In oil and gas country around the U.S., use of a technique called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is on the rise to extract hard-to-reach fossil fuel resources. EPA describes fracking as a process in which “(f)luids, commonly made up of water and chemical additives, are pumped into a geologic formation at high pressure during hydraulic fracturing. When the pressure exceeds the rock strength, the fluids open or enlarge fractures that can extend several hundred feet away from the well. After the fractures are created, a propping agent is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing when the pumping pressure is released. After fracturing is completed, the internal pressure of the geologic formation cause the injected fracturing fluids to rise to the surface where it may be stored in tanks or pits prior to disposal or recycling. Recovered fracturing fluids are referred to as flowback. Disposal options for flowback include discharge into surface water or underground injection.”
Fracking has been the subject of a lot of controversy recently, stimulated in part by the movie Gasland, which reports on fracking across the country, including a case where “(a) recently drilled … Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire.”
This controversy hasn’t stopped the state of North Dakota from joining forces with the American Petroleum Institute to resist EPA regulation of fracking. (Why isn’t fracking regulated under, say, the Safe Drinking Water Act? Because industry got fracking exempted from SDWA as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.)
Go to the home page for the State of North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Oil & Gas Division, and you’ll find an action alert posted encouraging you to tell EPA that you “support increased oil and natural gas production – and the use of hydraulic fracturing: a time-tested, safe process….”
Click on the “TAKE ACTION NOW” link and you’ll leave the state government site and arrive at the Energy Citizens website, which acknowledges that it is “supported by the American Petroleum Institute.” (A recent Huffington Post piece links to an alleged leaked memo about API’s astroturf strategy and Energy Citizens.) The Energy Citizens site tells you how safe fracking is and provides links to submit comments to EPA, “spread the word” and “share your views.”
If you click on the fracking action link, you find a page all about the wonders and safety of hydraulic fracturing.
The safety claims are exaggerated, to say the least. For decades industry has resisted revealing the chemical makeup of its fracturing liquids, arguing that the formulas are trade secrets. Recent disclosures by EPA reveal that fracking liquids include some of the most toxic substances known to humankind.
The form to submit comments to EPA provides the following language:
“I am writing today to submit the following comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for official consideration as the Agency moves forward with its study of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on groundwater.
I recognize and respect the mission of the EPA, and believe that government, industry, and citizens should work together to safeguard the environment.
Protecting the environment, however, should not lead to the creation of regulatory burdens or restrictions that have no valid scientific basis.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely and successfully for more than six decades to extract natural gas from shale and coal deposits. In this time, there have been no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination caused by the hydraulic fracturing process.
Given this track record, I do not believe the EPA has any valid reason to restrict the use of hydraulic fracturing. In whatever way the EPA proceeds with its proposed study, it would not be appropriate to place limits on hydraulic fracturing based on potential outcomes. There is too much at stake for both our economy and our nation’s energy security.
Thank you for your consideration of my views. I look forward to seeing how the EPA proceeds on this matter.”
If you’d like to share your views directly with EPA, you can write to Administrator Lisa Jackson at this address:
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460