Colorado lawmakers question safety of drinking water
Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette this week called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate whether 12 oil and gas service companies, including Halliburton, violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by using more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel in the controversial drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing.
The process was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act under the Energy Policy Act that was passed during the Bush administration in 2005 – except in cases when diesel fuel is used. Oil and gas industry officials claim the fracking process has been used safely for decades, but conservationists and a growing number of community activists in heavily drilled areas of the country claim the process has led to groundwater contamination.
A year-long investigation conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or fluids containing diesel fuel were used in fracking operations in 19 state between 2005 and 2009. The companies admitted limited use of diesel fuel in testimony to committee. In Colorado, the probe found that 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel were injected.
Any company using diesel fuel in frack jobs must first obtain a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA itself, which issued a heavily criticized 2004 report on fracking prior to its congressional exemption, singled out diesel fuel, stating “the use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids poses the greatest threat” to underground sources of drinking water.
Diesel fuel contains toxins such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (also known as BTEX) that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the EPA have determined can damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys over a prolonged period of time.
The EPA has already launched another investigation of hydraulic fracturing, and has been conducting information meetings around the country, including one in Denver last summer.
The new congressional report singles out federal and state regulatory agencies for failing to discover the use of diesel fuel, which was expressly excluded from the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption granted in 2005.