Legislation and Politics:
Newly Enacted Legislation
ProPublica (2/19/10): U.S. House of Reps. Energy Committee Investigates Hydraulic Fracturing
"Investigation into Gas Drilling Practices." Sabrina Shankman and Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, 2/19/10
This short article discusses Rep. Waxman's recent announcement that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will investigate the "potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing." To do so, they asked eight companies, including Halliburton, B.J.Services, and Schlumberger, for information on the wells hydraulically fractured from 2007 to 2009, their distance to underground drinking water sources, the amounts and types of chemicals used, and any health and environmental effects of drilling. The article also discusses the injection of hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into the ground by BJ Services (in violation of a non-binding agreement with the EPA) and by Halliburton in violation of the spirit but not the letter of the agreement.
2/18/10 Waxman Announces House Committee Investigation into the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing
Media release from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announcing their investigation into the impact of hydraulic fracturing on health and the environment. They have requested information from eight gas companies on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells in each state from 2005 through 2009. Includes links to each of the eight letters sent to gas companies detailing the specific information requested. Also includes an 11-page memo sent by Chairman Henry Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey to members of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment discussing why they are conducting this investigation. To see the memo, click here. The memo discusses the continued use of vast amounts of diesel fuel and similarly toxic chemicals in fracturing fluid by B.J. Services and Halliburton, even after signing a non-binding agreement not to use them (although Halliburton may not have used diesel in coalbed methane wells, the only type covered by the agreement). Also gives an amazingly good summary (even citing ProPublica articles) of the potential gas in shale-gas reserves; some of the environmental concerns with hydrofracking, including contamination of air and drinking water, the toxic waste disposal problem, amount of fresh water used, and high radioactivity levels; and gas industry exemptions from federal environmental laws.
Riverkeeper Vol. 4 (9/8/09): Current Info on Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale
Produced by a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the Hudson River Watershed, "Industrial Gas Drilling Reporter" gives excellent, up-to-date information on the state of gas drilling. Each volume includes some background info, then gives extremely helpful summaries of important recent news articles and reports, with links to each. Includes an update on legislative action on gas drilling, with good descriptions of different bills and policies, as well as their current status. Also has updates on the status of the DEC's expected SGEIS, and lists public hearings, forums, and ways citizens can take action.
Riverkeeper Vol. 3 (8/6/09): Current Info on Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale
See description under Volume 4, above.
Riverkeeper Vol. 2 (7/9/09): Current Info on Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale
See description under Volume 4, above.
Riverkeeper Vol. 1 (6/15/09): Current Info on Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale
See description under Volume 4, above.
ProPublica (7/13/09): on Success of Lobbying Against Frac Act
Discusses how some legislators are now asking for more research on hydrofracking and describes some of the strong industry opposition to the bill.
ProPublica Article "Natural Gas Politics" (5/26/09) on Industry Lobbying Against the FRAC Act
ProPublica Article (6/5/09) on Industry Lobbying Against the FRAC Act at Congressional Hearing
EPA Researches Safety of Hydraulic Fracturing
In 2010 The EPA's Office of Research and Development initiated a review of the safety of hydraulic fracturing. The Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office has posted materials about the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Plan here.
(If this link fails, go to http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/WebProjectsbyNameBOARD!OpenView and click on Hydraulic Fracturing Research Plan.)
The EPA is holding a public meeting to gather advice on the scope for its proposed study on April 7th and 8th, 2010 in Washington, DC. For information about this public meeting, click here.
