Earthworks: Chesapeake Backs Off Natural Gas Drilling

"Last week, Chesapeake Energy Corporation stated that it will not drill for natural gas within the New York City watershed, a small area within the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve which underlies some of the Appalachian regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia. The watershed, which supplies untreated, clean water to 9 million people, is under increasing pressure to drill.

Earthworks'' Oil and Gas Accountability Project appreciates Chesapeake Energy's recognition that drilling is inherently risky, and that people don't want their drinking water at risk.

Hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has opened shale gas deposits across the country to profitable drilling, continues to be exempt from safe drinking water law due to the so-called "Halliburton loophole." The process injects chemicals underground at a pressure high enough to "fracture" the rock formation and liberate the gas it contains.

Earthworks said hydraulic fracturing is the prime suspect in incidences of impaired or polluted drinking water in several cases. In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded in which residents noted changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes

Representatives DeGette (D-Colo.), Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Polis (D-Colo.) and Senators Casey (D-Pa.) and Schumer (D-N.Y.) have introduced Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (H.R. 2776 and S. 1215) to close the loophole and ensure that hydraulic fracturing is regulated to protect drinking water.

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