Thursday, April 19, 2012

EPA Fracking Regulations Not the End of Story

The new EPA regs covering pollution from oil and natural gas production include the first regulations covering pollution from natural gas wells, including hydraulic fracturing.  The regulations seem silent on critical issues and overly specific on smaller issues.

Recent research has suggested that leaks from gas wells in shale formatiosn can be prevented by careful construction of better concrete casings around wellheads.  This sounds reasonable and sensible.  I don't see such references in the new EPA regs.  Regarding the well casings, what to do about the many wells that are already producing and in place?  Are they to be inspected and retrofitted? 

The new regs speak about air pollution standards and not about water pollution.  Why?  Because, according to Scientific American, fracking is specifically exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. The Department of Energy has been charged with coming up with regulations covering sealing of wellheads and disposal of fracking liquids, composed of water and chemicals.  These are the regulations worth watching for because they should speak to the source of the bigger risks associated with producing unconventional natural gas.

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