July 12, 2010

What the Frack? ~ Beth Bartel

Oil and Water in the U.S.

Fracking. It’s not just a made-for-T.V. swear word for you Battlestar Gallactica fans out there. Fracking is slang for hydraulic fracturing, a method used by oil and gas companies to increase gas yields in low-porosity reservoirs. It goes something like this: Drill a borehole into  a rock such as shale that holds natural gas, inject fluids (water + chemicals) to force-crack the rock, and then introduce a porous material such as sand into the cracks to keep them open. The cracks then act as roadways leading back to the borehole, from which the natural gas is pumped out.

Sounds tidy enough.

So who cares?

Josh Fox, for one, who traveled through 32 states–including Colorado–to produce his documentary “Gasland.” (His most striking clip is from southeastern Colorado, by the way, and can be seen in his trailer or on the Gasland website.)

Sierra Club, for another, who have sent out a call to attend an EPA public meeting on studies of  of hydraulic fracturing tomorrow night in Denver.

The issue? Some people are concerned that fracking contaminates and/or changes the dynamics of groundwater, ruining residential drinking water supplies. Yet fracking was exempted from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This means, in part, that extraction companies do not need to provide information on chemicals they use to the public.

To force transparency, the FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act) was introduced in 2009 to the House by Representatives Diana DeGette (Colorado), Jared Polis (Colorado) and Maurice Hinchey (New York) and to the Senate by Bob Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania) and Chuck Schumer (New York). The Act would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and force disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process.

Industry’s complaint? This would make public their trade secrets and the regulations would significantly increase the cost of production. That, and they say current regulations are sufficient.

Attend the EPA meeting by registering A.S.A.P.

Meeting details

What: Public Meeting on the Scope of EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing

When: Tuesday, July 13, 6 – 10 p.m. MDT

Where: Marriott Tech Center, 4900 S. Syracuse Street, Denver, CO 80237

Looks like you’ve got to R.S.V.P. sooner than later to attend, so get on it.

Beth Bartel lives in Boulder, interns at elephant journal and KGNU, and likes swinging on big swings.

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