Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act

What the Frack? The battle heats up

The battle over natural gas is heating up. This weekend I received emails from opposite camps concerning the natural gas issue. I received a notice from T. Boone
Pickens to his army asking me to urge my representatives in Congress to support
the Natural Gas Act (NAT GAS Act—HR 1380) and the next day I received a notice from a political action committee urging me to ask my representatives to
sponsor the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act.

I originally joined Pickens Army because he was preaching less dependence on foreign oil. His arguments were very convincing because OPEC is holding us hostage with the exorbitant price of oil. He was urging use of domestic resources including solar energy
and windmills. He proposed massive windmill farms which sounded good to me. Both
windmills and solar energy are a way of harvesting free natural resources to
meet our energy needs. I guess that solution was too simple and since it is a
free resource few people will make big money. Now his emphasis is on natural
gas. What else could I expect coming from an oil man? Below is his message:


I’ll keep this short, because it’s pretty obvious what the problem is and
there’s a very obvious solution.

According to the Federal Reserve Economic Database, the U.S. imported 62% of its oil – or 362 million barrels – last month alone. That’s $41.7 billion that was sent to
foreign countries for oil.

Our oil import numbers continue to be astronomical and our country continues to suffer as a result. In a time of economic turmoil, our crippling dependence on OPEC oil represents the height of fiscal irresponsibility – particularly when we have the ability to
use our own vast domestic natural gas resources.

We simply cannot afford to let this opportunity go to waste.

– Boone

The message also included a link to my representatives which
I have deleted since I no longer support his efforts to promote natural gas.

The next day I received a notice seeking my support for the
FRAC Act. As I have previously written, there are many dangers involved with
the controversial method of reaping natural gas from shale formations known as
hydraulic fracturing of fracking. Below is their information:

Dear Friend,

As an Ohioan, you’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about fracking.

High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is a method of drilling for natural gas by pumping a mixture of water and chemicals, including known toxics and carcinogens, deep underground, and it’s already responsible for more than 1000 documented cases of poisoning water in states across the country.1

Fracking wells are spreading at an alarming rate. But even more alarming, thanks to the work of Dick Cheney and his infamous energy policy, frackers don’t have to disclose the chemicals used in their fluid to the EPA, and the process is
totally exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The FRAC Act, a bill that has been in the Senate since 2009, would correct both these problems. As public concern over fracking has grown, the bill has gained some momentum, but we still need more Senators actively working to pass it. Will you urge Sens. Brown and Portman to support the bill?

While state leaders in Ohio welcome new gas drilling, fracking in other states is polluting Ohio’s water as well. Ohio has been storing, treating and dumping waste water from fracking projects in other states into Ohio rivers. 2

Fracking is currently underway in 36 states. While some state regulations do exist, they vary widely. But water contamination isn’t constrained by state boundaries, and we need a strong baseline national standard to make sure fracking chemicals are publicly disclosed everywhere fracking is taking place, and that this practice isn’t putting our nation’s drinking water at risk.

Yet somehow, the EPA has been handcuffed from regulating fracking since 2005, in what has become known as “the Halliburton loophole.” Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was CEO before becoming Vice President, patented fracking in the 1940’s and remains the third largest producer of fracking fluids. And in trademark Bush administration style, Halliburton staff were actively involved in a 2004 EPA report on fracking safety.

The “Halliburton loophole” remains a dangerous legacy of the Bush Administration and if we’re going to protect our nation’s water, we need to close it.

If you’re not familiar with the dangers of fracking, here’s a little more background: Fracking a single gas well uses as much as millions of gallons of water, and hundreds of tons of chemicals. While the exact contents of the fluid remains largely undisclosed, scientific examination reveals that it can contain diesel fuel, which includes benzene, as well as methanol, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid and many others.3

The fluid is injected thousands of feet underground at extremely high pressure, literally cracking the earth to release trapped gas. Unfortunately, it must pass through our water table, where the fluids, along with natural gas, can leak through well casings into our drinking water.

If you’ve ever seen the picture of the man lighting his tap water on fire from the recent documentary Gasland, that was
because of nearby fracking.4

Fracking also poses serious risks to our rivers and streams from insufficiently treated, and often radioactive waste water, and from above ground spills of fracking fluid. An important investigative series by the New York Times recently concluded that “the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”5

Yet, the oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials — unchecked — directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.

That’s got to change, and the FRAC Act is an important step in providing a strong national standard to protect our nation’s water from the dangers of fracking.

Tell Sens. Brown and Portman: Co-sponsor the FRAC Act to protect our water from dangerous fracking. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Thanks for fighting the unchecked oil and gas influence threatening our water.

Elijah Zarlin,
Campaign Manager

Action from Working Assets

1. Fracking,” Food and Water Watch.
2. Ohio and Fracking,” EarthJustice.
3. Hydraulic Fracturing 101,” EARTHWORKS.
4. Burning Tap Water and More: GASLAND Exposes the Natural Gas Industry,” Treehugger, June 25, 2010.
5. Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers,” New York Times, February 26, 2011


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As in most controversial issues you will find “experts”
representing both sides of the issue. Many scientists, engineers, and PhDs will
say hydraulic fracturing is perfectly safe. But if it is so safe why did the
industry take steps to exempt the process from the EPA regulations and pass
legislation to keep secret the chemicals used?  In addition, accidents do happen and we all
remember the disastrous mess of the Gulf oil spill last year. We don’t want the
same thing to happen in our own backyard.

Our country, and in particular our own state of Ohio, are on
the precipice of a dangerous and slippery slope. The discovery of huge gas
deposits beneath the previously unapproachable shale could be the answer to our
financial and oil crisis—if it is harvested in a safe manner. This could mean
no more dependence on foreign oil and could bring in large revenues for
personal and state bank accounts.

Everyone could profit from this discovery but it must be
done in a way that won’t destroy our clean air and water. Currently, the
fracking process is just too dangerous with too many unknowns—including what
chemicals are used and their affect on the environment—to blindly fall for this
gold rush. What benefits can we possibly reap if we are dead or too sick to
enjoy them? Please contact your state representative to halt the explosive
growth of the natural gas industry in our state until safer methods are set in
place. Hurry before it is too late.