A Department of Energy advisory board subcommittee on natural gas issued a report of its preliminary findings today. The subcommittee was tasked with making recommendations to improve the safety and environmental performance of natural gas hydraulic fracturing in shale formations. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas from underground deposits.
Among the recommendations included in the report are disclosure of all chemicals used for fracking at each well; using a life-cycle approach to managing and tracking water and wastewater; extensive testing, monitoring, and disclosure of air pollution associated with gas development; and further study of the climate change impacts posed by emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:
“The gas industry needs to change the way it’s been doing business. This report by the Department of Energy subcommittee identifies a lengthy to-do list for the gas industry and shows just how far this industry has to go before its practices can be considered safe for public health and the environment.
“We’ve said all along that the public deserves to know the full list of chemicals being used in fracking, that cumulative health and environmental impacts need to be brought under control, and that the full picture of this industry’s climate footprint needs to be understood.
“Members of the Subcommittee have addressed these, and other, concerns in this report. Most heartening is the agency’s call for a cumulative impact analysis, something we at Earthjustice have identified as a priority.
“The report’s sobering recommendations show just how wide the gap is between the protections that are needed and the protections that we have now. With this in mind, gas development should not proceed where full disclosure requirements, strong health and environmental protections, and rigorous enforcement mechanisms are not in place.
“The report makes clear the job that leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior have before them. So, too, is action required by Congress, the states, and localities.
“The DOE subcommittee has spoken out clearly on the shortcomings of this industry, joining a public outcry that has steadily been gaining volume. The question remains: will the gas industry heed the call?”