Posts Tagged ‘safe drinking water act’

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

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Public Citizen today urged a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) task force to prioritize the safety of water resources at contamination risk from hydraulic fracturing. Among the solutions Public Citizen proposed is repeal of the various exemptions the natural gas industry has received from federal environmental laws; the denial of drilling companies’ “proprietary” right to keep secret the identity of toxic materials they inject underground and an emphasis on improved outreach to affected communities.

The DOE’s Natural Gas Subcommittee should enact procedures to prevent water contamination around abandoned fracking wells, which has happened as fracking fluid and other contaminants have seeped into the groundwater. The public needs to be protected from chemically compromised water.

Just as worrisome, the hydraulic fracturing industry is exempted from elements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. The subcommittee should persuade Congress to repeal these special exemptions, which limit the federal government’s ability to ensure that protection of water resources is prioritized.

The subcommittee also should make every effort to include the input of the people whose lives will be affected by fracking policies, instead of holding 75 percent of the public meetings in Washington, D.C. The public needs a voice in policies that will have an enormous impact on their homes, their water and their safety.

The DOE subcommittee and Congress should work together to ensure the health and safety of the public and the environment.

To read the comments sent to the DOE, visit: http://www.citizen.org/documents/DOEfrackingComments8.15.2011.pdf.

This is a reprint of a Statement from Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

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Drilling companies injected more than 32 million gallons of fluids containing diesel into the ground during hydraulic fracturing operations from 2005 to 2009, according to federal lawmakers.  About a third of the 32 million gallons was straight diesel fuel, with 49.8% of the 32.2 million gallons of fluid containing diesel injected into Texas wells.  Texas lead the 19 states using diesel as a fracking fluid, followed by Oklahoma at 10% of the 32.2 million gallons.

Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technique that involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into underground formations to release greater quantities of gas and oil. The technique dates back several decades, but it has drawn new scrutiny from the public and regulators as its use has grown in recent years.

Concerns include the potential for the chemicals to get into drinking water or for natural gas to migrate into water wells.  While the industry says that such an incident rarely happens and can easily be avoided, some homeowners near Fort Worth would probably wouldn’t buy that claim.

Most hydraulic fracturing fluid uses water as its primary component, but in formations where water is absorbed too easily – such as in certain kinds of clay – diesel is used as an additive.

The EPA and industry agreed in 2003 that diesel wouldn’t be used in hydraulic fracturing jobs in coal bed methane formations, because drilling in those formations tends to be closer to drinking water sources.  At this time, none of the companies that used diesel as a fracking fluid could provide data on whether they performed hydraulic fracturing in or near underground sources of drinking water.

Lawmakers are asking the EPA to look at diesel use in its study into the safety of hydraulic fracturing.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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water header

I’ve been thinking (and worrying) about water a lot lately.  I suppose that the drought has brought all this concern along.  Just a few months ago, folks were comparing this drought to the one that devastated Texas agriculture in the ’50s (when crop yields dropped by as much as 50%, all but one county in Texas was declared a federal drought disaster area, and grasslands were scorched and ranchers that couldn’t afford high hay prices resorted to a mixture of prickly pear cactus and molasses), but now folks are saying that this drought is well on its way to being worse, and certainly more costly, than any other dry spell in Texas history.

We’re already seeing ranching and agriculture suffer substantially from this drought.  Agricultural officials are now pinning crop and livestock losses at $3.6 billion.  Just 12% of the cotton acreage planted this year will be harvested, and many gins won’t open up this season because there isn’t enought work to justify it.  Ranchers are also buying high priced hay and feed supplements because their own pastures haven’t produced enough to feed their herds.  Ranchers are selling off calves younger and thinner than usual, and even letting go of the mature females that sustain their herds.  In the last week, Bastrop County alone lost 12,000 cattle from the drought.  As Roy Wheeler, an Atascosa County rancher told the San Antonio Express-News, “We’re selling the factory, so they say.”

So why worry about the weather,  you may ask.  Haven’t farmers and ranchers been scraping by and beaten by the weather since the first man stuck a seed in the ground?  Perhaps, but during the dust bowl and in this last great drought in the ’50s, we could still shake our fists at the sky and vow never to go hungry again — but now we can only shake our fists at ourselves.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that this drought is a result of human interference.  I’m no scientist, just an educated girl with a blog, but I’d bet the farm that we’re seeing global warming in action.

But you don’t have take my word for it.  Take the word of Dr. Gerald North, a climate scientist at that notorious liberal holdout Texas A&M, who says that this drought is the beginning of a permanent trend for Texas.  He cites the 2007 IPCC report, which shows trends toward hotter and drier summers.  In reference to this weather pattern, North told the Environment News Service that, “It could be just a fluke that persists for a decade… But my guess is that it’s here to stay, but with fluctuations up and down.”

Of course we can’t point at any one weather event and say that it is a direct result of global warming, but we can take events as indicative of what is to come as global warming progresses.  Just as Hurricane Katrina woke up the world to the devastation that will ensue as storms of increase in frequency and severity from climate change, this current drought can give Texans a hint of what the future of Texas weather will look like.

There’s a terrible element of irony here.  Our current trajectory of unsustainable growth and energy consumption increase the likelihood that drought in Texas will become the new norm.  AND those same industries and energy sources which have poisoned our atmosphere and raised global temperatures… use enormous amounts of water.  Coal, natural gas, and nuclear — which propents are trying to sell as “the low-carbon cure we need” — are incredibly, enormously, despicably water intensive. (more…)

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