Natural Gas Hazards Drawing Federal Attention

July 7, 2010

After hearing for years about public concern over the adverse health and environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing used to increase production of natural gas, Congress directed EPA to investigate the issue. The agency has begun a 2-year process to decide what the issues are and how to address them. There will be four public meetings to get input on the scope and design of the agency's work.

July 8: Fort Worth, TX

July 13: Denver, CO

July 22: Canonsburg, PA

Aug. 12: Binghamton, NY

There has been considerable evidence in many states that hydraulic fracturing (commonly called fracking) may contribute to contaminated drinking water. At the same time, industry officials have generally refused to name the many chemicals injected underground in large quantities as part of the fracking process. Nonetheless, in the past Congress and EPA have seen little need to be concerned about the process. In the absence of any federal oversight, a number of states are becoming more aggressive in tackling this issue.

In a related development, the National Academies' National Research Council is scheduled to release on July 27, 2010, a report on the possible effects on soils, surface water, and ground water caused by contaminated wastewater dumped into the environment as part of the process of extracting gas from coalbed formations. This is a significant issue in CO, MT, ND, NM, UT, and WY.

Congress has shown hints of action on this issue, particularly regarding protecting drinking water and requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals, but legislative efforts haven't gone too far, despite more than 60 House and Senate backers.

  • Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (search here for HR 2766 and S 1215).