Monday, November 9, 2009

Natural gas quest: EPA to review safety of fracking process

By Tom Wilber •
November 6, 2009, 8:45 pm

The safety of fracking -- a controversial process to stimulate natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale -- will be re-evaluated by the Obama administration. A bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week urges the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use a "transparent, peer-reviewed process" to determine whether the fracking process has contaminated water supplies and degraded land around drilling sites.


The Marcellus, the nation's largest natural gas reserve, runs under the [New York's] Southern Tier and throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, arose from skepticism about a 2004 federal study under the Bush Administration showing hydraulic fracturing -- fracking for short -- poses no threat to water supplies or public health.

The 2004 EPA study was based on data "selectively collected from sources with a vested interest in the oil and gas industry while other relevant information was ignored," Hinchey said. He added the new look at the process "will put us in a position to take any further steps that are necessary to protect our drinking water supplies from the chemical concoctions being pumped into the ground by energy companies."

Obama signed the bill calling for the EPA to revisit the issue "using the best available science, as well as independent sources of information."

The EPA is already looking into drinking water contamination possibly associated with fracking operations, said Enesta Jones, a spokeswoman for the EPA.

The agency will use the information "to determine what steps need to be taken to protect underground sources of drinking water within the limits of its authority," she added.

Federal regulations do not apply to fracking.
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