Earlier today, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. During the hearing she was asked about the risk to drinking water safety posed by the practice of hydraulic fracturing, given recently reported incidents from several states of water contamination linked to the practice. Administrator Jackson stated that EPA should look into the issue and review the agency's position.
This is great news. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of fluids, often containing toxic chemicals, into oil or gas wells at very high pressure. These pressurized fluids are used to crack open the underground formation to allow oil or gas to flow more freely and increase production. Fracturing is highly variable and unpredictable, and can lead to unintended consequences, such as contamination of drinking water. Studies show that, while some of the injected fluids are returned to the surface, some remain underground. In some cases, they are injected directly into underground sources of drinking water.
This practice should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) like other forms of underground injection. Yet, in 2005, Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the SDWA to the benefit of Halliburton and a handful of other hydraulic fracturing companies. Closing the Halliburton Loophole would not shut down drilling or mandate a burdensome new permit process; it's time to reverse this hand-out to special interests.
Families in places as diverse as Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Alabama have experienced drinking water contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing, with impacts to their own health and that of their livestock. We need a minimum federal standard to prohibit drinking water contamination and shine a light on hydraulic fracturing.