Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – of natural gas shale deposits continues to attract substantial interest at all levels of government. Recent developments at the federal level include:
• In early November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won agreement from eight producers to provide the chemical formulas of the fluid they inject horizontally under pressure to recover natural gas trapped in underground shale formations. EPA subpoenaed a ninth company, Halliburton. This information will be used in EPA’s Congressionally-mandated study of potential impacts on groundwater from the fracking process. EPA’s Science Advisory Board will conduct a peer review of the study’s design in January 2011; technical workshops will follow in February, and EPA hopes to complete the study by the end of calendar year 2012. EPA is also considering whether, even before the study is complete, it will issue guidance to the states on implementation of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act with regard to fracking.
• In mid-November, the Mickey Leland National Urban Air Toxics Research Center, established under the Clean Air Amendments of 1990, released a draft report on air emissions near Barnett Shale natural gas production facilities in Texas. The report concluded that concentrations of benzene and carbon disulfide, the two contaminants of greatest concern, were well below levels that are associated with adverse human health effects.
• The Department of Interior is also actively considering fracking issues, and will hold a Forum on Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing on Public Lands on Tuesday, November 30, at 1 pm EST at the Department’s auditorium in Washington, DC.
Those interested in this topic should continue to monitor developments at the federal, state, and local level.