Sportsmen Resolve To Halt Hydrofracking Until Water Quality and Public Health Concerns Are Addressed (7/27/10)
GAITHERSBURG, Maryland – Members of the Izaak Walton League of America, a national leader in community-based conservation, recently passed a national resolution calling for a moratorium on issuance of permits for drilling new, high-volume hydrofracking wells until concerns about public health and water quality are adequately addressed.
The resolution was introduced by the League’s Central New York Chapter and New York Division and adopted July 16 at the League’s national convention in Pennsylvania – an ideal location for a discussion about hydrofracking. Most of Pennsylvania – in addition to portions of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia – sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, a natural gas reserve that stretches over 48,000 square miles. Natural gas is extracted from this type of shale using a process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as “hydrofracking” or simply “fracking.” Water and sand are mixed with a cocktail of chemicals – many of them hazardous, carcinogenic, or toxic – and injected into the rock formation under very high pressure to crack open the rock and release natural gas trapped within.
This type of shale gas extraction consumes large volumes of water – between two and nine million gallons of water per well. Few states require permits for the withdrawal of water or have minimum flow requirements to protect their waterways. This leaves streams at risk of losing adequate flow, putting drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat at risk.
Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. This allows the practice, which normally would have to follow underground injection rules that protect drinking water, to be used without oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also allows fracking chemical formulas to be kept secret. A New York draft environmental impact study on gas drilling identifies 260 “unique chemicals” used in fracking formulas in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including carcinogens, toxic substances, and chemicals that disrupt reproduction.
Shale gas wells also produce polluted wastewater or flowback. Flowback includes high levels of dissolved salts, toxic chemicals, and naturally occurring radioactive material leached from rock below the surface. The total volume of wastewater from drilling operations across a state can be overwhelming. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that demand for gas drilling wastewater treatment in Pennsylvania alone will reach 16 million gallons per day in 2010 and 19 million gallons per day in 2011. There are no wastewater facilities in the Marcellus region that can remove all the pollutants from shale gas wastewater.
Reported problems associated with high-volume hydrofracking include chemical spills, poisoned wells and streams, and the unintended releases of natural gas. Other problems include the impact of too many wells in a small area and fractured habitat resulting from access roads and feeder pipelines built in forests and open areas.
The League’s resolution urges all levels of government with oversight and regulatory authority over natural gas extraction to implement a moratorium on issuing permits for drilling new, high-volume hydraulic fracturing directional wells until
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completes its study of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health.
- Using results of the EPA study and other information, EPA issues guidelines to states for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing and the establishment of protective requirements for freshwater usage, flowback treatment and disposal, ground and surface water quality, spill prevention and response, and other natural resources that could be affected by hydraulic fracturing.
- Such states have established and implemented regulatory programs in accordance with the guidelines issued by EPA.
- Congress repeals the exemption for the gas extraction industry from meeting requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act and subjects chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process to full public disclosure.
“Developing domestic energy sources makes sense when it's done right,” says Conrad Strozik, president of the League’s New York Division. “League policy focuses on understanding the impacts of hydrofracking and then making sure that states protect our fishing streams, water quality, and public lands.”
For more information on the impact of hydraulic fracturing on fish and wildlife, read “Will We Sacrifice Our Water For Gas?”, available online at http://www.iwla.org/.
Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America (http://www.iwla.org/) protects America's outdoors through education, community-based conservation and promoting outdoor recreation.
(301) 548-0150 x 220