Hydraulic Fracturing
in the Marcellus
Shale Formation
Why regulation under the Safe
Drinking Water Act is needed
Marcellus Shale Formation
• Massive rock formation of gas bearing shale
located in Pennsylvania, southern New York,
eastern Ohio, and northern West Virginia
• Estimated to provide enough shale gas to power
the United States for more than two decades
• Largely untapped until technology called
hydraulic fracturing developed
Hydraulic Fracturing
• Also known as “fracking”
• Machines inject highly pressurized water and mostly
toxic chemicals into shale gas formations about a mile
underground
• Cracks are created in shale that open small pores where
the gas is trapped
• The freed gas rises to surface and is piped away
• Extraction process not without danger and
environmental consequences.
• Currently is exempted from regulation under Safe
Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
Safe Drinking Water Act
(SDWA)
• Enacted by Congress in 1974
• Authorized states to create specific regulations to protect their
underground drinking water sources
• Any state wanting their own regulatory regime must
incorporate a plan to regulate industrial underground injection
control (UIC) programs
• Most industrial extraction processes involve injection of
“propping” agents use to pry open gaps in underground
reservoirs
• Propping agents under UIC programs include sand, water,
nitrogen, and diesel fuel
• EPA granted statutory exemption for hydraulic fracturing
Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic
Fracturing
Chemicals Used in Fracking
• Proprietary mix of up to 14 undisclosed
chemicals
• Friction reducers to help mixture flow
• Rust prevention compounds
• Microorganism killing bactericides
• Methane and petroleum distillate blend
Points of Potential
Contamination
• Flow back fluid can leak at well head
• Enormous pressures used in extraction can cause
malfunctions at the surface
• Pipe bursting underground
• Well crossing pockets of methane allowing gas to
rise up in borehole to groundwater
• Fluids are subject to spillage during transport
• Leaks from poorly built or unlined holding ponds
Negative Impacts
• Fracking discharge is accused of negatively in water
quality in Virginia, Alabama, Wyoming, Montana,
Colorado and Pennsylvania
• Complaints from residents living near fracturing fields
include greasy films in water, pungent odors, increased
salinity, and even a rise in certain types of cancer
• Water flushing black or orange
• Water turning bubbly
• Elevated levels of metal and toluene (benzene
derivative)
Regulation History
• Legal battle to regulate hydraulic fracturing began in
1997 over unregulated wells in Alabama and
groundwater contamination
• 11th Circuit Court held that hydraulic fracturing fit within
definition of “underground injection which was already
regulated through UIC programs
• EPA responded by conducting study from 2000-2004 that
found injection of certain chemicals posed little or no
threat to underground sources of drinking water
• In 2005, Congress exempted oil and gas industry from
hydraulic fracking regulations
• Exemption know as Halliburton Loophole
Steps Toward Regulation
• New hydraulic fracturing study now underway by EPA
• EPA has sent voluntary information requests to nine leading
national fracturing service providers requesting list of
chemicals used
• Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC)
Act introduced in 2009 aimed at closing Halliburton Loophole
and restoring EPA’s power to regulate
• Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act introduced in May 2010
calls for disclosure of chemicals used in fracking mix
• Local governments have written resolutions and letters
supporting regulations under SDWA
Policy Formation
• Options include regulating under section 1425 of
SDWA or require oil industry to use
biodegradable fracturing fluids instead of toxic
chemicals
• Section 1425 allows states to demonstrate their
existing UIC programs are effective in preventing
contamination of USDWs
• Regulate under Section I425 by declaring
hydraulic fracturing wells to be Class II wells
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Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale Formation