EPA Is Bashed Over Fracking

PITTSBURGH – At least one Pennsylvania congressman will not support the FRAC Act this year, as Republican Bill Shuster said federal officials will stop natural gas drilling if they can.

Referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Shuster said, “If the EPA can regulate fracking, they will come in here and shut everything down.”

Shuster made his comments at the Marcellus Midstream Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh this week. The convention drew natural gas drillers, pipeline builders and other related business representatives from as far away as Utah, Colorado, Texas and Norway.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., have reintroduced the bill formally known as the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or FRAC Act. Similar legislation that calls for the EPA to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, failed to pass in the last Congress.

The bill would:

  • Require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking, but not the proprietary chemical formula. This would be similar to how a soft drink producer must reveal the ingredients of their product, but not the specific formula.
  • Repeal a provision added to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting the industry from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some anti-fracking advocates have commonly referred to this 2005 provision as the “Halliburton Loophole.”
  • Provide power to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require drillers to have an employee, knowledgeable in responding to emergency situations, present at the well at all times during the exploration or drilling phase.

Shuster said drilling regulations should be left up to the individual states. Furthermore, he not only opposes the FRAC Act, but said, “Bureaucrats in the Army Corps of Engineers are now trying to regulate the natural gas industry.”

“We won’t stand for it,” he said of the corps’ work.

“If the public pushback on this industry is strong, you are going to see regulations you don’t like,” Shuster warned the gas industry leaders.

Shuster, however, said he appreciates the concerns of Pennsylvania residents regarding gas activity, noting, “The coal companies came through here and destroyed our land and left behind acid mine drainage. People are very suspicious of energy production in Pennsylvania.”

However, Shuster thanked the gas industry leaders for their commitments because he believes the business can “reinvigorate Pennsylvania.”

As for the potential fracking regulations, officials with Chesapeake Energy said about 99.5 percent of the 5.6 million gallons of fluid used to hydraulically fracture one of their typical Marcellus Shale natural gas well consists of water and sand.

According to Chesapeake, the company’s most common fracking solution contains 0.5 percent worth of chemicals. These include:

  • hydrochloric acid – found in swimming pool cleaner, and used to help crack the rock;
  • ethylene glycol – found in antifreeze, and used to prevent scale deposits in the pipe;
  • isopropanol – found in deodorant, and used to reduce surface tension;
  • glutaraldehyde – found in disinfectant, and used to eliminate bacteria;
  • petroleum distillate – found in cosmetics, and used to minimize friction;
  • guar gum – found in common household products, and used to suspend the sand;
  • ammonium persulfate – found in hair coloring, and used to delay the breakdown of guar gum;
  • formamide – found in pharmaceuticals, and used to prevent corrosion of the well casing;
  • borate salts – found in laundry detergent, and used to maintain fluid viscosity under high temperatures;
  • citric acid – found in soft drinks, and used to prevent precipitation of metal;
  • potassium chloride – found in medicine and salt substitutes, and used to prevent fluid from interacting with soil;
  • sodium or potassium carbonate – found in laundry detergent, and used to balance acidic substances.