Similar bills have been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives which would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to eliminate an exemption for hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking,” operations from required regulation under state underground injection control programs. The text of the Senate bill can be found at S. 1215 and the House bill at H.R. 2766.
The SDWA, under 42 U.S.C. § 300h, currently requires states to regulate, and imposes minimum regulatory requirements on, “subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection” in order to protect drinking water supplies. The Act currently exempts from such requirements “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.” The proposed bills would remove this exemption, thus requiring regulation and permitting of hydraulic fracturing under the SDWA. They would also require the disclosure by entities engaging in hydraulic fracturing of the chemical constituents, but not the proprietary chemical formulas, used in the fracturing process. Both bills are currently in committee.
The proposed legislation comes at a time when pressure to extract natural gas deposits via hydrofracking is mounting. For example, the Marcellus Shale formation in New York has been identified as a location for the possible use of hydrofracking technology. The New York State Draft Energy Plan of 2009 recommends the “development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation with environmental safeguards that are protective of water supplies and natural resources.” The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is currently in the process of preparing a Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for hydraulic fracturing to develop the Marcellus Shale. More information is available on NYSDEC’s website.
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