On May 9, 2014, U.S. EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under Section 8 of the Toxic Substances Control Act regarding the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. The notice explains that EPA is requesting comment on the information that should be obtained or disclosed and the mechanism – regulatory, voluntary, or both – for obtaining or disclosing information about chemicals and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing. The stated purpose of the rulemaking is to increase transparency regarding chemical disclosure and, at the same time, avoid duplication of existing reporting requirements.
Comments must be submitted within 90 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register.
Please note that this entry is an update to our March 15, 2014 post on this issue.
[Update: The ANPR was published in the Federal Register on May 19, 2014. Comments are due August 18, 2014.]
The Department of Energy's SEAB Task Force has issued a final draft of its report on FracFocus 2.0 for comment. According to their website: "This report presents the findings and recommendations for the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Task Force on FracFocus. This Task Force report builds upon and extends the 2011 SEAB Subcommittee report on the environmental impacts of unconventional gas production." Comments are due by by March 25, 2014.
Energy In Depth has published a new graphic on water use in hydraulic fracturing activities. Below is only a part of the graphic - you may want to get a copy in its entirety:
U.S. EPA has released revised guidance materials on the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing activities. "EPA is issuing the guidance alongside an interpretive memorandum, which clarifies that class II UIC requirements apply to hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels, and defines the statutory term diesel fuel by reference to five chemical abstract services registry numbers. The guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, existing class II requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, and technical recommendations for permitting those wells consistently with these requirements." (EPA News Release)
For a copy of the guidance document itself, see here.
U.S. EPA's Office of Inspector General has published a "project notification" indicating that it too wants to get in on the activity: "The OIG's objective is to evaluate how the EPA and states have used their existing authorities to regulate hydraulic fracturing impacts to water resources. In meeting this objective, we will determine and evaluate what regulatory authority is available to the EPA and states, identify potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing, and evaluate the EPA's and states' responses to them."
For a copy of the notice, see here (dated Feb. 5, 2014).
Time magazine has a brief article on how hydraulic fracturing is changing geopolitics: "America’s improved bargaining position vis-à-vis Iran is just one example of how the 21st century geopolitical order has been upended by the energy revolution underway in the U.S., according to Elizabeth Rosenberg, who authored the report. The downward pressure on oil prices created by plentiful crude in North America gives the U.S. leverage it didn’t previously have in dealings with all major petroleum exporting states, including some that have been particularly irksome to the U.S. of late, like Venezuela and Russia."
Just something to remember.
Forbes has an interesting article on the recent extreme winter weather and its impact on the natural gas market. It starts: "The polar vortex gripping the nation has brought a crazy week for natural gas. On Monday the demand for gas nationwide hit a record 125 billion cubic feet as homeowners and power generators sought to burn as much of it as they could get to keep the cold at bay. In a normal early-January week the draw on natural gas inventories is about 170 billion cubic feet. This week, according to market watcher Bentek, the drawdown is expected to be on the order of 310 bcf — the most ever."
A recent article at Environmental Leader starts off: "Transitioning from coal to natural gas in Texas for electricity generation is saving water and making the state less vulnerable to drought, according to a University of Texas at Austin study published this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters." More? "The researchers estimate that water saved by shifting a power plant from coal to natural gas is 25 to 50 times as great as the amount of water used in fracking to extract the natural gas. Natural gas also enhances drought resilience by providing so-called peaking plants to complement increasing wind generation, which doesn’t consume water."
For a copy of the University of Texas study, see here.
In a recent survey published by researchers at Oregon State, George Mason and Yale universities, more than one-half of the respondents acknowledged knowing little to nothing about hydraulic fracturing (according to this report in the Casper Star-Tribune). "Those findings run counter to the often contentious debates seen in Washington and state capitals around the country, where policy makers are weighing the benefits of increased oil and natural gas production against potential environmental damages."
That's one of the messages from this Forbes article entitled, New York's Fracking Hypocrisy Underscores Energy Illiteracy. It starts out: "New York has issued a moratorium for hydraulic fracturing in the portions of the Marcellus Shale that fall within its borders, but the state is benefiting economically and environmentally from the fracking going on in neighboring Pennsylvania, as NPR reported." We thought you might enjoy it.
The Star-Tribune is reporting on another recent study finding no link between E&P operations and groundwater contamination claims: "Natural gas operations are not linked to groundwater contamination in the Pinedale area, according to a new Bureau of Land Management report. *** The report, released Wednesday, said low levels of hydrocarbons detected in groundwater wells in what's known as the Pinedale Anticline Production Area were largely attributable to natural processes. It found there was no widespread evidence linking those chemicals to spills, leaks or other byproducts of natural gas development. And it concluded no further mitigation efforts were needed to address water pollution in the area."
The State Journal is reporting on several pieces of legislation that were recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives: "The House approved two bills Nov. 20 aimed at speeding up drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands. *** The measures were among three energy bills the House is considering this week as Republicans who control the chamber push to expand an oil and gas boom that's lowered prices and led the U.S. to produce more oil last month than it imported from abroad. *** One of the bills approved Wednesday would set strict deadlines for federal approval of oil and gas permits and expand areas open to production. Another would restrict the Interior Department from enforcing proposed rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands."
The Akron Beacon Journal has an article reaffirming the safety record of hydraulic fracturing in Ohio: "[The Ohio] Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has investigated 183 water-well complaints that Ohio landowners filed from 2010 through mid-October. Only six water supplies were impacted by drilling over the nearly four-year period, state spokesman Mark Bruce said. *** All of those problems stemmed from old, vertical-only wells, not today’s big horizontal wells that rely on fracking to free natural gas, oil and other liquids from rocks deep underground, he said."
Read the whole thing.
The AP is reporting on a year-long study from NETL (the National Energy Technology Laboratory, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's laboratory system): "A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press." More? "After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said."
Very interesting. Read the whole thing. (And yes, the study remains preliminary at the moment ... but it's still interesting.)
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio joined 11 other states in warning U.S. EPA not to employ the tactic of "sue and settle" to regulate hydraulic fracturing: "The letter, signed by 12 energy-producing states, was sent to the EPA after several northeastern states threatened to sue the agency for not taking over regulatory responsibility of oil and gas production. The Clean Air Act provides states, not the federal government, with primary regulation responsibility. *** The letter states, 'It is abundantly clear that EPA should not succumb to the pressure intended by the Northeastern States. … Any discussions to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas facilities would obviously have a significant impact on the economy and citizens of those states. … EPA must, at a minimum, include Oklahoma and other states with similar interests in any negotiations.'”
The tactic is real ...
