Group says feds should be tracking ‘fracking’
An watchdog group is calling for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a process used to free oil and gas from rock strata.The Oil and Gas Accountability Project has taken issue with a 2004 report by the Environmental Protection Agency that said fracturing, commonly called fracking, does not need federal regulation because it poses no threat to drinking water safety.The OGAP gathered scientists, an EPA whistleblower, a Colorado town administrator, and people who say their water wells have been contaminated by fracking to speak in a national conference call with the media Wednesday.Congress is now considering exempting fracking from federal regulation in the 2005 energy bill. The bill is before the House of Representatives.Fracking is commonly part of the oil and gas production process. Fluids and other components are injected into a well bore under high pressure to force the release of oil or gas from rock formations.One of the fracking fluids used in the production of natural gas is diesel fuel, which contains volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, that are known to cause cancer. The OGAP has called for banning the use of toxic chemicals in fracking.One of the participants in the teleconference was Wes Wilson, a senior environmental engineer with the EPA in Denver, who in 2004 sought protection under the federal whistleblower act for publicly questioning the results of the agency’s fracking report.”The study was scientifically unsound,” he said, because its conclusions did not include water quality data associated with fracking.The OGAP also contends that hydraulic fracking fluid has contaminated water wells in Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico. Silt resident Laura Amos said that hydraulic fracking fluids contaminated her water well in 2001. EnCana was cited for violating Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulations but as yet has not been fined, Amos said.”In May 2001, they were fracking four wells about 100 yards from our house,” Amos said. Her well “blew up like a geyser in Yellowstone.”In 2003, Amos said, she was diagnosed with a rare adrenal gland tumor. She blamed her illness on a specific fracking chemical EnCana uses, called 2BE, which she said has been found to cause adrenal gland disorders.Amos said EnCana used 2BE in experimental fracking in the relatively shallow Wasatch Formation, about 2,000 feet below the ground, which is the source of their drinking water.”It’s an open secret that drillers are buying out people whose well water has been impacted,” said Dr. Theo Colburn, an endocrinologist from Paonia. “Drillers are cavalierly insisting they will do no harm.”Silt Town Administrator Rick Aluise said the town is concerned that natural gas drilling could affect its domestic water supply. Gas seeping from an EnCana well south of Silt put VOCs into West Divide Creek, which empties into the Colorado River three-quarters of a mile away from the town’s water intake.”These are people’s lives and health we’re dealing with here,” he said. “The gas companies repeatedly said such accidents could never happen. Well, it happened. … Our town is living proof that accidents can and do happen.”Aluise said the town is planning to build a $2.2 million water treatment plant to protect its drinking water.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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