Last week in Canonsburg, PA, 1,200 people attended an EPA public listening session on concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing during natural gas drilling. Since the U.S. Senate was in session and I was unable to attend the event, I asked a staff member from my Pittsburgh office to attend and read my statement on the EPA’s proposed study of hydraulic fracturing and potential impacts on drinking water.
Pennsylvania has a history of environmental hardships, most created in previous generations when federal regulations promoting responsible natural resource development did not exist. For example, Pennsylvania has old natural gas wells that remain uncapped and leak methane into homes. Pennsylvania has acid mine drainage that costs millions of dollars every year to remediate. There are lessons contained within these examples from which we need to learn.
Last June, I introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, because I believe if the development of the Marcellus Shale is carried out in a manner that protects the environment and human health, then it will enhance our State’s economy and increase our Nation’s energy security. The FRAC Act requires public disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracturing process and requires that hydraulic fracturing be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It is my hope that the FRAC act will keep the environment and the people of Pennsylvania safe, while fully developing the great opportunity that the Marcellus Shale has to offer.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reported that at a natural gas drilling site in Susquehanna County, a pipe transporting between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of fracturing fluid leaked and the fluid spilled into the ground and a neighboring wetland. At this time, information regarding the contents of the fluid has not been released to the Pennsylvania DEP. Without this information, the DEP and community members have no idea what has seeped into the watershed.
Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region is a major issue for many towns and communities throughout Pennsylvania. The opportunity to drill for our own natural resources has led to job creation, strengthened our state economy and reduced our dependence on foreign oil. However, despite its many benefits, natural gas drilling presents a concern for the people living near these drilling sites. Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of toxic chemicals that are injected underground, sometimes directly into underground sources of drinking water. It is a highly variable and unpredictable process that can lead to unintended consequences and is linked to contamination of drinking water.
I believe it is important that we enact legislation to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvanians as we further develop this natural resource. For this reason, I have introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act that requires chemicals and additives used in hydraulic fracturing be reported to Environmental Protection Agency or appropriate state agencies for public disclosure. The FRAC Act also requires that companies disclose detailed information about chemical usage to medical professionals in the event of a medical emergency. To be clear, I do not oppose natural gas drilling, I only seek to ensure that these operations do not endanger the people of Pennsylvania.