Energy In Depth has a post on a new study done assessing the risks of hydraulic fracturing: "A new, comprehensive report from Gradient examines two potential exposure pathways for hydraulic fracturing fluids to impact human health: upward migration from the shale formation itself, and surface incidents such as spills or other releases. Even by taking a conservative approach (which by design overestimates risk) the report concludes that hydraulic fracturing fluids 'are not expected to pose an adverse risk to human health' and that, in the event of a spill, natural processes would dilute fluids to 'below levels of human health concerns.'"
For a copy of the study, see here.
The Washington Post has a story on a recent study finding that hydraulic fracturing has not contaminated water wells in Arkansas: "Members of the U.S. Geological Survey were also part of the study, which examined 127 drinking water wells for evidence of pollution from methane gas or chemicals. *** The study published Wednesday looked at an area of heavy drilling in north-central Arkansas known as the Fayetteville Shale. More than 4,000 new wells have been drilled there since 2004. The researchers did multiple tests to looks for the presence of contamination from drilling, or from naturally occurring gas or ultra-salty liquids that seep up through pre-existing faults. *** Arkansas homeowners 'typically had good water quality, regardless of whether they were near shale gas development,” said Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke."
For a copy of the study, see here.
The Youngstown Vindicator is reporting that a charter amendment designed to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city has been rejected by voters: "Opponents of a citizen-organized anti-fracking charter amendment said the voters made the right choice in rejecting the ballot issue. *** While opponents said the amendment wouldn’t have been enforceable if approved, they’re glad they don’t have to concern themselves with that issue."
Expect development opponents to continue their efforts ...
Businessweek is reporting on recent findings by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regarding alleged methane contamination: "Methane in the water wells of a Pennsylvania town visited by Yoko Ono in her campaign against hydraulic fracturing wasn’t caused by nearby drilling for natural gas, the state environmental regulator said. *** In the northeastern town of Franklin Forks, samples from three private water wells are comparable in their chemical makeup to the natural spring at a nearby park where methane had been detected long before fracking began in the area, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection." (Emphasis is ours.)
Read the whole thing ...
Well, almost. NPR has a good article on the job-creation potential related to domestic energy development - and the use of hydraulic fracturing: "Economic historians eventually will look back and decide which assessment proved true, but for now, the 'manufacturing renaissance' theory has broad support, both from business leaders and from most economists. They say manufacturing's future is getting brighter because of 'fracking' — an increasingly popular drilling technique used to recover natural gas from shale formations. Fracking is helping guarantee factory owners access to cheap, reliable and abundant energy sources."
As an example: "Company president Ned Dwyer says the old method of using oil to operate the paper-drying equipment during Maine winters was not cost competitive in the global marketplace. Now, with a switch to natural gas, the factory can survive and even grow, he says. *** Inexpensive energy 'allows us to run a second paper machine in the wintertime that nominally produces around 300 tons of paper a day,' Dwyer said. 'It produces another 40 jobs.'"
ABCNews is reporting on a recent Wyoming court decision upholding a state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determination finding frac fluid constituent information to be a protected trade secret. While the court wrote that both sides had substantial merit, it believed that "the competing concerns are best addressed through legislative action, or further rule promulgation and are not properly within the court's purview." Moreover, the court found "that the state oil and gas supervisor in charge of the commission as a state agency acted reasonably in evaluating requests for trade secret exemptions under the fracking disclosure rule. The environmental groups failed to demonstrate that the supervisor didn't properly follow the rule or state law."
The WSJ has an interesting article in the possible use of natural gas to power their hydraulic fracturing operations: "A number of increasingly cost-conscious oil- and gas-field companies are already using natural gas to run trucks and drilling rigs. But what makes the conversion of the hydraulic fracturing pump engines to natural gas particularly challenging is the sheer number of engines running at once, and the amount of horsepower necessary to power the pumps."
Note: Subscription may be required.
We thought you might be interested in this collection of some of the statements regulators have made about hydraulic fracturing from National Review Online. A sample: "'We have never had any cases of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing,' Elizabeth Ames Jones said in 2011. The then-chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which supervises natural gas, added: 'It is geologically impossible for fracturing fluid to reach an aquifer a thousand feet above.'"
Read it all and enjoy.
By now, you've probably heard about the movie "Promised Land" and its false portrayal of our domestic E&P industry. It's not just industry that has panned the movie, though. From a review on NBCi.com: "Written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, the film comes at an opportune time for a big-screen exploration of the issues surrounding the shale gas revolution, with cheap natural gas transforming the nation's energy landscape and 'fracking' now a household word. *** But viewers shouldn't necessarily expect a realistic treatment of drilling and fracking. It's not that kind of film. *** But 'Promised Land' spends little time explaining how energy companies actually go about pulling natural gas out of the ground, and what little explanation the movie does provide is simply not very accurate." (Emphasis is ours.)
Not a surprise really.
America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a study done by URS Corporation showing that methane emissions from natural gas production are at least 53 percent below U.S. EPA's estimates. "The survey is an updated version of data first released in June. It shows that venting of methane into the atmosphere during liquids unloading is 93 percent lower than Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates and that methane emissions from well re-fracturing are 72 percent lower." For a copy of the press release, and study, see here.
The WSJ has an interesting article on the beneficial impact hydraulic fracturing is having the economies of the "Rust Belt" states: "It isn't just Beaver County reaping the benefits of cheap gas. Plunging prices have turned the U.S. into one of the most profitable places in the world to make chemicals and fertilizer, industries that use gas as both a feedstock and an energy source. And they have slashed costs for makers of energy-intensive products such as aluminum, steel and glass. *** In the rundown former steel towns along the Ohio River, natural gas is spurring hopes of an industrial renaissance. Steel mills once lined the Ohio River here, but little of the industry survives. The proposed site of the Shell facility holds one of the few big factories still operating, an 80-year-old zinc plant slated for closure next year."
Read the whole thing.
[Note: May be subscription only.]
We thought you'd be interested in several recent reports on the topic of hydraulic fracturing:
- GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office): Recently issued two reports touching on the topic. This one addresses the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (and E&P operations in general), finding (in part) that there was insufficient data to connect groundwater pollution claims to hydraulic fracturing operations. This one looks at how E&P operations are regulated.
- LAT: The LA Times is reporting on a recent study conducted as part of a settlement with Culver City and several environmental and community groups. From the article: "A long-awaited study released Wednesday says the controversial oil extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would not harm the environment if used at the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills area. *** The yearlong study included several issues raised by residents living around the field, such as the potential risks for groundwater contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity. *** For months, water wells on the 1,200-acre field were monitored. Data from ground and air monitors were collected and analyzed, but no effects were recorded before or after the technique was used, the study says."
That's the thesis of this article in Forbes: "The questionable reporting kicked off in spring 2011 when the Times hyped the research of once obscure Cornell University professor Robert Howarth whose anti-shale gas activism and out-of-the-mainstream findings have been sharply contested by independent researchers, including at environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Fund and the Environmental Defense Council; a research team at MIT; the National Energy Technology Lab, and independent energy commentators such as Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations."
