Concerns in oil-producing statesChemicals being pumped into the earth to extract gas and oil have left some residents of oil-producing states quite concerned about water supplies.
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
Chemicals being pumped into the earth to extract gas and oil have left some residents of oil-producing states quite concerned about water supplies.
Oil and gas producing companies are exempt from disclosing which chemicals are being injected, covered by an exemption in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005 and known to some as the “Halliburton loophole.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives on June 9. The bill would require oil and gas companies to adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards and require disclosure of the chemicals used during the “fracking” process.
The bill has been sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for review and no schedule has been set.
“Fracking” could become more prevalent in North Dakota due to the oil industry’s increased interest and aspirations for the Bakken and Three Forks-Sanish oil formations.
North Dakota has yet to sign on in support of this bill.
“That bill would be a disaster for us,” Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. said. “Hydraulic fracturing is a very important part of being able to explore and drill for oil in the Bakken formation.”
Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., opposes the bill as well, stating the oil reserves are now recoverable because of technological advances such as “fracking.”
“The bill is potentially very threatening to the oil exploration and recovery activity underway in North Dakota,” Pomeroy said. “It’s one of these pieces of legislation that is a solution in search of a problem.”
Deb Thomas, organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council based in Sheridan, Wyo. said 34 states are being developed for oil and use the “fracking” process.
“Everything that’s used in hydraulic fracturing, from the time they drill the well till they get the gas or the oil to the refinery is exempt from EPA regulation,” Thomas said. “It means they can use chemicals and product other companies can’t use.”
Tom Irgens, a member of the Dakota Resource Council Oil and Gas Task Force said he is highly concerned with drinking water and other usable water sources.
“All they (oil companies) will tell anybody is that they (chemicals) are safe and it’s none of your darn business,” he said.
Kristofer Eisenla, press secretary for DeGette, said it is a national issue, stemming from Colorado to California, New York and Wyoming.
“The problem is we don’t have hard evidence because the oil and gas industry has one of the only exemptions under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Eisenla said.
Thomas said if states are regulating the drilling and “fracking” properly, then contamination most likely will not occur.
“Right now we know there is a lot of groundwater contamination from drilling,” Thomas said. “We suspect there is also a lot of contamination from ‘fracking.’”
“These companies make a lot of money and they should have to adhere to the same rules and regulations all other industrial development does,” Thomas said.
Eisenla said if the chemicals used are not dangerous, then oil companies shouldn’t have an issue disclosing them.
“When money oversees safety, that’s when I have a problem,” Irgens said. “Oil talks and B.S. walks.”
What is ‘fracking?’
Hydraulic fracturing is a common practice among oil and gas companies, done by forcing pressurized injections of sand, water and chemicals into oil, gas and shale formations to break them up, allowing more oil and gas to flow.