House Democrats have called on the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize “long overdue guidance” expeditiously for oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities using diesel fuel, and to reject any industry efforts to weaken or delay it.

“Diesel fuel is toxic and should not be used in fracking without careful environmental review under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA),” wrote Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), ranking member of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in a letter Friday to OMB Director Sylvia Burwell.

Congress in 2005 passed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct), which exempts fracking fluids (with the exception of diesel fuel fluids) from federal regulation. The oil and gas industry is the only industry exempted from the SDWA.

The EPAct reflected the “limited information available to Congress at the time, which suggested that diesel fuel was the primary constituent of concern in hydraulic fracturing fluids,” Waxman and DeGette said.

The lack of guidance from the Obama administration has created questions about the application of the law, they said. “Seven years passed before EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) issued draft guidance for the permitting of hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuels [see Shale Daily,May 7, 2012]. Sixteen more months passed before EPA sent the guidance to OMB for review…Industry [in the meantime] has taken advantage of the lack of clarity,” the House lawmakers said.

“Recent data appear to indicate that the oil and gas industry continues to use hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel. Data from FracFocus, the industry-run voluntary registry of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, shows that oil and gas companies reported using products containing three different kinds of diesel fuel in wells in four states in 2013. The number of wells in each state was small and the reported amounts were not large, but FracFocus is not a comprehensive database of all hydraulically fractured wells,” according to the lawmakers.