Read it all and enjoy.
We've reported previously on preemption and recent efforts in Pennsylvania to enhance local regulation (see here, e.g.). The Tribune-Review is reporting that the state's Public Utilities Commission has rejected Pittsburgh's ban on hydraulic fracturing as contrary to state and federal law: "Pittsburgh City Council overstepped its authority in 2010 when it banned Marcellus shale drilling in the city, according to an opinion issued this week by the Public Utility Commission. *** The commission reviewed Pittsburgh’s ordinance at the request of city Solicitor Daniel Regan and found that sections containing environmental and oil and gas regulations were pre-empted by state and federal law."
That's not the only decision on this issue ...
The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting on the efforts of some to find a work-around to the state's exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas operations in Ohio and prevent development: "The two activists are involved in grass-roots campaigns to give communities more weapons to fight the spread of horizontal boring in the Utica shale formation, and injection wells, which are used for disposal of the polluted water that comes from oil and gas exploration. *** They are pushing what’s called limited home rule in Ohio townships and a community bill of rights in cities and villages, both aimed at increased protection for air, water, health, property values and public safety."
The Texas Railroad Commission has posted new proposed rules on the use of hydraulic fracturing: "The proposed amendments to §3.13 more clearly outline the requirements for all wells, consolidate the requirements for well control and blowout preventers, and update the requirements for drilling, casing, cementing, and fracture stimulation. The proposed amendments also add additional requirements for 'minimal separation wells,' which are wells in which the distance between the protection depth as defined by the rule and the top of the formation to be fracture-stimulated is less than 1,000 vertical feet."
For a copy of the proposal, see here.
Yes. Here's an article from the Houston Chronicle on the use of hydraulic fracturing in California that you might find of interest: "But so far, fracking in California appears to take far less water than it does elsewhere. *** At the request of state regulators, some of the companies fracking here have started posting information about their wells on FracFocus.org, a website created by the oil and gas industry to allay public fears about the practice."
The article goes through some of the data. Read it all.
The Canton Repository is reporting that the U.S. Forest Service has approved the use of hydraulic fracturing in the Wayne National forest. "The Forest Service released its report after a study of the Wayne National Forest’s land and resource management plan drafted in 2006. The forest’s supervisor, Anne Carey, said in a statement that she determined the plan could adequately address any damage and risks to the forest from the natural-gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. She also said there is no need for a new environmental impact study."
For a copy of the report, see here.
We've reported previously on U.S. EPA's research plan regarding hydraulic fracturing (see here, e.g.). The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office recently requested public nominations for technical experts to form an SAB ad hoc panel to provide advice on that research project. "EPA ORD is currently developing a ``Progress Report: Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources,'' expected to be released in December 2012, which will describe the status of its research on the potential environmental and human health implications of hydraulic fracturing. EPA is seeking SAB advice on the status of the research described in its Progress Report. EPA plans to use such advice for the development of a report of results, estimated to be released in 2014, which will also be reviewed by the SAB. The SAB Staff Office is establishing an ad hoc advisory panel to provide such advice and review under the auspices of the SAB."
Smithsonian.com has an article misleadingly entitled, "‘Fracking’ for Natural Gas Is Linked With Earthquakes" - suggesting to the reader that the article will show how earthquakes have been tied to the process of hydraulic fracturing. Not (as my daughter would say). Rather, the study discussed in the article looks at the connection between recent, low level earthquakes and waste injection wells. From the article itself: "'You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,' says Cliff Frohlich, the University of Texas geologist who conducted the study, 'but it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.'" (Emphasis is ours.)
Don't tell the prosecutors in Bones ...
NBC4i is reporting on recent findings by U.S. EPA that the groundwater in Dimock, PA is safe to drink: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that it has completed tests on drinking water in the northeastern Pennsylvania village of Dimock and has determined it is safe to drink, despite the claims of some residents who say it has been polluted by gas drilling." Read the whole thing.
You can find a copy of U.S. EPA's statement, including links to the study results, here.
Very interesting: "In the HBO movie 'Gasland,' New York City filmmaker Josh Fox tried to scare people into thinking that natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing are new, unregulated and dangerous. It made one Pennsylvania mom living atop the Marcellus Shale wonder what she was getting into. She asked environmentalists, academics and everyday people what they think. Nobody got paid to talk — all they were asked was to tell the truth."
To see the movie, go here.
The WSJ is reporting that opponents of hydraulic fracturing may be misleading the public: "In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too." (Emphasis is ours.) More? "One of the clearest examples of a misleading claim comes from north Texas, where gas drilling began in the Barnett Shale about 10 years ago. *** Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state. The claim is used in a letter that was sent to New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo by environmental groups and by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of "Gasland," a film that criticizes the industry. *** But researchers haven't seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas."
The Dispatch has an article reporting on Governor Kasich's efforts to persuade farmers to support his tax increase proposal on another Ohio industry: "Gov. John Kasich says his proposed package of a 'fracking' tax increase and income-tax cut is good for farmers. Now he’s just waiting for them to agree." Key graph: "But Kasich’s Statehouse event was missing a key participant, and his plan is without a key endorser: the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation."
That's the title of an article in The Economist. "A shale well does use a lot of water—an average of up to 22m litres (5m gallons) over its lifetime—but this is no more than a golf course in Florida consumes in three weeks, according to one estimate. Most of that water stays in the well, but 20% returns to the surface as flow-back in the days and weeks after fracking. This must be stored and disposed of or recycled safely. Still, the MIT report points out that shale-gas extraction uses less water than other industries, and indeed than other sources of energy. In America’s big shale fields it gets through much less water than local mines or local livestock."
Read it all.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) and America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) recently issued a report from Battelle Memorial Institute pointing out the weaknesses in U.S. EPA's proposed study of hydraulic fracturing operations. For example: "Congress requested a study 'relying on best available science and independent sources of information.' It appears questionable, because of its genesis and design, whether the proposed case study element of the study program will be able meet this expectation and provide the scientifically defensible data and information required to support the fundamental research questions regarding the possibility of impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources."
For a copy of the study, see here.
A recent Duke study seeks to support the possibility of fluid migration impacting drinking water supplies: "The report by researchers at Duke University, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said a chemical analysis of 426 shallow groundwater samples found matches with brine found in rock more than one mile (1.2 kilometers) deep, suggesting paths that would let gas or water flow up after drilling." (from Bloomberg News, for example). But read a little further into the article: "Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University who studies geological formations in the region, reviewed the Duke paper and recommended against publication in the journal, he said. *** 'The science on this paper is solid,' he said in an interview. 'It’s the leap of faith they take in their interpretation and to focus everybody’s attention on the Marcellus' gas drilling. *** It’s not clear how long it took for the brine to migrate into groundwater, and it could take thousands of years, he said. And once fracking takes place, gas and water will flow into the well and not up through any fissures that may exist. 'The natural flow would be into the well bore,” Engelder said." (Emphasis is ours.)
