EPA to Shed Light on Fracturing Rules


"EPA guidance is coming "very shortly," and is meant to clear up rules for natural gas producers."

Federal regulators will soon clarify the rules for natural gas companies that inject diesel fuel into the ground as part of their hydraulic fracturing operations, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The guidance, which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says is coming "very shortly," is meant to clear up rules for natural gas producers.

A congressional investigation concluded earlier this year that companies have not secured EPA permits before injecting more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel and other fluids into the ground in fracturing operations between 2005 and 2009.

States historically have regulated hydraulic fracturing. The technique involves injecting mixtures of water, sand and chemicals including diesel fuel deep underground at high pressures to break up dense shale rock and release gas locked in it. Although Congress exempted most hydraulic fracturing activities from EPA's jurisdiction as part of a 2005 rewrite of the Safe Drinking Water Act, that exception does not apply to diesel -- even though the government only began to regulate it last year.

Jackson insisted that the EPA has authority to regulate diesel fuel in fracturing fluids.

"Our belief is that this is not exempt," she said. "That exception specifically says that diesel is not exempt. So if you are injecting diesel, that is a concern."

The move comes amid mounting environmental fears about the hydraulic fracturing process, which is being combined with horizontal drilling techniques to extract previously unrecoverable natural gas from shale formations across North America.

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