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for people who care about the West

What the FRAC do we know?


Drilling for natural gas really hasn’t been the most natural process. Numerous reports of groundwater contamination have skeptics and homeowners worried over hydraulic fracturing, a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the U.S.

But finally, some proposed legislation to oversee the drilling: Representatives in both the House and the Senate introduced bills yesterday “to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and give the Environmental Protection Agency authority over the controversial drilling process,” ProPublica reports.

Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from federal water laws under the Bush administration’s Energy Policy Act. That meant EPA scientists couldn’t really study the correlation between fracturing and nearby pollution.

Currently, the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are considered proprietary ingredients, so the energy industry doesn’t have to disclose what they are. (Sort of like, Coke; we don’t know all the ingredients, but boy, we just can’t get enough of it.) If passed, the FRAC Act -- Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act -- will require the energy industry to disclose their trade secrets.

The House bill, introduced by Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., will now be debated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Senate version was introduced by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Industry officials say regulation at the state level is sufficient. Federal oversight would cost each new natural gas well $100,000, they say. But honestly, what’s a few-hundred-grand to a multi-billion-dollar industry?