For a copy of the study, see here. From the paper itself: "The occurrences of saline water do not correlate with the location of shale-gas wells and are consistent with reported data before rapid shale-gas development in the region." (Emphasis is ours.) Interesting ...
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a hazard alert on protecting workers from silica exposure during hydraulic fracturing operations. From the related press release: "The alert states that employers must ensure that workers are properly protected from overexposure to silica. The alert describes how a combination of engineering controls, work practices, protective equipment and product substitution, where feasible, along with worker training, can protect workers who are exposed to silica. *** According to the alert, transporting, moving and refilling silica sand into and through sand movers, and along transfer belts and into blender hoppers, can release dust into the air containing up to 99 percent silica that workers breathe."
You can find a copy of alert here.
We've previously reported on U.S. EPA's draft guidance for hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels (see here). U.S. EPA recently announced a public meeting to discuss that draft, scheduled for Monday, June 29, 2012, in Washington, DC. "The meeting is open to all interested parties. The agency requests input on the following technical aspects of the draft permitting guidance: Diesel fuels description; diesel fuels usage information; permit duration and well closure; area of review; information submitted with the permit application; and monitoring."
According to this article from MSNBC, a report from the National Research Council has come out finding little reason for concern that earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing are causally connected: "The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas does not pose a high risk for triggering earthquakes large enough to feel." Also interesting: "The man-made quakes that [U.S. Geological Survey seismologist William] Ellsworth has been seeing are almost all related to wastewater injection, he said. Ellsworth said he agreed with the research council that 'hydraulic fracturing does not seem to pose much risk for earthquake activity.'" (Emphasis is ours.)
Science 2.0 has a good article on how anti-development activists push their agenda: "[NY Governor] Cuomo's decision validates the anti-frackers’ 'study it to death' strategy. Their goal is to create the illusion that horizontal fracturing pollutes drinking water — even though the Environmental Protection Agency has publicly (if reluctantly) acknowledged that there is not one documented case of such pollution."
More? Here's a gem (one of several): "Why, then, do environmental groups demonize fracking? *** Actually, most of them welcomed the shale-gas revolution just a few years ago. The Sierra Club, for one, helped fund a breakthrough study at the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University that concluded that shale gas is a fantastic, low-carbon replacement fuel for higher-carbon-generating oil and coal. *** But now, abundant natural gas has made the alternative-energy industry economically uncompetitive. That — and the success of dishonest anti-fracking propaganda like the film “Gasland” — prompted an about-face."
Read the whole thing.
Governor John R. Kasich signed into law yesterday Sub. S.B. 315, making substantial revisions to Ohio's oil and gas exploration and midstream programs (e.g., new frac fluid disclosure requirements, water sourcing disclosures, pipeline safety obligations). "Gov. John Kasich came to Akron on Monday to sign Senate Bill 315, sweeping energy legislation that includes tough rules on drilling for natural gas and oil in Ohio." (Akron Beacon Journal article.) You can find a copy of the legislation here.
Lessons learned: The Oil and Gas Journal has a good article on how benzene exposure lawsuits may intersect with the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluid constituents. "New requirements for disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing create a very real danger that frac-fluid recipes could become a major issue in personal injury lawsuits, particularly litigation alleging disease from benzene exposure."
[Note - Subscription may be required. Additionally, the author is a Vorys' colleague in our Houston office.]
We've reported previously on the Sierra Club's targeting of the nation's natural gas industry (see here, e.g.). The WSJ has a similar article here. "This is no idle threat. The Sierra Club has deep pockets funded by liberal foundations and knows how to work the media and politicians. The lobby helped to block new nuclear plants for more than 30 years, it has kept much of the U.S. off-limits to oil drilling, and its 'Beyond Coal' campaign has all but shut down new coal plants. *** The political irony is that not too long ago the Sierra Club and other greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel."
The key graph: "But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club's Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible." (Emphasis is ours.)
Read it all.
[Note: Subscription may be required.]
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a draft guidance document to be used when "permitting the underground injection of oil- and gas-related hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuels where EPA is the permitting authority." From the related press release: "Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft underground injection control (UIC) program permitting guidance for class II wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing activities. EPA developed the draft guidance to clarify how companies can comply with a law passed by Congress in 2005, which exempted hydraulic fracturing operations from the requirement to obtain a UIC permit, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid."
Comments are due 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a draft rule governing hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. See here. Not all the environmental groups are happy - "'This is a free pass to the oil and gas industry at the expense of public health,' Jessica Ennis, a Washington-based legislative associate for the environmental group Earthjustice, said today in an e-mail." (from BusinessWeek). But then again, they never are.
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on the potential for CNG (compressed natural gas): "From his suburban home in a wooded neighborhood once known for its shipbuilding prowess, Mann is crafting automotive gadgets for a future that many believe could help solve the nation's long-intractable energy woes – one fueled mostly by natural gas. During the past five years, Mann has converted more than 10 cars to run on compressed natural gas, in addition to gasoline, using a device he invented, the 'CNG Fogger,' which boosts the vehicles' mileage. Commuters in the Boston area have snapped up his cars from Craigslist as have CNG enthusiasts as far away as Wisconsin."
Of course, the article wouldn't be complete without discussing environmental fears ...
This is interesting. The Minot Daily News is reporting that there is opposition to the application of hydraulic fracturing regulations proposed by the Bureau of Land Management to Indian reservations. "The chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes questions whether the Bureau of Land Management has authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on Indian reservations. *** 'I can find no authority for the Bureau of Land Management to regulate activities on Indian lands, including hydraulic fracturing,' Tex Hall told members of the House Natural Resource Committee's Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs at an oversight hearing in Washington, D.C., Thursday." The concern - the negative impact these regulations might have on the reservations' economies.
The response from BLM might be considered by some to be a little patronizing. A Department of Interior spokesman said, "As we continue to expand domestic natural gas production, it is essential that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place." What? The tribes aren't doing enough to protect their own lands?
The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article on the boom the chemical industry is seeing as a result of increased natural gas supplies. "The shale boom's bounty of cheap natural gas is fueling an industrial renaissance on the Texas coast, one that was in full focus Thursday as Dow Chemical announced the latest piece of a $4 billion expansion of its chemical operations in Southeast Texas." Interesting ...
