The process of hydraulic fracturing (also known as "hydro-fracking") has been in the news alot lately.
Due to pressure from the public and media, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would study the potential adverse impacts that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape into the well and be recovered. In the past few years, the use of hydraulic fracturing has expanded across the country and has recently crept into our region and the conscious of Western New Yorkers.
The EPA has requested information from nine natural gas service companies regarding this process. The information they are requesting will contribute to a scientific study to determine whether hydraulic fracturing has an impact on drinking water and the health of people living near the wells.
The companies they are targeting include nine national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers: BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, PRC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford. The EPA has asked for the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted. This data can be used as the basis for further study on a selection of sites.
The data being sought by the EPA is similar to information that has already been provided separately to Congress, so the expectation is that the companies will cooperate voluntarily.
“This scientifically rigorous study will help us understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water – a concern that has been raised by Congress and the American people. By sharing information about the chemicals and methods they are using, these companies will help us make a thorough and efficient review of hydraulic fracturing and determine the best path forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future, and it’s critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities. EPA will do everything in its power, as it is obligated to do, to protect the health of the American people and will respond to demonstrated threats while the study is underway.”
To invite public input on the scope of the study, the EPA is hosting a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions. They hope to hear from citizens, independent experts and industry. The public meetings closest to Western New York are in Binghamton on September 13 and September 15.