Public Meeting Agenda
Scoping Document for the Hydraulic Fracturing Study
For additional information information, contact
Ed Hanlon, EPA Science Advisory Board Staff Office, firstname.lastname@example.org
202-343-9946 (phone/voice mail)
FRAC Act in the House of Representatives: H. R. 2766
This bill, sponsored by Diana DeGette (D-CO), and co-sponsored by Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Eric Massa (D-NY), Michael Arcuri (D-NY), and others, repeals the exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (the "Halliburton Loophole"), and requires public disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking fluid. Referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
FRAC Act in the U.S. Senate: S. 1215
The same as H. R. 2766 (see above link). Sponsored by Robert Casey (D-PA) and cosponsored by Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives: H. R. 4190
Introduced by Representative Jim Moran (VA); with nine co-sponsors including Representatives Hinchey (D-NY22), Lowey (D-NY18), and Slaughter (D-NY28) of New York. The bill funds a study by NIEHS (The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), suspected of contributing to a whole host of health issues including learning disabilities, testicular cancer, and breast cancer. EDCs are routinely used in fracking fluids and are virtually unregulated because agencies such as the EPA claim to lack the necessary scientific data to ban them or to set safety standards for their use. Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 in the Senate: S. 2828
The same as H. R. 4190 (see above link). Introduced by Senator John Kerry (MA); no co-sponsors. Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension.
Update on NYS Legislation Related to Gas Drilling as of June 20, 2009
Nice description of each bill and its provisions, sponsors, and status at the end of the session.
NYS Assembly Bill A08748
Sponsored by James Brennan and cosponsored by William Colton, Joan Millman, Ginny Fields, Nelson Castro, and Barbara Lifton. Prohibits gas drilling within the NYC watershed or anywhere within 5 miles of its boundaries, and within the Delaware River watershed or any recharge area of a sole-source aquifer. If water wells are contaminated, the gas drillers are considered responsible unless they can show by clear and convincing evidence that they are not the contaminator. Fracturing fluids and the wastes from drilling must be properly stored and must be treated as hazardous waste. DEC must establish an impartial technical advisory committee, supported by permit fees, to review and issue guidelines on best practices. This committee includes representatives from the environmental community, the public health community, the gas drilling industry, and others. Many other provisions to regulate gas drilling. Referred to Environmental Conservation Committee in June 2009.
NYS Assembly Bill A08784
Sponsored by Robert Sweeney and cosponsored by many. Requires permit holders to test the quality of ground and surface water within a thousand-foot radius of the drilling area and on all water wells in the production unit, unless DEC determines that an expanded radius is required. Requires testing prior to drilling, following hydrofracturing, prior to well completion, and annually for producing wells. Referred to Environmental Conservation Committee and Codes in June 2009.
NYS Assembly Bill A01322
Sponsored by James Brennan and co-sponsored by William Colton and Janele Hyer-Spencer. Prohibits drilling within two miles of the NYC water supply infrastructure, and prohibits oil and gas drilling permits from being issued before the SGEIS is updated. Referred to Environmental Conservation Committee.
NYS Assembly Bill A04614
Sponsored by William Parment and co-sponsored by Barbara Lifton. Requires an oil or gas driller or producer who affects a public or private drinking water supply to restore or replace the water supply. The affected water supply must be within 1,000 feet of the oil or gas well, and the contamination must be detected within six months after the completion of drilling or alteration activities. Referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee.
NYS Assembly Bill A06953
Sponsored by Felix Ortiz and co-sponsored by Barbara Lifton and others. Requires the use of non-toxic fracking solutions during hydraulic fracturing. Referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee.
“Congress Tells EPA to Study Hydraulic Fracturing,” by Lustgarten at ProPublica (11/10/09)
As part of the $32 billion Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill recently signed by President Barack Obama, lawmakers asked the EPA to revisit hydraulic fracturing. The bill urges the EPA to use a portion of the money to fund a scientifically robust and peer-reviewed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, "using a credible approach that relies on the best available science." The EPA gave hydraulic fracturing its stamp of approval in a 2004 report, but that study has been widely criticized as politically motivated and scientifically unsound.
H.R. 2996 Approved: Urges EPA to Study Hydraulic Fracturing Risks to Drinking Water (10/29/09)
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, which contains a provision written by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a new study on the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water supplies. Since this was written, the Senate has passed an identical bill, and President Obama has signed the measure into law (Public Law 111-88). The EPA's last study on hydraulic fracturing (2004) is widely considered to be invalid, due to selective data collection from industry sources and omission of other data for political reasons.