Environmental Protection

Groups Call for Inquiry into Possible Illegal Diesel Injection

More than 25 conservation and community organizations from across the United States sent letters Aug. 5 asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (pdf)and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate whether natural gas and oil companies broke the Safe Drinking Water Act by injecting diesel fuel underground while performing hydraulic fracturing, an Environmental Working Group press release said.

In February, the House Energy and Commerce Committee disclosed as part of an investigation into hydraulic fracturing that energy companies Halliburton and B.J. Services had used diesel in hydraulic fracturing operations in at least 15 states in 2005, 2006 and 2007. However the companies did not reveal to the committee precisely where these injections occurred.

One of the letters also asks the committee to investigate exactly where and when the companies injected diesel so that communities can protect themselves. The organizations simultaneously sent letters to the three fracturing companies named in the committee’s February disclosure, Halliburton, B.J. Services and Schlumberger, asking the companies to state where and when they injected diesel and related compounds.

“As someone who lives with oil and gas operations in my backyard, I am imploring the EPA to find out whether or not any hydraulic fracturing companies have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by using diesel fuel, and take action accordingly,” said Janine Fitzgerald, a landowner and farmer near Bayfield Colorado.

“Fracking” involves the underground injection of up to 8 million gallons of fluid per well at extremely high pressure. The fluid fractures rock formations to allow natural gas or oil to flow more easily. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the (SDWA)—unless diesel fuel is used. The SDWA sets standards for underground injections to ensure that they do not contaminate underground sources of drinking water, the press release said.

In 2003, Halliburton, B.J. Services and Schlumberger, the three largest hydraulic fracturing companies, signed a non-binding memorandum of agreement with EPA that they would not inject diesel fuel directly into underground sources of drinking water during the fracturing process for coalbed methane production, the press release stated. According to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s February report, B.J. Services violated that memorandum.

Twin bills have been introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 2766 and S. 1215) to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to give EPA the authority to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing and require disclosure of the chemicals used in the process.

Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. Earthworks is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of energy and mineral extraction, in the United States and internationally.

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