Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration’s new rules to provide oversight of fracking on public lands.  Companies seeking to use the process on federal lands will have to obtain governmental approval.  Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The process of hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking,’ poses a potential threat to New York City’s watershed, and our state’s environment from upstate to downstate.  I have continually worked to maintain high standards for New York’s drinking water – and have helped secure almost $1 million recently for the New York City Watershed Protection Program.  I am an original co-sponsor of the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (HR 1084) which would regulate fracking and protect the quality of New York City’s water supply.

“These new requirements should not hinder any company drilling for natural gas in a safe and secure manner.  Having the Interior Department involved in protecting our water supply is exactly why we have an Interior Department.  It is the utmost of importance to have clean and uncontaminated water.  I applaud the Administration for taking these steps, and I urge my colleagues to support HR 1084 as we continue our efforts to protect our drinking water.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued draft guidance to clarify how companies can comply with a law, passed by Congress in 2005, exempting hydraulic fracturing operations from the requirement to obtain certain permits, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid.

Diesel fuel is commonly defined to be a compound that contains several toxic chemicals including Ethylbenzene, Benzene and Toluene. It also contains Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).  PAHs and Benzene are both known to cause cancer.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when it comes to diesel fuel.  EPA has taken seven years to try to define the term.  A House Energy and Commerce Committee probe showed oil and gas companies injected 32.2 million gallons of fluids with diesel fuel into wells in 19 states from 2005 to 2009 without federal approval. 

Rep. Engel said, “The EPA estimates the draft guidance would apply to roughly two percent of hydraulically fractured wells. That’s not taking into account any changing technology or industry practices which would phase out the use of diesel fuel in fracking.  It’s indisputable that diesel fuel is toxic to humans. Diesel has its uses, but needs to be kept far away from our drinking water.  Industry is not allowed to use diesel fuel in this manner without seeking appropriate federal permits, and yet they are doing it anyway.  This EPA action is long overdue and vital to public health.”