June 29, 2011 —
BRADFORD AND SUSQUEHANNA COUNTIES, PA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will undertake “case studies” regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it carries out its congressionally mandated review of the process over the next several years.
One of the areas that will be studied for what has already occurred is Bradford and Susquehanna counties in Northeast PA. Dimock Township, PA, the area where gas drilling is believed to be the cause of the contamination of about 14 wells, and where a group of residents is suing Cabot Oil and Gas over the contamination, is located in Susquehanna County.
A spokesperson for the EPA did not return an email about whether any of the Dimock wells will be part of the study. But Julie Sautner, who lives in one of the homes with the contaminated wells, said Dimock will be included.
A page labeled “Case Study Locations for Hydraulic Fracturing Study” says key issues to be investigated in the counties include, “ground water and drinking water well contamination, suspected surface water contamination from a spill of fracturing fluids, methane contamination of multiple drinking water wells, determine if drinking water wells are contaminated.”
Other counties in Texas, North Dakota and Colorado will also be studied for “suspected drinking water aquifer contamination,” as well as water well contamination and other problems.
Two prospective case studies, where EPA will monitor key aspects of the hydraulic fracturing process at future drilling sites, are located in Washington County, PA and Desoto Parish, LA. There investigators will be looking for signs of water contamination and stray gas in wells as the fracking process moves through the “full life cycle.”
Some of the case studies will begin this summer.
Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, said, “We’ve met with community members, state experts and industry and environmental leaders to choose these case studies. This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do: ensure that the health of their communities and families are protected.”
PA Senator Bob Casey, who had requested that the Pennsylvania counties be included, said, “These studies will help provide the science needed to assure that natural gas drilling is conducted in a safe and responsible manner,” said Casey. “Natural gas drilling offers Pennsylvania tremendous economic opportunities if we do it right. However, we must protect against potential repercussions that could harm the environment, put people at risk and ultimately hurt businesses and Pennsylvania’s economy.”
Casey has introduced three fracking-related bills in the senate. The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act would repeal a Bush administration exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing processes; the Marcellus Shale On-the-Job Training Act would authorize grants to strengthen training programs to help ensure natural gas drilling jobs go to Pennsylvanians and not workers from out of state; and the Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response (FASTER) Act would provide the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with the ability to enhance emergency response procedures at oil and gas wells.