gas development, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, challenged the methodology and results of that study and welcomed news that the EPA would once again be studying the impacts of hydrofracking.

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