EPA working within current law to regulate diesel in fracking fluid

January 28, 2011 • Lauren Pagel


Yesterday, the Greenwire (published in the New York Times)* erroneously reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new regulations for the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking).

What the EPA did do: use its website to highlight existing law that authorizes EPA to prevent the injection of diesel fuel underground during fracking. EPA took this step only after companies like Halliburton were caught doing so.

The EPA's authority to regulate the use of diesel to protect drinking water from oil and gas related pollution is actually well established.

EPA, diesel, fracking, and transparency: a clarification.

January 28, 2011 • Lauren Pagel

Last week, I blogged about the EPA using its authority under the 2005 Energy Policy Act to regulate the use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing, and used a Greenwire story published in the New York Times on the issue to highlight the issue.

While the EPA is within its authority under current law to regulate the use of diesel in fracking as part of the current regulations for Class II wells under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), I do feel that the EPA could have gone about its announcement around this issue in a way that was more transparent.

By adding language to their website without an official announcement, the EPA kept the public and industry in the dark about something that did not and should not have been kept a secret.

It would have been in the public interest (and would have created far less controversy) if the EPA had created a participatory process with a public announcement regarding the regulation of diesel fuel used for hydraulic fracturing.

It would also have been in the public interest for the EPA to have begun to deal with this issue back in 2005 when the Energy Policy Act was passed and their regulatory authority to regulate this practice was made clear.

Gas industry attempts snow job in Ohio

January 27, 2011 • Nadia Steinzor

Much of the time, a winter storm keeps people snug at home but apparently not in Ohio when gas development is at stake. Nearly 300 residents and elected officials in Canton (Stark County) turned out last week for a debate on the issue. Even in a state with a long history of digging and drilling for fossil fuels, modern-day gas extraction is clearly something worth learning about.

And also worrying about, as industry trains its sights on both the Marcellus and the even deeper Utica shale, and newly elected Governor Kasich openly hopes that gas will be an answer to his budgetary prayers.

The New Mexico Roadrunner

January 26, 2011 • Gwen Lachelt

Not only is the Roadrunner the state bird but also it s just a really cool critter. My office in Albuquerque has a stunning view of the Sandia Mountains and is close to city open space so I have the pleasure of watching roadrunners quite a bit from my office window.  Roadrunners are both striking and comical (not unlike the legislative session at times).  They d rather run than fly - they ve been clocked at speeds of 17 mph. And they catch and eat rattlesnakes. So I m naming my New Mexico blog postings in honor of the Roadrunner and in the spirit of keeping the coyote at bay!
A lot of our OGAP work on energy issues in the Land of Enchantment takes place 50 miles north of the Duke City in the City Different, Santa Fe. The state capitol, also known as the Roundhouse, as well as the state departments governing oil and gas and energy impacts, are located in Santa Fe.
I ve spent a considerable part of the past eight years running to Santa Fe and sitting in a hearing room with one small corner window participating in and witnessing the development of new safeguards to protect New Mexico s water, land, air and public health from oil and gas drilling and fracking. The 2011 New Mexico Legislative Session began last Tuesday with threats from the new Governor to throw out modest oil and gas protections like the Pit Rule. Neither striking nor comical, we take this threat seriously and will do all we can to keep New Mexico s common sense drilling rules in place.
I hope you ll join me in standing up for New Mexico s working farms, ranches, neighborhoods, public and tribal lands by following our blog and action alerts, writing and calling the Governor and legislators, coming to the Roundhouse for important committee hearings and supporting our work to uphold important safeguards like the Pit Rule.

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State of the Union reaction: natural gas is not clean energy

January 26, 2011 • Lauren Pagel

I was heartened by the President s desire to end the massive subsidies we currently dole out to the oil industry, and invest in renewable energy. While we attempt to wean ourselves from all dirty energy sources, we need to end the subsidies, close the loopholes and institute policies that regulates fossil fuels in a way that best protects our communities and water resources.  

Montana Disclosure: Common sense safeguard and critical next step for the Treasure State

January 26, 2011 • Jennifer Goldman

Montanans deserve simply to know what chemicals the oil and gas industry are injecting underground and storing on the surface near our homes and water wells. That is why our Montana lawmakers should move forward to require the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids.

Montana s Senate Bill 86 sponsored by Senator Bob Hawks does just that and will be heard by our Senate Natural Resources Committee on January 21st.

The oil and gas industry often relies on silly technicalities to claim that we have nothing to worry about in regards to fracturing and that toxic chemicals used in the process needn t be disclosed or tracked by the public.

To say that fracturing is not to blame for incidents of water contamination is to rely on distinctions that don t make a difference. Distinctions like: it wasn t the fracturing that poisoned a landowner s water well it was weak gas well casing. Montanans and anyone working on farms or ranches know that almost everything is interrelated and connected. The well casing in an oil or gas well must withstand drilling and high-pressured frack jobs in order to keep the toxics in the pipe. Fracturing fluids are important part of the overall picture when considering the fate of all the toxics used and disposed of during the life of an oil or gas well.

Budget cuts for everyone: except for mining industry subsidies?

January 26, 2011 • Lauren Pagel

Today, Senator Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Elimination of Double Subsidies for the Hardrock Mining Industry Act, which would save U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating an outrageous tax deduction for the mining industry. In an era of budget cuts and calls for increased fiscal responsibility to reduce the federal deficit, giving double subsidies to exceedingly profitable industries is a move in the wrong direction and Senator Shaheen s legislation would finally end this ridiculous corporate tax break.

When you think of mining in the United States, the last thing you probably think of is the tax code. But, a provision in the tax code accounts for one of the largest subsidies received by the mining industry each year. This subsidy has a name that only the IRS could come up with the Percentage Depletion Allowance.

The Percentage Depletion Allowance, or PDA, permits a mining company to deduct a set percentage amount of its gross annual income when calculating its federal income tax, based on the fact that the value of its assets (the minerals in the ground) decline as mineral production progresses.

The PDA applies nationwide to mining operations on private and public lands, and constitutes an exceptional tax break for U.S. mineral producers beyond those granted to other private industries.

GASLAND (now an Oscar nominee), ‘proof’ and the need for responsible oversight

January 25, 2011 • Alan Septoff

This morning, GASLAND received a much-deserved nomination for Oscar for best documentary.

More than any other single effort, Josh Fox's GASLAND has helped puncture the myth that natural gas is "clean".  This movie makes abundantly clear the human costs of irresponsible drilling by telling the stories of real people who have been harmed by it.

When a multibillion dollar industry has its dirty laundry hung out for everyone to see, it fights back.  And so it has tried to discredit GASLAND as unfounded environmental hysteria. With this Oscar nomination, we can expect these attacks to increase.

Although you can read a blow-by-blow refutation of these attacks by Josh Fox and a panel of experts, one of industry's main claims is [paraphrasing] "we can't know those people were hurt by drilling -- there's no proof that drilling/hydraulic fracturing harmed their, or anyone's, drinking water".