That's the term used to describe minor seismic events attributed to human activity. Recently, a number of news articles have characterized an abstract of a soon-to-be-published USGS (i.e., U.S. Geological Survey) report as linking minor earthquake events to hydraulic fracturing - i.e., induced seismicity. Responding to those articles, Deputy Secretary Hayes of the U.S. Department of the Interior wrote in a DOI blog post: "USGS’s studies do not suggest that hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as 'fracking,' causes the increased rate of earthquakes." (Emphasis is ours.) Rather, "USGS’s scientists have found, however, that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells."
Read the whole thing. (Who knew the DOI blogged?)
The USEPA announced that it is again delaying the issuance of its proposed rules regulating air emissions from hydraulically fractured wells. The proposed NSPS and NESHAP rules were scheduled for issuance on April 3 according to the Consent Decree issued in WildEarth Guardians, et al. v. Jackson. However, in response to more than 156,000 comments on the proposed rules, USEPA sought more time to address the public and industry comments. USEPA entered into a stipulation with the Plaintiff environmental organizations that granted it until April 17 to issue the rules, and the Court granted the extension by modifying the Consent Decree. The modified Consent Decree can be found here.
We've mentioned before the trouble U.S. EPA has had in blaming Range Resources for alleged natural gas contamination, based on the science alone. See here, e.g. (Lesson: The Science Matters). The WSJ is reporting that the agency may have finally learned that lesson: "The Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked. *** On Friday, the agency told a federal judge it withdrew an administrative order that alleged Range Resources Corp. had polluted water wells in a rural Texas county west of Fort Worth. Under an agreement filed in U.S. court in Dallas, the EPA will also drop the lawsuit it filed in January 2011 against Range, and Range will end its appeal of the administrative order."
Read it all.
[Note: Subscription may be required.]
The Columbus Dispatch has an interesting article on the evolving shale play in Ohio: "Ohio geologists continue to redraw the maps highlighting where the Utica shale is expected to yield the most oil and gas across the state. *** The newest map by the Ohio Geological Survey excludes some areas that had been in “play” and includes others that had been left out of the 'fracking' boom." Graphically:
Read it all.
The Patriot-News is reporting that U.S. EPA sampling in Dimock, Pennsylvania shows no contamination from oil and gas development: "Federal environmental regulators say well water testing at 11 homes in a northeastern Pennsylvania village did not turn up elevated levels of contamination from gas drilling." The report makes an interesting juxtaposition: "A handful of residents are suing Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., saying the Houston-based driller contaminated their wells with potentially explosive methane gas and with drilling chemicals. *** Many other Dimock residents assert the water is clean."
We've noted before the problems with a U.S. EPA study purporting to link groundwater contamination in Pavillion, WY to frac operations (see here, e.g.). Apparently, U.S. EPA has noticed as well. From a recent news release: "The EPA, the State of Wyoming, and the Tribes recognize that further sampling of the deep monitoring wells drilled for the Agency’s groundwater study is important to clarify questions about the initial monitoring results. The EPA will partner with the State and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with the Tribes, to complete this sampling as soon as possible and will collaborate with the State and other stakeholders in designing the sampling methodology, the quality assurance plan, and other features of the next phase of testing."
A recent study conducted by the University of Texas found no evidence to support claims of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations: "Researchers found no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the subsurface by fracturing operations, and observed no leakage from hydraulic fracturing at depth." Just as interesting (and something that many farmers already know): "Methane found in water wells within some shale gas areas (e.g., Marcellus) can most likely be traced to natural sources, and likely was present before the onset of shale gas operations."
For more, see here.
We thought you might be interested in this column on several myths told about hydraulic fracturing. A sample: "Those who oppose the practice say that chemicals in fracking fluids can pollute water tables that lie just a few hundred feet or less below the surface. In rock formations like the Marcellus shale, a deposit in the Northeast that underlies parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, fracking takes place well below 7,000 feet and solid rock separates the shale deposits from shallow groundwater aquifers. The buffer makes contamination from fracking virtually impossible. In addition, the wells being drilled are constructed with at least four thick layers of steel casing and concrete such that they are cemented in place to create a solid divider between gas production and the fresh water aquifers."
We thought you might be interested in the testimony at a recent House Subcommittee hearing on U.S. EPA's hydraulic fracturing research in Pavillion, WY. For example, from Tom Doll, State Oil & Gas Supervisor, Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission: "The Pavillion Draft Report was issued with incomplete data and technically inadequate conclusions. There was no opportunity to review and verify the data by Wyoming state agencies. The data was not verified by further testing or vetted through a peer review process. Based on a limited sampling and an inconclusive data set from Pavillion Wyoming ground water, EPA’s conclusion is now national and international fodder for the hydraulic fracturing debate. Now the quality of the hydraulic fracturing debate suffers and the EPA’s science itself is questioned."
For more, see here (including video).
The WSJ is reporting that both Texas and Colorado have now adopted rules requiring disclosure of frac fluid constituents: "The rules are part of a broader effort by states to show they are serious about regulating the rapidly expanding hydraulic fracturing ahead of possible new federal rules governing chemical disclosure, water disposal, air emissions and well construction." (Note: Subscription may be required.) For more on the Texas program, see here (the Houston Chronicle) and here (for a copy of the rules). For more on the Colorado program, see here (the Colorado Independent) and here (for a copy of the rules).
The NYT is reporting on a recent study by U.S. EPA regarding complaints of water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming: "Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies, federal regulators said Thursday." For more, including a copy of the EPA report, see here.
A note of caution, however: U.S. EPA's record on these issues isn't good so far. See also here.
[Update: For Encana's response to the report, see here (E.g., "Several of the man-made chemicals detected in the EPA deep wells have never been detected in any of the other wells sampled. They were, however, detected in many of the quality control (blank) samples - which are ultra purified water samples commonly used in testing to ensure no contamination from field sampling procedures." Hmmm ...). (Bumped.)]
The Colorado Independent is reporting on new frac fluid disclosure rules being considered by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC): The commission "will take at least another week to decide on the issue after hearing more than 11 hours of testimony from Colorado residents, elected officials, oil and gas industry representatives and drilling regulators in Denver." Notably, one COGCC director defended various staff positions preserving trade secret protections according to the article.
The scrutiny continues: The USEPA Office of Inspector General recently announced its FY 2012 Annual Plan. As stated on USEPA's webpage, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is an "independent office within the EPA that helps the Agency protect the environment in a more efficient and cost effective manner." Basically, the OIG conducts audits, evaluations, inspections and investigations related to EPA programs. The 2012 Annual Plan lists a "special review" carry over assignment from 2011 related to "Oversight of Hydraulic Fracturing Impact on Water Resources". A new assignment for 2012 relates to "EPA's Protection of Human Health and the Environment From the Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing".
