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EPA Asks Nine Companies to Disclose Chemicals for Gas Extraction

By Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomberg

1661 days ago   Article ID# 635067
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Natural Resources Defense Council

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (Bloomberg) - Business Exchange Twitter Delicious Digg Facebook LinkedIn Newsvine Propeller Yahoo! Buzz Print Federal regulators asked companies including Halliburton Co. to disclose chemicals used to dislodge underground natural gas after residents in two states where the practice is widespread were warned not to drink well water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked nine oil service companies to identify chemicals they employ in hydraulic fracturing for a study on potential threats to drinking water, the agency said yesterday in a statement. In fracturing, millions of gallons of chemically treated water are forced into underground wells to break up rock and allow gas to flow.

The EPA action is likely to heighten the debate over drilling for gas locked in shale formations, which is accelerating along with concern over possible health and environmental risks. Such production may produce 50 percent of the U.S. gas supply by 2035, up from 20 percent today, according to IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

“EPA is taking seriously its charge to examine the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing,” Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview. “As EPA goes forward with its studies, we may well see recommendations about what the states can and should be doing better, as well as plans for more federal oversight.”

Wyoming, Pennsylvania

On Aug. 31, the EPA told residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, not to drink water after benzene, methane and metals were found in groundwater. Pennsylvania regulators issued a similar warning to residents near Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s gas wells after reports on Sept. 2 of water bubbles in the Susquehanna River. States have taken the lead in overseeing the boom in hydraulic fracturing after the EPA’s oversight role was limited by a 2005 energy bill. Congress is debating legislation to give the EPA explicit authority over the process.

Since 2008, 1,785 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale, a gas-rich rock formation from New York to West Virginia. New York regulators have placed a moratorium on new gas drilling and the state senate voted in August to prohibit new permits until May 15.

The EPA will hold public hearings on the issue in Binghamton, New York, next week.

“The companies have different views on whether or not they should be providing this information,” Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners LLC, a Washington-based policy analysis firm, said in an interview. “The EPA is nudging in everywhere they see what looks like state accommodation.”

Halliburton Statement

Houston-based Halliburton said it would comply with the request.

“Halliburton supports and continues to comply with state, local and federal requirements promoting the forthright disclosure of the chemical additives that typically comprise less than one-half of one-percent of our hydraulic fracturing solutions,” Teresa Wong, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

EPA’s request for companies to volunteer the information also went to Schlumberger Ltd.; BJ Services Co., which was acquired this year by Baker Hughes Inc.; Complete Production Services Inc.; Key Energy Services Inc.; Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.; RPC Inc.; Superior Well Services Inc. and Weatherford International Ltd., according to the agency’s statement.

“We are pro-actively evaluating all of our wells in the area and we are prepared to take all necessary steps to remedy the situation,” Chesapeake spokesman Brian Grove said in an e- mail. “Based on comprehensive field testing, the issue does not pose a threat to public safety or the environment.”

‘Misinformation’ Campaign

Gas drilling is safe and will benefit residents and produce tax revenue, the Hamburg, New York-based Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, an industry group whose directors include representatives from Halliburton and Talisman Energy Inc., said in a statement. Critics of fracturing in New York have waged a “a calculated campaign of misinformation and ignorance,” said IOGA executive director Brad Gill.

“Our position is generally we have no qualm with disclosing what it is we’re adding to the water we’re pumping,” Joe Winkler, chief executive officer for Houston-based Complete Production Services, said in an interview.

Since 2009, the EPA has been investigating complaints of tainted groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming, in Fremont County, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of Caspar. While the latest round of tests detected petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene and methane, in wells and in groundwater, the agency said it could not pinpoint the source of the contamination.

More Tests

Further tests are planned. The EPA is working with Calgary- based EnCana Corp., the primary gas operator in the area, according to a statement.

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake was issued a notice of violation and is working with Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to determine the source of gas detected in the Susquehanna River and at six private water wells this month. The Chesapeake wells haven’t been fractured with water and chemicals and aren’t producing gas.

“This scientifically rigorous study will help us understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, a concern that has been raised by Congress and the American people,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1661 days ago   Article ID# 635067

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