By MARK DRAJEM
The Environmental Protection Agency issued measures for using
diesel in hydraulic fracturing, setting standards it said
could be adopted by states to govern a process that has
spurred the boom in natural gas
While drillers say diesel has mostly been phased out of the
process called fracking, they had sought to block the
EPAs criteria, saying it could lead to greater federal
oversight and delays in getting permits.
Environmentalists said the standards were long overdue, even
as they urged the agency to take another step and ban any use
of diesel in fracking.
The standards rely on state and industry best practices and
are part of an effort to ensure responsible
development of gas trapped in shale, according to a
statement. Among other measures, the EPA is recommending
baseline and follow-up testing of water sources near drilling
States updating regulations for hydraulic fracturing
may find the recommendations useful in improving the
protection of underground sources of drinking water and
public health more broadly, according to a document
explaining the new standards.
In 2005, Congress exempted fracking, in which water, sand and
chemicals are shot underground to free gas or oil trapped in
underground rock formations, from the requirements of the
Safe Drinking Water Act.
That exemption was labeled the Halliburton
loophole by health advocates, referring to Halliburton
Co., the largest provider of fracking services, led by
Richard Cheney before he was elected vice president in 2000.
The law specified that the EPA retained oversight of fracking
if diesel was among the ingredients being used. Environmental
groups say drillers add the substance to fluids they inject
to crack rock and free trapped gas, without applying for the
Diesel is typically used when the underground rock or clay
has a tendency to absorb water, according to a report by
Democrats on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Diesel and drinking water dont mix, said
Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. Even the
Cheney-era Congress recognized diesels hazards to
Krill urged Congress to repeal the Halliburton
loophole and apply federal safe drinking water rules to
all fracking operations.
Companies no longer use diesel, according to the Independent
Petroleum Association of America, a group representing
drillers such as Chesapeake Energy. The EPA rule covers
products such as kerosene and fuel oil, which arent
diesel, it said.
The guidance is also overly broad, because it covers
more than just diesel, Lee Fuller, vice president for
government relations at the Washington-based group, said in a
statement. EPA needs to withdraw the entire rule and
start over based on reality.