Even as the Garfield County commissioners today take up debate on a resolution regarding the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act, an environmental researcher in New York released a damning report on the natural gas industry in that state.
The FRAC Act, introduced by Colorado congressional members Diana DeGette (D-Denver) and Jared Polis (D-Boulder), as well as New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey, seeks to regulate the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Critics say the process, which injects water, sand and chemicals deep into gas wells, can contaminate drinking water supplies.
According to a story in Saturday’s Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has recorded 270 incidents of “wastewater spills, well contamination, explosions, methane migration and ecological damage related to gas production in the state since 1979.”
Only 60 of those incidents were discovered by the DEC, with the rest reported by residents or other public safety officials. In a refrain similar to Colorado, DEC officials in New York say current state regulations are adequate to police the industry even in the face of a looming drilling surge to tap into the massive Marcellus Shale – the nation’s largest gas field.
Colorado officials, with some of the toughest drilling regulations in the nation, say they can handle fracking and don’t need Congress to lift a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for the process that was granted during the Bush administration in 2005. But critics here say there have been too many cases of water contamination by unknown chemicals related to fracking.
Public disclosure of the chemicals is unnecessary and would compromise valuable trade secrets, oil and gas industry officials claim.
Walter Hang, president of Toxic Targeting, put together the list of New York incidents. According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Hang directs an environmental research firm that provides information to engineers, consultants and municipalities. “We’re students of how you clean this crap up,” he told the paper. “That’s what we really care about.”