EPA Requests Chesapeake’s Fracking Blowout Info

by | Apr 27, 2011

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has requested information from Chesapeake Energy Corporation on any hazardous chemicals released in a blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas well last week.

The discharge happened on April 19 at Chesapeake’s facility in Leroy Township, Penn., while the company was extracting underground gas deposits using the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.

Fracking uses water, particles and chemicals injected underground at high pressure to break up shale and release natural gas.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the lead government body in the case, but the EPA requested preliminary information from Chesapeake by the end of the day on April 26. The agency asked for information regarding the hydraulic fracturing fluids used in the drilling process at the well; the water, land and air affected by the release; and any private well, surface water and soil sampling data collected in the area before and after the mishap.

The information request, authorized under three federal statutes, was sent to Chesapeake Energy officials on Friday, April 22. The company said that it intends to comply with the EPA’s request, Reuters reports.

By May 9, the company is directed to provide more extensive information regarding:

  • Details of the incident, including timelines, sources of discharge and the extent of environmental impact
  • Substances placed into or returned to the surface from the wells at the site
  • Whether radiological compounds are or were present in the fluids or sediment generated as part of the well development
  • Results of any subsequent sampling data
  • Effects on any drinking water supplies
  • All permits or water quality standards that may have been violated
  • Any other leaks, spills or releases that have occurred at wells on the drilling site
  • The history of drilling operations at the well site
  • Each chemical brought to the site, including type and quantities and storage, management and handling practices
  • Any temporary wastewater storage impoundments on the site
  • Processing of wastewater from wells at the site

“We want a complete accounting of operations at the site to determine our next steps in this incident and to help prevent future releases of this kind,” said EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

Chesapeake is one of 21 energy companies that voluntarily participate in a national registry disclosing the chemical additives they use when fracking.

The web site, www.fracfocus.org, was launched earlier this year by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

While companies that conduct hydraulic fracturing and report to the web site currently do so voluntarily, the U.S. Department of the Interior is considering regulations that would mandate energy companies to report the substances used in the process.

Interior secretary Ken Salazar told a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources in March that his department was conducting a review of reports that radioactive material from drilling wastewater is ending up in rivers and streams.

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