The media have begun to pay attention, but federal and state governments still lag in regulation of fracking. How can we help? (More)

Yesterday in Morning Feature we discussed the process and the risks of hydrofracking, a process used to extract natural gas from deep underground. The comments were excellent and I encourage you to read them.

Today we’ll look at what kind of attention fracking is getting and what we can do as individuals and as grassroots organizers to regulate this latest episode of drillers gone wild. A Google search for “fracking” yields 1,730,000 hits. Business Week, CNN Money, Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, The Christian Science Monitor, and CBS News all have worthwhile articles on fracking.

The Environmental Protection Agency

Key to addressing fracking now is the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has introduced a plan to study the effects of fracking on drinking water and ground water.

The SAB plans to review the draft plan March 7-8, 2011. Consistent with the operating procedures of the SAB, an opportunity will be provided for stakeholders and the public to provide comments to the SAB during their review. The Agency will revise the study plan in response to the SAB’s comments and promptly begin the study. Initial research results are expected by the end of 2012 with a goal for a report in 2014.

On November 9, 2010, EPA announced that eight out of the nine hydraulic fracturing companies that received voluntary information requests in September agreed to submit timely and complete information to help the Agency conduct its study on hydraulic fracturing. However, the ninth company, Halliburton, has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study. As a result, and as part of EPA’s effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided.

Is this a Federal Issue or a State Issue?

In the absence of federal regulations, the states are a real hodgepodge. Only Alabama has regulations, as the result of a court case.Pennsylvania has put an oil executive in charge. New York has temporarily halted new drilling.

Federal regulation has been blocked:

The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (H.R. 2766), (S. 1215) – dubbed the FRAC Act – was introduced to both houses of the 111th United States Congress on June 9, 2009, and aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would require the energy industry to disclose the chemicals it mixes with the water and sand it pumps underground in the hydraulic fracturing process (also known as fracking), information that has largely been protected as trade secrets. Controversy surrounds the practice of hydraulic fracturing as a threat to drinking water supplies. The gas industry opposes the legislation.

The House bill was introduced by representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), and Jared Polis (D-CO).

The Senate version was introduced by senators Bob Casey (D-PA), and Chuck Schumer, (D-NY).

Current status

The 111th United States Congress adjourned on January 3, 2011, without taking any significant action on the FRAC Act.

The FRAC Act has not yet been introduced to either chamber of the 112th United States Congress.

In summary, there is no legislation pending in the US Congress and states are all over the place. Because fracking is a dispersed practice – a well here and a well there – it isn’t receiving the attention of say the earthquake and nuclear issues in Japan. It is not enough for us to sit and watch while the gas industry proceeds unregulated, unsupervised and free to drill baby drill. This issue could be one of those that is number three on many radars and so it never gets acted upon. Given the information we do have, that could well be tragic. It is up to the grassroots to mobilize and focus attention on fracking.

What can we do?

Watch the film Gasland by Joshua Fox. It is available at Amazon for $13.49, and at Barnes and Noble for $14.99. It has been shown on HBO and is available through Netflix.

Better yet, organize a group viewing and have action handouts ready to encourage people to write their Senators and Representatives. I bought the movie and had my friends and family watch it. I then donated my copy to my public library. The Gasland website has an excellent action page with both state and national organizations listed. It provides information on how to join an organization near you.

Write to your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to reintroduce the FRAC Act and to support its passage. As you may know, Michele Bachmann is my Representative. I certainly don’t expect that she will support this, but I wrote her anyway. If she only hears from people who agree with her it reinforces her thinking that she’s right.

A reminder from Mother Goose:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Some questions for Digging Deeper:

1. With everything that is going on nationally and internationally, what are the odds that the FRAC act will get any attention?

2. With nuclear energy perhaps getting lots more scrutiny because of Japan, will natural gas start to look more attractive?

3. Can we leverage the problems to promote renewable sustainable energy?