EPA Begins Study of Controversial Gas Drilling Technique

Study into drinking water impacts an important step, but can't replace proposed federal protections


Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 235

Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that they are beginning a study into a controversial gas drilling technique. The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas from underground deposits.

The following is a statement from Earthjustice Legislative Associate Jessica Ennis:

"We commend EPA for investigating this controversial gas drilling technique. From Wyoming to Pennsylvania, people are worried about what this untested process is doing to their drinking water.

"An earlier EPA study into hydraulic fracturing, conducted during the Bush administration, was widely discredited. By committing to a serious, peer-reviewed study and expediting the necessary funds, Lisa Jackson’s EPA is demonstrating that this issue is indeed an agency priority, as well it should be.

"As important as the study is, we know that what’s really needed are federal protections. Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, so oil and gas companies are only required to comply with a patchwork of state regulations. Also thanks to this exemption, known as the Halliburton Loophole, we have no idea what chemicals drillers are pumping underground.

"Drillers are clamoring for access to regions of the country that are unprepared for this scale of industrial gas drilling. In Pennsylvania alone, where the pace of drilling has tripled in the past year, reports of drinking water contamination are multiplying. Without a federal floor to protect drinking water in states without sufficient regulations, we could end up jeopardizing water supplies for millions of people."

"Bills pending before Congress would remove the Halliburton Loophole and require companies to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Congress needs to pass this legislation and quickly. The millions of Americans whose drinking water is at stake don’t have time to waste." 

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