excerpt from from NYTimes
July 23, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency has been on a listening tour, soliciting advice from all sides on how to shape a forthcoming $1.9 million study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater.
With the steep environmental costs of fossil fuel extraction apparent on beaches from Texas to Florida — and revelations that industry shortcuts and regulatory negligence may have contributed to the BP catastrophe in the gulf — gas prospectors are finding a cold reception for their assertions that their drilling practices are safe.
“There is extraordinary economic potential associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources,” said Representative Joe Sestak, Democrat of Pennsylvania, in a statement Friday announcing $1 million for a federal study of water use impacts in the Delaware Water Basin. However, “there is also great risk.” He said, “One way to ensure proper development is to understand the potential impacts.”
Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the scrutiny was long overdue. “I think it’s all helping to shine a spotlight on this entire industry,” she said. “Corners are sometimes cut, and regulations simply aren’t strong enough.”
Fears of fracking’s impact on water supplies prompted regulators overseeing the Delaware Water Basin to curtail gas exploration until the effects could be more closely studied. New York State lawmakers are contemplating a moratorium.
At the national level, in addition to the E.P.A. study, a Congressional investigation of gas drilling and fracturing, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee, intensified last week with demands sent to several companies for details on their operations — particularly how they handled the slurry of water and chemicals that flowed back from deep within a well.