EPA announced on November 3 its final research plan on hydraulic fracturing. The Congressionally directed study will evaluate potential impacts on drinking water resources. In March 2010, EPA announced its intention to conduct the study in response to a request from Congress. Since then, the agency has held a series of public meetings across the nation to receive input from states, industry, environmental and public health groups, and individual citizens.
The initial research results and study findings are to be released to the public in 2012. The final report is to be delivered in 2014. The final study plan looks at the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing, from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal. Earlier this year, EPA announced its selection of locations for five retrospective and two prospective case studies - our previous post on these locations can be found here.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has proposed new regulations related to the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing as part of a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) general permit. From the NYSDEC website:
NYSDEC has made a tentative decision to issue a SPDES general permit that will authorize point source discharges from high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) operations to, in or over waters of the State. The SPDES general permit requires a Notice of Intent submittal to NYSDEC in order to discharge under this general permit. Permittees must develop a comprehensive Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and implement control measures that minimize the discharge of pollutants to waters of the State. The NYSDEC reserves the right to require any applicant seeking coverage under this General Permit to apply for an individual SPDES permit. The General Permit has five year permit.
Public comments are due December 12, 2011.
That aphorism comes to mind when considering U.S. EPA's new proposal to reduce air emissions from oil and gas operations. From its press release: "Today’s proposal would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in the oil and gas industry, including a 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted during the completion of new and modified hydraulically fractured wells." But - it really helps industry make money: "EPA’s analysis of the proposed changes, which also include requirements for storage tanks and other equipment, show they are highly cost-effective, with a net savings to the industry of tens of millions of dollars annually from the value of natural gas that would no longer escape to the air." Really! Thank goodness they're looking out for
at your pocketbook. (Emphasis is ours.)
You can find a copy of the rule package here.
Earlier this week, acting West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued Executive Order No. 04-11 requiring the state's Department of Environmental Protection to develop rules regulating Marcellus Shale production. "The rules will focus mostly on the 'fracking' process, in which millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and pumped underground to fracture shale deposits. Among other things, the regulations will make companies that withdraw more than 210,000 gallons of water a month disclose the list of additives used in frack fluid, and file a water management plan with the DEP." - from the Charleston Gazette.
We will post a copy of the order once we obtain it.
The Wheeling Intelligencer has a free-market/regulatory success story for Ohio taxpayers (resulting in large part from cross-state regulatory program differences): "For months, Pennsylvania gas drillers tapping into the Marcellus Shale have been shipping the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, waste to eastern Ohio. The Buckeye State is on pace to gain nearly $1 million in fees from out-of-state drillers for accepting the brine."
Of course, there are the usual statements regarding environmental fears. Still, interesting.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) has released a series of documents related to its Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) issued in September 2009. From the Executive Summary: "The final SGEIS will apply statewide, except in areas that the Department proposes should be off-limits to surface drilling for natural gas using HVHF technology. As explained below, these areas include the watersheds associated with unfiltered water supplied to the New York City and Syracuse areas pursuant to Filtration Avoidance Determinations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ('EPA'), reforestation areas, wildlife management areas, state parks, and 'primary' aquifers as defined by State regulations, and additional setback and buffer areas."
From the related press release:
"Protecting Drinking Water
- Well water protection and other water protection: No permits would be issued for sites within 500 feet of a private water well or domestic use spring. No permits may be issued for a proposed site within 2,000 feet of a public drinking water supply well or reservoir at least until three years of experience elsewhere have been evaluated. No permits will be issued for well pads sited within a 100-year floodplain.
- Spill control: All new guidelines will require that flowback water on site must use watertight tanks within a secondary containment. No open containment may be used. A secondary containment will also be required for all fracturing additive containers, additive staging areas and flowback tanks to ensure any spills of wastewater or chemicals at the well pad do not migrate into water supplies.
- Regulating Water Withdrawals:
- New Legislation: Pursuant to the Governor's signing of DEC's Water Withdrawal legislation, which the State Legislature recently passed, a special permit will be required to withdraw large volumes of water for industrial and commercial purposes to ensure there are not adverse impacts.
- Permit Condition: All withdrawals from surface water bodies will be subject to limits to prevent impacts upon ecosystems and other water quantity requirements. Identification of the water source an applicant intends to use will be required and an annual report must be issued on the aggregate amount of water it has withdrawn or purchased."
As with everything else, it looks like the devil's in the details ...
This has got to hurt. After all of the efforts by one of its reporters to mischaracterize hydraulic fracturing as an environmental disaster, the NYT is reporting that New York State's Governor Cuomo plans to lift the state's moratorium on the use of that process to develop its shale resources: "The Cuomo administration is seeking to lift what has been, in effect, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technology used to extract natural gas from shale, state environmental regulators said Thursday."
With all of the negative media regarding hydraulic fracturing, we thought you might be interested in this video from reason.tv:
That's the title to an article in the WSJ seeking to separate fact from myth regarding the claims about hydraulic fracturing: "Fracking contaminates drinking water. One claim is that fracking creates cracks in rock formations that allow chemicals to leach into sources of fresh water. The problem with this argument is that the average shale formation is thousands of feet underground, while the average drinking well or aquifer is a few hundred feet deep. Separating the two is solid rock. This geological reality explains why EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, a determined enemy of fossil fuels, recently told Congress that there have been no 'proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water.'"
We have reported previously on the study being conducted by U.S. EPA regarding the claimed impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the environment (see here, for example). U.S. EPA has settled on seven case studies (past and prospective) in various producing locations around the country, including several in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale. From the press release:
The Daily Journal is reporting that the city of Morgantown, WV, has banned the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city and a one-mile radius: "City officials say a ban on horizontal drilling and fracturing is necessary in and near city limits because of the proximity to large infrastructure."
Signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, HB 3328 becomes effective September 1, 2011, requiring operators to disclose the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing operations. For a copy of the legislation, and its history, see here.
Interestingly, it relies on the FracFocus registry created by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
On Sunday May 29, 2011, the Texas House passed legislation that could require drilling companies to publicly disclose the chemicals they use to crack tight rock formations in their search for natural gas. Governor Rick Perry has not indicated whether he will sign bill or not.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee of Britain's House of Commons has issued a report finding "no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process involved in shale gas extraction – known as ‘fracking’ - poses a direct risk to underground water aquifers provided the drilling well is constructed properly." For more see here.
We've frequently noted the articles in the media on hydraulic fracturing. The NYT had one on May 7th (mis)stating: "But the practice [i.e., hydraulic fracturing] also pours millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals into the ground and into wastewater treatment systems, which in some cases cannot remove all the potential toxins. There are also numerous documented cases in which fracking fluids leaked into aquifers and contaminated drinking water." (From Google cache; emphasis is ours).
