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Past studies have been made by the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). The GWPC said “the potential for fracking deep shale natural gas and oil wells to impact groundwater is extremely remote.” Studies indicate that 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing technology.
A June 6 Wall Street Journal story said the increasing abundance of cheap natural gas, coupled with rising demand from China, “may have set the stage for a golden age of gas.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is the main sponsor of the Frac Act, as it has been termed. It would put fracking under the control of the EPA and remove the 2005 congressional exemption that prevents the EPA from regulating it. The legislation would also force drillers to reveal chemicals used in fracking. Pennsylvania already requires disclosure of chemicals. At the center of the debate is the 1974 federal Safe Drinking Water Act, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story reported.
The paper reported that the legislation “could amount to a massive disruption of the drilling industry,” according to a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. “It would be a potential shutdown of oil and gas production on shore in the United States,” he said.
A Texas law requires disclosure of the chemicals used in some wells. They ranged from benign compounds to some known and suspected carcinogens, including benzene and methanol. Thousands of gallons of such chemicals are used with millions of gallons of water. In Texas’s Barnett Shale, wastewater can be injected into impermeable rock 1.5 miles underground. In the more porous Marcellus region, some facilities in Pennsylvania are approved to treat the water. Many companies recycle the water to drill their next well.
Studies at Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research found that of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania, natural gas development consumes only 1.9 million gallons a day, compared with 770 million for industry.
An Oct. 12 article in Scientific American exposes how eager some EPA uber-environmentalists were to blame Marcellus shale drillers for a fish kill along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border. After a two-year study of the fish killing, the EPA charged a local coal mine with the fish deaths. But the lead EPA biologist on the case challenged that conclusion. Instead he fingered the effects of water from Marcellus shale drilling. A grand jury investigation cleared Marcellus fracking.
The documentary movie “Gasland” won an Academy Award a few years ago and spread a predictable hue and cry among environmentalists about the possibility of gas from underground wells escaping and starting fires. Gasland featured dramatic footage of gas-infused well water that can be ignited at a kitchen tap, though it was not found that this was the result of nearby shale gas drilling. Pockets of methane gas have been a phenomenon in shallow water wells in parts of Pennsylvania for decades.
Most shale gas fracking is conducted as far as 5,000 feet underground, thousands of feet below the aquifer and beneath impermeable rock layers that separate it from drinking water, as American Enterprise Institute senior scholar Steven F. Hayward has pointed out. The EPA says it has launched a major study of fracking, with initial findings projected for 2012 and a final report by 2014.
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