New Congressional Inquiries On Hydraulic Fracturing

April 2010 Vol. 65 No. 4

Waxman's investigation could give new steam to the FRAC Act, or defuse it, depending on what he learns. Waxman's letters to all eight companies asked about the identity of chemicals they are using in fracing fluids and their total use, potential safety and health issues, documents related to allegations that fracing liquids are dangerous, figures on wastewater disposal and other issues. The other five companies queried are Frac Tech Services, Superior Well Services, Universal Well Services, Sanjel Corporation and Calfrac Well Services.

Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, approximately 22,000 industrial and federal facilities must report to EPA the quantity of toxic chemicals they release, store or transfer, which is then made public in the annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Oil and gas exploration and production facilities are exempt from this reporting requirement. The EPA also does not have authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to require disclosure of the chemicals injected in hydraulic fracturing operations. Those are two laws Congress could amend to cover fracing disclosure.

The EPA was tasked last October by language in a fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill to conduct a new scientific study of the hydraulic fracturing process. Specifically, Congress told the EPA to “carry out a study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, using a credible approach that relies on the best available science, as well as independent sources of information."

EPA Delays Compression Station Emissions Rule
The EPA gave the natural gas pipeline industry a six-month reprieve before it publishes new air emission requirements for spark ignition (SI) engines rated less than 500 horsepower at pipeline compression stations. Any new controls required by the agency would affect approximately 290,000 engines used by interstate and intrastate transporters of gas. Any new emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) published by August could require pipelines to equip engines with catalytic converters. Patrick Nugent, executive director of the Texas Pipeline Association, contends many existing gas-fired SI engines would have to be replaced.