Posts Tagged ‘federal government’

Casey slips ‘fracking’ rules into energy bill

Published: July 29, 2010

A provision to require disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing Marcellus Shale to extract natural gas could wind up as part of the scaled-down national energy bill the U.S. Senate might consider soon.

Sen. Bob Casey said he convinced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fold disclosure provisions of his Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act into the energy bill.

“It’s a great breakthrough,” he said. “It’s a substantial step forward. … It gives people information they wouldn’t have otherwise about what’s happening underneath their property.”

Senate leaders are hoping to pass the bill before the summer recess Aug. 6, after realizing they did not have the votes to pass a more comprehensive energy bill. Even if the smaller energy bill gets through the Senate, the House would have to pass it before President Barack Obama can sign it. Neither is assured.

Industry groups said the fracturing chemicals are already well known to the public and state regulators, and further disclosure would harm the development of natural gas.

“We fundamentally believe that regulation of hydraulic fracturing is best addressed at the state level, and we have been unable to reach a consensus with congressional advocates on how this program would be overseen by the federal government,” America’s Natural Gas Alliance said in a statement.

Congress and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are studying whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of shale contaminate drinking water.

Energy In Depth, an industry group, argues regulation should be left to states, which “have effectively regulated hydraulic fracturing for over 40 years with no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination associated with (fracturing) activities.”

At public meetings on gas drilling, local residents regularly dispute the claim.

Though the industry argues the chemicals it uses are well known, a Times-Tribune investigation determined that DEP scientists who analyzed spilled fracturing chemicals at a Susquehanna County well site in September found 10 compounds never disclosed on the drilling contractor’s material safety data sheet.

None of the 10 was included in a state Department of Environmental Protection list of chemicals used in fracturing, a list developed by the industry. When DEP posted a new list earlier this month, none of the 10 was on it.

Mr. Casey dismissed the industry criticism.

“That’s why I called it a substantial step forward, if they’re attacking it,” he said. “If they’re feeling that this is giving information to people that they are reluctant to disclose, that’s why I think it’s an important change, and it’s progress on an issue that some would have thought would have taken years to get done.”

Mr. Casey’s legislation would amend the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which requires employers to disclose what hazardous chemicals they use.

The amendments would require:

– Well-drilling operators to disclose to state regulators and the public a list of chemicals used in fracturing, commonly known as fracking. The requirement would cover chemical constituents but not chemical formulas whose manufacturers are allowed by law to keep the formulas secret, according to Mr. Casey’s office.

– Disclosure to be specific to each well.

– Disclosure of secret formulas or chemical constituents to doctors or nurses treating a contamination victim in an emergency.

– An end to thresholds for reporting chemicals normally required by law so all amounts of chemicals are reported.

In an analysis of the legislation, Energy In Depth said it would “chill” investment in innovations in fracturing and place “unrealistic burdens” on natural gas producers by requiring them to disclose secret chemical compounds whose composition they legally can know nothing about.

In an interview, DEP Secretary John Hanger said he welcomed the federal legislation, argued Pennsylvania already requires more disclosure than his bill and believes companies should disclose the volume and mix of chemicals they use in fracking.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Council: Don’t use lake water for drilling

Harveys Lake officials cite environmental concerns in opposing the water use.

EILEEN GODIN Times Leader Correspondent

HARVEYS LAKE – Council members on Tuesday night voiced concerns over a gas company’s interest in using lake water for the drilling of the Marcellus Shale.

Environmental scientists from Gannett Fleming Engineering are interested in drilling in the Marcellus Shale region, which runs through Northeastern Pennsylvania. The shale contains pockets of natural gas.

The gas company wants to use 20 million gallons of water from Harveys Lake for a process called hydrofracing. Hydrofracing is the use of high pressure water to create cracks in the rock surrounding the shale so that the gas can be recovered.

Council Chairman Lawrence Lucarino said the shale is located a mile or more below the earth’s surface.

Council members say they oppose the practice because they are trying to protect the state’s largest natural lake.

But even though the council can deny it the use of the water, “the federal government can override the council’s decision,” Councilwoman Diane Dwyer said.

The council has asked attorney Charles D. McCormick to draft a letter stating the borough’s position and reasons against using the lake water.

“Who knows how well they will filter out the contaminants before letting the water back into the lake,” Dwyer said.

She asked residents to “please be watchdogs and keep an eye on your backyard.”

The Marcellus Shale fields are located in the Appalachian Basin, running through Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. According to the Web site, the Appalachian Basin could provide 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas for the United States. The United States now produces 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In other news, emergency 911 street maps have been returned to the borough. Council members Carole Samson and Charles Musial will review the maps to make sure all the street names are correct.

This process should take about one to two weeks, Samson said. Once approved by the borough, the maps will be sent to the County 911 office for final approval.

Copyright: Times Leader