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Confirmed use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing fluids

Amy Mall

Posted February 18, 2010

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Today Congressmen Henry Waxman and Edward Markey of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that they have sent letters to eight oil and gas service companies regarding the health risks of hydraulic fracturing.

The Congressmen issued a detailed memo explaining why they were sending these letters. They note that a consulting firm hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that 12 contaminant cases “may have a possible link to hydraulic fracturing, but, to date, EPA has insufficient information on which to make a definitive decision.”

Shocking news coming out of today’s memo is that two hydraulic fracturing companies have used diesel in hydraulic fracturing fluid since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Waxman/Markey memo notes  EPA’s concern that the “use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids poses the greatest threat” to underground sources of drinking water.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act contains the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act….unless diesel is being used in the hydraulic fracturing.

The 2005 law requires that, if diesel is used in hydraulic fracturing, it is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Chairmen Waxman and Markey state that “it could be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act if the fluids contain diesel fuel.” If these companies were using diesel, and knew it was subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act, but didn't notify authorities--can communities trust them to do what's necessary to best protect drinking water?

Acknowledging the need for more investigation into the risks of hydraulic fracturing, the EPA has budgeted funds to conduct research on the consequences of hydraulic fracturing for drinking water to ensure the protection of America’s drinking water aquifers.

We applaud Chairman Waxman, Chairman Markey, and the EPA for their efforts to shed light on the under-regulated practice of hydraulic fracturing, which injects a secret cocktail, potentially including harmful chemicals, through clean sources of drinking water throughout America. The public, especially in the communities where this is taking place, deserve to know more. Thanks to those in government who are working to protect the health and families of these communities.

Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to close the Halliburton Loophole. To write to your Representative or Senator to ask them to co-sponsor the legislation, you can go to NRDC's Action Center.

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Brady RussellFeb 19 2010 01:55 PM

This is all good, but public disclosure is just one tiny piece of the problem. It's also important for folks to realize that they are probably going to have more traction confronting hydrofracking at their state level and in their communities.

The problems with natural gas drilling go way beyond water. It's also an issue of land use, air pollution, habitat, traffic, carbon pollution and stormwater.

Should we close the Halliburton loophole, we'll only have dealth with one small smidgeon of the problem. So they have to disclose the stuff. Then we still have to set standards on how much of the stuff they can dump in our rivers and streams.

Amy MallFeb 19 2010 02:52 PM

Hi Brady: Thanks for the comment. I agree that this is only one piece of the problem. At NRDC we are working on addressing other environmental concerns also.

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