A new front in the battles over the future of America’s energy policy opened up in Congress this week, with legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Diana DeGette. H.R. 2766, also known as the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009, or simply the FRAC Act, would grant the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking.
Fracking is part of the process for drilling for natural gas. Water containing fracking fluid is forced down into the ground at high pressure, creating cracks in rock through which natural gas then escapes. What’s in fracking fluid? Nobody knows for certain, except for people working for Halliburton, which creates the fluid. Currently, there is a special exemption for fracking fluid that allows Halliburton to keep the contents of the fluid a secret from the public, even though fracking fluid is believed to contain many chemicals that are dangerous to human beings. In the fracking process, ground water used to drinking often becomes contaminated with fracking fluid, so it’s an important issue.
The FRAC Act requires the disclosure of the contents of fracking fluid, and so would give communities the power to make informed decisions about whether to create local laws to regulate natural gas drilling. The legislation is cosponsored by Jared Polis and Maurice Hinchey. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Bob Casey, and has been cosponsored by Charles Schumer.