By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director
As experts on the Safe Drinking Water Act, we weren’t at all thrilled when Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the law back in 2005. EPA’s draft policy around fracking operations that use diesel addresses the only “exemption in that exemption” and because of that is very important. We’ve seen since then that drinking water impacts are one of the biggest areas of concern with this type of oil and gas drilling and the exemption needs to be reversed.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) “… except when diesel fuel is used”. So there’s only one way in which the SDWA can come into play in “fracking” operations and that’s where diesel is used. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deserves support for its draft guidance for how to protect underground sources of drinking water when diesel is injected during fracturing.
Even though the industry told Congress that it barely used diesel anymore, a 2011 Congressional investigation found that drilling service companies injected over 30 million gallons of diesel underground during hydraulic fracturing between 2005 and 2009.
I really like one of the findings of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board’s Shale Gas Production Subcommittee. This panel had a pretty diverse membership, including some with an interest in the growth and success of the natural gas industry. Their 90 Day Report said:
Reduction in the use of diesel fuel: The Subcommittee believes there is no technical or economic reason to use diesel in shale gas production and recommends reducing the use of diesel engines for surface power in favor of natural gas engines or electricity where available.
EPA’s draft guidance instructs permitters in the states on how to handle permits for fracking wells where diesel is used. EPA needs to hear from the public on this proposal during the 60 day comment period. Tell the EPA we want the strongest protections possible to keep benzene and other toxic chemicals in diesel out of drinking water.