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In Louisiana, also last year, 16 cattle died after “apparently drinking from mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig,” according to the Shreveport Times. In 2008, in Hill County, Texas, three landowners found their pristine drinking water wells polluted with sulfates and toluene—a gasoline additive and solvent toxic to humans and animals. All three properties are adjacent to fracking wells, reports the Fort Worth Weekly.
The potential for harm from fracking is not yet known. The concern is that frack water, polluted with toxins, is left underground and could over the years rise through strata to contaminate groundwater. The problem, environmental advocates say, is that neither industry nor government has done any long-term studies. What is known is that aquifers once polluted are nearly impossible to clean up.
Other worries center around the millions of gallons of flowback water that do return to the surface at each well, which must be treated as hazardous waste because it contains toxic fracking chemicals, plus toxins leached from bedrock such as benzene and radioactive materials. Open pits, used to store wastewater, can leak into groundwater and also cause air pollution. Toxic wastewater either must be trucked to already overtaxed waste treatment plants for cleanup, or injected back underground.
(Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday it has issued a subpoena to Halliburton, demanding information about chemicals it uses in a natural gas drilling technique called "fracking."
In September, the EPA had asked nine companies that practice hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to reveal the mix of chemicals they use in the practice which is opposed by environmental groups worried about its effect on drinking water.
All but Halliburton provided the necessary information, the EPA said. Shale gas stirs energy hopes, environment concerns
The EPA says it needs the data on fracking fluids to complete its comprehensive study of the technique. During fracking, companies inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals as far as two miles underground to break open fissures in the gas-bearing shale.
The company also has faced renewed criticism over a provision in the 2005 energy law that prevents the EPA from regulating fracking. The exemption is commonly called the "Halliburton loophole," in reference to the company's pioneering role in fracking. An energy task force convened by former Vice President Dick Cheney, a onetime Halliburton CEO, had urged the EPA exemption.
According to the EPA, eight of the companies----BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford---complied with the information request or made "unconditional commitments to provide all the information on an expeditious schedule". Only Halliburton failed to provide the EPA with the information it requested.
"As part of the agency's effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided," the agency said in statement.
"We are disappointed by the EPA's decision today," Halliburton spokesperson Teresa Wong said in a statement. "Halliburton has been working in good faith in an effort to respond to EPA's September 2010 request for information on our hydraulic fracturing operations over a five-year period. "
Wong said the EPA request would have potentially required Halliburton to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets, and that Halliburton representatives have met with EPA personnel to help try to narrow the focus of their "unreasonable demands".
Halliburton has worked hard to keep the contents of its fracking fluids secret, but the campaign has become more difficult as environmental advocates and researchers push for full disclosure. But in Pennsylvania, a state that is undergoing a natural gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale rock formation, regulators appear willing to accept Halliburton's argument that it should be allowed to keep details about its chemicals secret in order to maintain its competitive advantage.
Fracking shoots millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals underground at high pressures to break rock and release natural gas. The process is currently exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as a result of assurances by the Bush-era EPA that fracking posed no harm to water supplies. In October 2009, after receiving reports of contamination near fracking sites and complaints that the agency's position was based on outdated and incomplete information, Congress ordered the EPA to conduct a comprehensive study of the technique.
MSDS forms contain general information about potentially hazardous substances in the workplace, including appropriate handling protocol and the possible risks of exposure. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that employers make these documents available to their employees.
But MSDSs exist only for substances that are known to the public and have been tested to determine their toxicity. If a company claims that a chemical or some other material is a trade secret, it can withhold the name and the "specific identification" of the chemical as long as the chemical's general effects are listed on the MSDS, according to an OSHA spokeswoman
Citing health and environmental concerns, the Pittsburgh, Pa., city council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban natural gas drilling within the city limits. It is the first such ban in a Pennsylvania city.
The 9-0 vote received a standing ovation
The Pittsburgh bill was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group.
"Commercial extraction of natural gas in the urban environment of Pittsburgh poses significant threat to the health, safety and welfare of residents and neighborhoods within the city," the ordinance said. "[Drilling] allows the deposition of toxins into the air, soil, water, environment and the bodies of residents."
In its Sunday, Nov. 6, business feature, The New York Times wrote about concerns some residents across the country have about pollution in their water supplies from natural gas drilling. The paper traveled to northeastern Pennsylvania, where more than a dozen residents' water has been fouled by the drilling process and the state is arranging to replace their drinking-water supply.
Scientists have tested the molecular composition of the methane found in Dimock and determined that it came from the Devonian layer of shale, thousands of feet below the surface. In geologic geek-speak, it's called "thermogenic," meaning it is essentially the same kind of gas that the energy companies are drilling for.
Residents in Dimock and across the country have found thermogenic gas in their water where drilling is taking place. Many people are blaming the invasive and controversial drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, and federal authorities are studying whether that process in particular is endangering water supplies in several states. But whether it was fracking or some other part of the drilling process -- the construction of the wells, for example -- there is little debate among regulators and scientists that the contamination in Dimock is related to the drilling.
Republican strategist Karl Rove recently told gas industry leaders during a conference in Pittsburgh that the newly elected GOP House will ensure that the U.S. EPA will not be able to regulate fracking. U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., during this congressional session, introduced the "Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act" - more commonly known as the FRAC Act - to allow the EPA to oversee the process.
The so-called "Halliburton Loophole," a provision inserted into the 2005 energy law passed by Congress, exempts fracking from regulation under the federal Clean Water Act. Currently, the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection are looking at ways they can help keep fracking in check.
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration may require companies drilling for natural gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals being used in a technique called hydraulic fracturing.
Officials are weighing the policy, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, calling hydraulic fracturing "a hot and very difficult issue" on public and private lands. Also known as "fracking," the process involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals underground to force open channels so natural gas will flow.
research the Wyoming drilling. I've never been able to pinpoint the closest drilling to Yellowstone.
I try not to obsess about fracking because it depresses the hell out of me
Originally posted by speculativeoptimist
Wow, this one slipped off the board in record time.
Don't mind the "bump" here.
I will add more as this story continues...
specedit on 16-11-2010 by speculativeoptimist because: (no reason given)