Casey wants more federal drilling oversight

Democrat Bob Casey is calling on the EPA to take a larger role in investigations of water contamination caused by natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation.  The release is below.


SCRANTON, PA—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today was joined by residents in the Dimock area whose wells were contaminated by drilling conducted by Texas-based Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as he called for additional oversight of natural gas drilling.  Senator Casey today sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging them to examine its current authority to determine whether it can take additional steps in Pennsylvania to investigate and respond to groundwater contamination and other potentially harmful consequences of drilling.

“Natural gas drilling can provide an economic boost to Pennsylvania but we must protect ground water,” said Senator Casey.  “We will not allow an out-of-state company to come to Pennsylvania and contaminate the groundwater of our residents.  Three million Pennsylvanians rely on wells for their drinking water.  We must ensure adequate safeguards are in place to protect this most basic necessity for Pennsylvanians.”

In the letter, Senator Casey wrote: “I urge EPA to examine its authority to determine whether it can take additional steps in Pennsylvania to investigate and respond to groundwater contamination and other potentially harmful consequences of drilling. I request a meeting with you and appropriate EPA officials to discuss natural gas drilling and whether EPA could launch an investigation into water and environmental contamination.”

In 2009, Senator Casey introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act.  The legislation would repeal a Bush administration exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require them to disclose the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing processes.  Currently, the oil and gas industry is the only industry granted an exemption from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking”, which is used in almost all oil and gas wells, is a process whereby fluids are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations to blast them open and increase the flow of fossil fuels.  Fracking is used in areas of Pennsylvania where natural gas is being drilled from Marcellus Shale.

This injection of unknown and potentially toxic chemicals often occurs near drinking water wells.  Three million Pennsylvanians are dependent on private wells for water.  Troubling incidents have occurred around the country where people became ill after fracking operations began in their communities. Some chemicals that are known to have been used in fracking include diesel fuel, benzene, industrial solvents and other carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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