Thank you for contacting me to share the comments you gave to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing your concerns about horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale in New York. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
I agree with the serious concerns you raised about hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." No member of Congress has done more than I have to protect our water, air, land and communities from the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing. Last Congress, the 111th Congress, I co-authored the FRAC Act (H.R. 2766) to reinstate the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act and require drillers to publicly disclose the chemicals they use each time a hydraulic fracturing operation commences. In 2005, despite my vigorous opposition, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which for the first time exempted hydraulic fracturing from the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The FRAC Act would repeal that exemption, but unfortunately it failed to be brought before the House for a vote before Congress adjourned.
In addition to my work on the FRAC Act, I wrote the legislative language that authorized the new EPA study on hydraulic fracturing. The EPA has begun work on this study and it is expected to be completed sometime next year. Past EPA studies on this topic have been limited and are widely regarded as biased. The language I authored will ensure that the EPA takes a new, independent, scientific and thorough examination of hydraulic fracturing. Even before this study has been completed, there have been many new and frightening discoveries about the drilling industries' practices, that emphasize the need for increased regulations.
In February, I urged the Delaware River Basin Commission to suspend its natural gas rulemaking process, which previously did not account for the use of diesel fuel in fracking fluid. New information has come to light about the use of diesel fuel in the drilling process. Diesel fuel contains known carcinogens. The current regulations have not even begun to take into account that over 30 million gallons of it have been pumped into the ground.
The drilling industry had pledged to stop using diesel fuel, but they continued anyway. This goes to show that the industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself. It is time we begin considering our communities health and create and enforce reasonable regulations and oversight of the drilling industry, starting with learning what exactly is being put dangerously near, and sometimes mixed with, our drinking water. Until then, I am hopeful that drilling will continue to be postponed in the state of New York.
A recent investigation by The New York Times reported that the level of radioactivity in the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing has sometimes been hundreds or thousands of times the maximum allowed by federal standards. This wastewater has been brought to treatment plants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and even New York. However, plant operators have stated they are far less capable of removing radioactive contaminants than other toxic substances. Most cannot removed enough material to meet federal drinking water standards before discharging the water in rivers, reintroducing it into our water supply.
I look forward to reintroducing the FRAC Act, as well as other legislation, in the near future. These bills will include additional language to address some of the newly discovered risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. I am grateful for your support and hopeful that in the coming months, more Americans will become aware about the seriousness of this issue.
Thank you again for contacting me. Your comments and concerns are most important to me and are always welcomed. I also encourage you to follow me on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/mauricehinchey, or visit my website, www.house.gov/hinchey, where you can learn about my latest efforts in Congress on your behalf.
Maurice D. Hinchey
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