TN CONA 2011

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Katie's Proposal

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1 Katie's Proposal on Thu May 19, 2011 1:30 pm

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Requiring companies who practice hydrofracking to disclose the chemical composition of their fracking fluids to the EPA

MAJOR AREAS TO BE AFFECTED:
Oil and Gas Companies



JUSTIFICATION:
Hydraulic fracturing (abbreviated “fracking”) is a process of obtaining natural gas which involves drilling a wellbore deep into the ground and injecting a high pressure mixture of water and a variety of chemicals. This creates fractures in the ground, which helps release natural gas at a quicker rate. However, process of hydrofracking has the potential to be very harmful to the surrounding area. The fracking fluids have been known to contain over 750 chemicals, including carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and other known toxins. These chemicals are contaminating groundwater which is pumped into the homes of citizens near fracking wells. The companies claim that the fracking wells are far enough below the groundwater that they do not affect the water supply; however, there have been various reports of tap water becoming unsafe to drink and even flammable due to the amounts of methane gas and other harmful chemicals. The fracking fluid also poses a danger in the case of spills due to well blowouts, such as the one which occurred in April in Pennsylvania. The mixture of water and chemicals spewed for over 12 hours, creating an obvious safety risk, but the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was unable to help alleviate the problem because the company who owns the well, Chesapeake Energy Corp, has not disclosed the chemical composition of the fluid used in their wells. Although some of the chemicals which are generally used are publically available, many companies which use hydrofracking refuse to disclose the chemical composition of their fluids.
In 2005, George Bush signed an act which stated that gas drillers did not have to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, a law which requires drinking water to follow standards developed by the EPA. When the gas drillers were exempted, the task of regulating fracking was left to state authorities. While a few states like Wyoming have strict laws about the disclosure of chemical formulas, most states have lax regulations at best. Although a voluntary disclosure program has been launched, FracFocus.org, it has not proven to be effective. Chesapeake Energy Corp, the company which owned the well which blew out in Pennsylvania, was a member of the FracFocus project, yet they continue to refuse to disclose their formula despite the fact that their fluid is endangering public safety. Fracking is obviously a risky practice, but it cannot be regulated until it is investigated, which the states are either unable or unwilling to do. Companies which practice fracking need to be required to disclose their full chemical formulas to the EPA, who will then have the information necessary to regulate fracking to ensure the public safety.



PROPOSAL FOR ACTION :
This proposal will empower the EPA to require companies who use hydrofracking to provide a full report on the chemical composition of all fluids that they use in the fracking process. The EPA will set a deadline for all companies to file a report or contact the EPA to discuss extenuating circumstances. These reports will be compiled into a comprehensive database and used to guide further EPA regulation of hydrofracking, with the goal of bringing gas drilling companies back into compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act without major adverse effects. If a company fails to provide a report, it will be subject to fines and investigations into their actions. Companies will also be encouraged, but not yet required, to voluntarily disclose the list of chemicals they use to the public through websites like FracFocus.com. Companies currently participating in this program will still be required to provide a separate and more detailed report to the EPA. The goal of this proposal is not immediate additional regulation, but simply the gathering of information will facilitate effective and fair regulation in the future.



RESULTS TO BE EXPECTED :
If this proposal is put into effect, it will not immediately affect the process of fracking. It will simply require companies who use this process to inform the EPA of their chemical usage. This will pave the way for the EPA to determine what future regulations are needed to prevent the environmental and safety risks such as contaminated groundwater that fracking poses.

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