What you don't see often is the following:
Correction: May 17, 2011
An article on May 7 about the Obama administration’s appointment of a panel of experts to find ways to make hydraulic fracturing safer misstated the prevalence of cases in which fluids from the gas drilling process have been proven to have contaminated drinking water. There are few documented cases, not numerous ones, although federal and state investigations into reports of such incidents are continuing.
And even that isn't necessarily correct (what documented cases?) ... Still, the NYT should be commended for trying.
A couple of items to note regarding hydraulic fracturing in the news:
- The U.S. Department of Energy has initiated its own review of hydraulic fracturing (i.e., in addition to the study being done by U.S. EPA): "A group of highly respected experts with experience in industry, environmental groups and state regulatory agencies will form a subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board to conduct the review, and will work to identify, within 90 days of beginning their work, any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing. They will also develop, within six months of beginning their work, consensus recommended advice to the agencies on practices for shale extraction to ensure the protection of public health and the environment." Why?
- Researchers at Duke University have issued a study finding systematic evidence of methane contamination in areas being drilled using hydraulic fracturing, according to this report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Interestingly, it found no chemical contamination: "We found no evidence for contamination of drinking-water samples with deep saline brines or fracturing fluids." For a copy of the report, see here.
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that U.S. EPA will soon release guidance in fracking with diesel: "Federal regulators will soon clarify the rules for natural gas companies that inject diesel fuel into the ground as part of their hydraulic fracturing operations, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday." Don't they still need rules?
New York's Attorney General has told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies that he will sue if they fail to conduct a full review of proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations in the Delaware River Basin. "'Both the law and common sense dictate that the federal government must fully assess the impact of its actions before opening the door to gas fracking in New York,' said Attorney General Schneiderman. 'New Yorkers are correctly concerned about fracking's potential dangers to their environment, health and communities, and I will use the full authority of my office, including aggressive legal action, to ensure the federal government is forced to address those concerns.'" (See here for more.)
There are a number of interesting updates regarding U.S. EPA's plan to study the use of hydraulic fracturing in E&P activities:
First, the members of the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) were announced earlier this month. See here. You will note, the group is heavy with academics.
Second, U.S. EPA has published a draft of its plan for review by the agency's Science Advisory Board. According to the press release, "The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water and its ultimate treatment and disposal."
Among other things, draft plan lists five fundamental questions it intends to explore:
- How might large volume of water withdrawals from ground and surface water impact drinking water resources?
- What are the possible impacts of releases of hydraulic fracturing fluids on drinking water resources?
- What are the possible impacts of the injection and fracturing process on drinking water resources?
- What are the possible impacts of releases of flowback and produced water on drinking water resources?
- What are the possible impacts of inadequate treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewaters on drinking water resources?
The proposed methodology: Use of case studies and hypothetical scenario evaluation approaches. U.S. EPA also plans to collect some field samples, conduct laboratory scale studies and use computer modeling.
For a copy of the draft plan, see here.
The Houston Chronicle is a good source for updates on the frac study contemplated by U.S. EPA. For example: "The Environmental Protection Agency is close to launching a broad study on hydraulic fracturing, but the probe doesn’t guarantee that the federal government will step in and regulate the drilling technique, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Wednesday." The agency expects to have the work plan finished within the next month or two.
The NYT is reporting on a letter sent by House Democrats alleging that some service companies have illegally used diesel fuel in their frac fluids: "Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday."
For a copy of the letter, see here. According to industry (in the NYT article): "Oil and gas companies acknowledged using diesel fuel in their fracking fluids, but they rejected the House Democrats’ assertion that it was illegal. They said that the E.P.A. had never properly developed rules and procedures to regulate the use of diesel in fracking, despite a clear grant of authority from Congress over the issue."
The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting on a debate recently held on hydraulic fracturing: "What evolved was a battle of dueling experts Thursday, as four speakers debated whether a controversial means used to extract natural gas, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is safe or whether it poses a threat to drinking-water wells."
We've reported frequently on the efforts by U.S. EPA to inject itself (yes, pun intended) into the hydraulic fracturing debate. Now the NYT is reporting that the Regional Director for EPA Region 6 has issued an order to a Texas producer to provide water supplies to residents whose water wells have been impacted by methane and benzene (see here). To do so, however, EPA has ignored the work of the Texas Railroad Commission, which has stated that EPA's actions are premature: "Texas officials accused EPA of grandstanding and making 'false claims' about its actions. 'If this is another EPA action designed to reach predetermined conclusions and to generate headlines rather than conduct a successful environmental investigation, then the public is poorly served,' TRC member Elizabeth Ames Jones said. 'The commission will not deny due process to the parties involved in spite of the false claims made against our investigative actions by the EPA staff.'" (Emphasis is ours.)
We've reported previously on the study being done by U.S. EPA on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water (see here, e.g.). EPA announced yesterday that eight of the nine frac companies that it had sent a voluntary information request had agreed to provide the sought-after information. Halliburton refused and is being chastised, by subpoena, by EPA. From its cover letter: "EPA believes that Halliburton's response is inadequate and inconsistent with the cooperation shown to date by the other eight companies. Since Halliburton appears not to be committed to providing all the requested information on an expeditious schedule, EPA, therefore is ordering the submission of the information outlined in the enclosed Subpoena and Information Request, pursuant to the authorities cited therein."
As readers of this blog know, hydraulic fracturing is a hot topic across the country. We thought you might be interested in one pundit's thoughts (from the WSJ): "Those who value pastoral poverty and bucolic quietude over all this grubby commercialism will just have to adjust, as the fishermen and sportsmen and sun bathers of the Gulf Coast have learned to live with oil drillers (and vice versa)." (Emphasis is ours.) Ha!
(Note: Subscription may be required.)
We've previously mentioned the study on hydraulic fracturing now being considered by U.S. EPA (see here and here, e.g.). The NYT is reporting that IPAA has objected to a couple of the experts proposed for the panel: "'Unfortunately, a number of nominees' past comments betray a strong and unambiguous antipathy toward shale development in general, and hydraulic fracturing in particular,' IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell wrote."
This is an interesting (read: not bashing) article on hydraulic fracturing. For example: "Bob Anthony, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, said in an address to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in July, 'In my 20-plus years as a commissioner, I can't think of anything that can compare to the all-out assault on hydraulic fracturing by groups that are obviously using it to put a stop to the tapping of America's abundant natural gas supplies.'"
The comments are interesting as well.
U.S. EPA has issued a "voluntary" information request from several service companies asking for data on the chemical composition of their frac fluids. From EPA's press release: "EPA has requested the information be provided on a voluntary basis within 30 days, and has asked the companies to respond within seven days to inform the agency whether they will provide all of the information sought. The data being sought by the agency is similar to information that has already been provided separately to Congress by the industry. Therefore, EPA expects the companies to cooperate with these voluntary requests. If not, EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study." What authorities?
