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Frack Friends and Foes Blast Energy Department

August 17, 2011
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Fracking advocates and opponents found ways to criticize the regulatory recommendations laid out by the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.

"The committee's recommendations are deficient in large part because the committee failed to adequately acknowledge existing programs and rules," said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute. "We urge the committee to revise its recommendations to better reflect the facts on hydraulic fracturing, the extensive regulations under which the industry operates, and the industry's new best practices."

However, a statement from the consumer advocacy group, Food and Water Watch, said the recommendations would not impose enough regulation.

Article Photos

Photo by Casey Junkins
Concerned residents address the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board during a recent meeting in Washington, Pa.

"We know that industry has gone to great lengths to influence local governments, and even greater lengths to avoid culpability at a national level. Why should we let the industry police itself while leaving localities to fight for themselves?" the statement notes.

The board met earlier this year in Washington, Pa., during which time members got earfuls of complaints from those who believe fracking can contaminate drinking water wells.

Fracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process that follows that actual drilling process. Fracking calls for gas companies to pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep within the earth to create fissures within the Marcellus or Utica shales, thereby releasing the natural gas.

Many drillers now post the contents of their fracking solutions online, noting about 99.5 percent of the solution consists of water and sand. However, some of the 85 chemicals listed by the Pennsylvania DEP as having been used in some fracking jobs throughout the state include xylene and toluene.

Information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates prolonged exposure to xylene can lead to liver and kidney damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that exposure to toluene can cause confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache, dilated pupils, crying, anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, liver damage and kidney damage.

Gerard believes the proposed fracking and other environmental regulations go too far.

"The industry is committed to appropriate environmental protections and industry best practices, but is concerned that the subcommittee's recommendations could end up frustrating the many benefits that will come from further development of America's vast supply of natural gas, including the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs and increasing our nation's energy security. We urge the committee to revise its recommendations to better reflect the facts on hydraulic fracturing, the extensive regulations under which the industry operates, and the industry's new best practices."

According to the report, measures should be taken to reduce emissions on air pollutants and methane as quickly as possible. It recommends the "design and rapid implementation of measurement systems to collect comprehensive methane and other air emissions data from shale gas operations."

The information also recommends that drillers measure and publicly report the composition of water stocks and flow throughout the fracking process.

"Agencies should review and modernize their rules to ensure they are fully protective of both groundwater and surface water. The findings also recommend additional field studies on methane leakage from (fracked) wells to water reservoirs," the report states.

 
 

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