Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey has reintroduced the FRAC Act designed to protect Pennsylvanians and create jobs in the state by increasing disclosure and regulation of hydraulic fracturing chemicals used to drill for natural gas, improving worker safety and promoting job training.
Chris Tucker of Energy in Depth, which represents oil and gas producers, says hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale takes place thousands of feet below sources of drinking water, so if the well is designed and maintained properly, there’s no possibility of contamination.
David Masur of Penn Environment says not enough research has been done to say whether drinking water has been contaminated by hydrofracing chemicals or just because of the hydrofracing activity, but drinking water has been contaminated by methane, and the Department of Environmental Protection has fined the industry and required them to provide safe drinking water to the people affected.
An EPA report on hydraulic fracturing is due in 2012.
The FRAC Act did not pass when introduced in 2009 or 2010, but David Masur thinks there’s growing support, hopefully bipartisan, for a thorough look at Marcellus Shale drilling. Other issues to be addressed, besides disclosure of fracing chemicals, are surface water quality, emergency preparedness, industry compliance with environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act, and industry withdrawal of water from rivers and streams.
Tucker says the real water challenge in Pennsylvania is with water that comes back up after drilling. In most states, that water can be put back underground, but Pennsylvania’s substratum is different. Nevertheless, he says recycling technology is developing rapidly and large producers are already at 95- to 100% recycling.