For more, including a copy of the letter sent by EPA, see here.
U.S. EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office is seeking public recommendations of technical experts to assist in reviewing EPA's hydraulic fracturing study plan. "Selection criteria to be used for Panel membership include: (a) Scientific and/or technical expertise, knowledge, and experience (primary factors); (b) availability and willingness to serve; (c) absence of financial conflicts of interest; (d) absence of an appearance of a lack of impartiality; and (e) skills working in committees, subcommittees and advisory panels; and, for the Panel as a whole, (f) diversity of expertise and viewpoints. EPA values and welcomes diversity. In an effort to increase diversity, we seek nominations of women and men of all racial and ethnic groups."
Nominations are due August 10, 2010.
We've reported previously on U.S. EPA's plans to conduct a study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment (see here, e.g.). EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) was asked to review and make recommendations on the proposed scope of the study. It has now published those recommendations here (see Final Report(s)). Not surprisingly, it concludes that the overall approach and scope for the research plan was "appropriate and comprehensive." Its suggestion:
[T]hat initial research be directed to study sources and pathways of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources, especially potential drinking water sources, and that investigations eventually occur on the impact on water resources more generally. To support this effort, ORD should consider performing in-depth case studies at five to ten different locations selected to represent the full range of regional variability of hydraulic fracturing across the nation. The SAB also recommends that ORD emphasize human health and environmental concerns specific to or significantly influenced by hydraulic fracturing rather than on concerns common to all oil and gas production activities. (Emphasis is ours.)
Wonder which locations they are thinking of?
Hydraulic fracturing has seen several legislative initiatives lately. For example, the Kerry-Lieberman climate legislation introduced earlier this month (at just under 1,000 pages) contains the following 36-word provision: "A hydraulic fracturing service company shall disclose all chemical constituents used in a hydraulic fracturing operation to the public on the Internet in order to provide adequate information for the public and State and local authorities." See here (NYT article on legislation generally); here (Senator Kerry's website); here (text of bill itself).
Also, Representative DeGette (D-Colo.) planned last week to introduce an amendment to the Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act in the House Energy and Commerce Committee designed to accomplish the same thing, i.e., require public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. See here (from the Dallas Morning News). The NYT has reported that Rep. DeGette withdrew that amendment after considering the possibility of a compromise with industry.
Don't think it won't come up again ...
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil Co., have proposed language for climate change legislation that would prohibit federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, which is currently regulated by the states. Among other things, "[t]he document recommends that states adopt standards for disclosing the contents of hydraulic fracturing chemicals 'to health professionals or state agencies' in order to protect health or environmental safety but maintain 'the confidentiality of trade secret information' in the fluids."
U.S. EPA has announced that it intends to conduct a comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing and its potential adverse impacts on the environment. From the news release: "The agency is proposing the process begin with (1) defining research questions and identifying data gaps; (2) conducting a robust process for stakeholder input and research prioritization; (3) with this input, developing a detailed study design that will undergo external peer-review, leading to (4) implementing the planned research studies."
An EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) meeting has been scheduled for April 7th and 8th to evaluate and comment on the proposed approach.
The Charleston Daily Mail is reporting that legislation to require reporting on source water and disposal plans related to hydraulic fracturing, as well as the additives used in the frac fluids, has cleared the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Next stop: the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee.
On December 28, 2009, U.S. EPA issued a Notice of Availability of Preliminary 2010 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan (74 Fed. Reg. 68599) (see here) and asked for comments on both its preliminary 2010 Plan and on its 2009 review of existing effluent guidelines and pretreatment standards, including comments on industrial categories not currently regulated by effluent guidelines and pretreatment standards. See Docket No. EPA-821-R-09-006 at www.regulations.gov.
Comments were submitted by both industry and environmental groups on the appropriateness of effluent guidelines for the oil and gas industry. Earthjustice, for example, submitted comments urging U.S. EPA to expand its study of CBM operations "to include all techniques that may result in contamination of surface water or groundwater, including hydraulic fracturing in all formations." See here. The American Petroleum Institute filed comments, on the other hand, noting that CBM operations should not be subject to national effluent limitations guidelines and objecting to an expansion of U.S. EPA's study of CBM extraction to oil and gas operations more generally.
The Oklahoman is reporting that the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be investigating the environmental risks allegedly posed by hydraulic fracturing operations used to produce natural gas from many of our country's shale reservoirs.
[Update: For a good summary, see this article from the NYT.]
The WSJ is reporting that the Director of U.S. EPA's Drinking Water Protection Division believes that states are doing a good job of regulating hydraulic fracturing: "'I have no information that states aren't doing a good job already,' Steve Heare*** said on the sidelines of a [NARUC] conference here. He also said despite claims by environmental organizations, he hadn't seen any documented cases that the hydro-fracking process was contaminating water supplies."
Interesting. (Note: Subscription required.)
The deadline is fast approaching for filing comments on the NY rulemaking proposal regarding hydraulic fracturing (December 31, 2009). There have been a number of articles on the comments that have been filed to date, including this one from the Albany Times Union. For more on the issue generally, see here (NYDEC website).
The NYT has an article on the growing debate surrounding the use of hydraulic fracturing to produce shale plays. The hook - After noting the benefits of lower prices and "global warming" emissions, it asks, "What the drilling push will do to local environments is another matter." And yet, the article acknowledges: "So far, the evidence of groundwater pollution is thin." Read and enjoy.
We have reported several times on the conflict between environmentalists looking for greater disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and the service companies looking for protection for their trade secrets. According to a NYT report, based on a few industry statements, "The natural gas industry is moving to disclose information about chemicals used in controversial extraction technologies in the wake of spills at drilling sites in Pennsylvania and as New York is proposing new regulations."
Companion bills were introduced yesterday in both the U.S. House and Senate to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act and to require the disclosure of chemical constituents used in frac fluids (the "FRAC ACT" - Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act). More information can be found here. Copies of the legislation can be found here (Senate - S. 1215) and here (House - H.R. 2766).
This article in the Fort Worth Business Press points out one of the major issues presented by recent efforts to more-strictly regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas development - who should have jurisdiction, the federal government or state oil and gas commissions? Not a bad article.
In earlier posts we have noted concerns regarding the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells and the potential for its regulation. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing under the SWDA, and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. More from the Star-Telegram: "A study by the Environmental Protection Agency determined that hydraulic fracturing posed little risk to water. Environmentalists say that the study is flawed and that the exemption poses health risks." Not a bad article overall.
Concerns over the impact of hydraulic fracturing have been raised with increasing frequency over the last several years. This article from Scientific American is just one example of the kind of reporting we are seeing, challenging the exemption for frac water contained in the SWDA and a producer's community-right-to-know obligations.