EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson addressed hydraulic fracturing concerns with environmental leaders on Saturday, June 19. The 150-or-so environmental activists came from across the Marcellus Shale region - New York
and West Virginia
- for a summit hosted by the Coalition to Protect New York
(CPNY). Sessions focused on a diversity of land issues and health concerns, but the central focus was fracking.
Wilson, an environmental engineer with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviewed what went wrong with the 2004 EPA report on hydraulic fracturing of coal bed methane reservoirs. EPA scientists proved that there was a risk of benzene and other toxic chemicals migrating into ground water from drilling activities.
But, Wilson said, heavy industry influence on the panel reviewing the report suppressed this data from the final report. The 2004 study is flawed. And it is those flawed findings that were used by congress to exempt the process of hydro-fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Things have changed now,” Wilson
said. “The EPA is beginning a new study on hydro-fracking, but even with $1.9 million it is underfunded.” The new study promises to be broader in scope, looking at impacts of the entire life cycle of gas drilling. And it won’t be limited to coal bed methane, Wilson
The new study promises to be more transparent, too, and peer-reviewed. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, Wilson
warned. The EPA isn’t interested in studying Dimock
, or Pavillion, Wyoming
, or any of the places that have already experienced water contamination related to drilling activities.
listed a number of risks that drilling dependent on high-volume hydraulic fracturing presents. Spills – especially spills of undiluted fluids or chemicals – topped his list. While he admitted that the bulk of fracturing fluid is benign, Wilson
pointed out that chemicals are added to thicken and thin the drilling mud as needed. The storage and movement of these undiluted chemicals produce an opportunity of risk, he said.
Storing frack fluid in pits creates pathways of exposure via both an air and water. Air emissions, from the volatile chemicals in the fluid, present a temporary risk – unless you are a worker suffering chronic exposure to the chemicals. Leaking pits create long-term risks that may remain hidden for decades.
Fracking fluids can also mobilize toxics that are present in the rock formation, such as radon and other Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM). Production fluids – the brines that come out of the rock formation – contain both frack and formation toxics.
EPA Public Meetings on Hydraulic Fracturing Study
EPA is hosting four public information meetings on the proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water. The meetings will provide public information about the proposed scope and design of the EPA “Fracking Study” and will offer an opportunity for local residents to comment on the draft study plan.
While hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing natural gas, the EPA notes that serious concerns have been raised about the potential impact of fracking on drinking water, human health and the environment. To address these concerns, EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water.
To support the initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, the agency sought suggestions and comments from the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)—an independent, external federal advisory committee. Now they are inviting individual citizens, communities, tribes, state and federal partners, industry, trade associations, environmental organizations and other stakeholders to provide input to guide the design of the study.
July 8, 2010 in Fort Worth, TX
at the Hilton Fort Worth
, 815 Main Street
6:00 – 10:00 pm
July 13, 2010 in Denver, Colorado
at the Marriott Tech Center
, 4900 South Syracuse Street
6:00 – 10:00 pm
July 22, 2010 in Canonsburg, PA
Hilton Garden Inn, Pittsburgh/Southpointe, 1000 Corporate Drive
6:00 – 10:00 pm
August 12, 2010 in Binghamton, NY
at the Anderson Center
for the Performing Arts, Osterhout Concert Theater
6:00 – 10:00 pm
If you want to make oral comments you need to pre-register at least 72 hours before the meeting. Register online at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_hydroout.html (scroll down to “informational public meeting”). If you have neighbors who lack computer access, tell them to register by calling 1-866-477-3635
You may also submit written comments at the meeting; by e-mail to email@example.com; or mail written comments to Jill Dean, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Mailcode 4606M, Washington, DC 20460.
To learn more, visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_hydrofrac.html