Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Drilling Industry Says Diesel Use Was Legal--ProPublica

 by Abrahm Lustgarten
 Feb. 2, 2011
 Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

 After three members of Congress reported this week that drilling companies have been injecting large amounts of diesel fuel underground to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, the industry is fighting back -- not by denying the accusation, but by arguing that the EPA never fully regulated the potentially environmentally dangerous practice in the first place.

 According to a letter to the EPA from Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., 14 fracking companies injected more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into the ground in 19 states between 2005 and 2009. And they did it without asking for or receiving permission from environmental regulators in those states. Diesel fuel contains benzene, a known carcinogen, which has been detected in water supplies near drilling facilities across the country.

 At first, the lawmakers' findings look like the prelude to a slam-dunk criminal case.

 The 2005 Energy Policy Act states that hydraulic fracturing using diesel is subject to federal regulations that protect drinking water by governing the injection of materials underground. Those injection regulations, contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act, say that companies need a permit before they put anything down a well.

 By the lawmakers' reading of these statutes, the drilling companies broke the law.

 But the energy companies now say there was no law to break....continued.....