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Toxic Diesel Fuel Used Without Permits in Fracking Operations

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2011 (ENS) - Oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel into wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009, without permits, a congressional investigation has revealed.
WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2011 (ENS) - Oil and gas service companies 
have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic 
fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel into wells in 19 states between 
2005 and 2009, without permits, a congressional investigation has revealed.

Begun by three Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and 
Commerce in February 2010, the investigation looked at the potential 
impact on water quality of using diesel fuel injected at extremely high 
pressure to crack rock seams, releasing the natural gas and oil trapped 

Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, any company that performs hydraulic 
fracturing using diesel fuel must receive a permit to be in compliance 
with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In the course of their investigation, Representatives Henry Waxman of 
California, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Diana DeGette of 
Colorado sent letters to 14 oil and gas service companies requesting 
information about the type and volume of chemicals they used in 
hydraulic fracturing fluids between 2005 and 2009.

All the companies voluntarily provided the committee with data on the 
volume of diesel fuel and other hydraulic fracturing fluids they used 
during the five year period. Twelve of the 14 companies acknowledged 
using diesel in their fracking operations.

In a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dated January 31, the 
legislators wrote, "We learned that no oil and gas service companies 
have sought - and no state and federal regulators have issued - permits 
for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing."

"This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act," they 
wrote. "It also means that the companies injecting diesel fuel have not 
performed the environmental reviews required by the law."

The EPA's Office of Research and Development also is currently 
conducting a scientific study to examine the possible relationships 
between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drinking water quality.

"A key unanswered question is whether the unregulated injection of 
diesel fuel or fluids containing diesel is adversely affecting drinking 
water supplies," the legislators wrote to Jackson.

None of the hydraulic fracturing service companies track the nearness of 
the wells they fracture to underground sources of drinking water, which 
they said is the responsibility of the oil and gas well operators.

For this reason, the legislators told Jackson they have been "unable to 
draw definitive conclusions about the potential impact of these 
injections on public health or the environment."

Analysis of data provided by the companies shows that BJ Services used 
the most diesel fuel and fluids containing diesel, more than 11.5 
million gallons, followed by Halliburton, which used 7.2 million gallons.

Four other companies, RPC (4.3 million gallons), Sanjel (3.6 million 
gallons), Weatherford (2.1 million gallons), and Key Energy Services 
(1.6 million gallons), used more than one million gallons of diesel fuel 
and fluids containing diesel.

Of the 19 states where diesel-containing fluids were injected, Texas 
accounted for half of the total volume injected, 16 million gallons.

The companies injected at least one million gallons of diesel-containing 
fluids in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

In total, the companies used 10.2 million gallons of straight diesel 
fuel and 21.8 million gallons of products containing at least 30 percent 
diesel fuel.

But in January 2010, Energy In Depth, a group representing most of 
America's oil and gas producers, wrote that "diesel fuel is simply not 
used in fracturing operations."

"The industry has been saying they stopped injecting toxic diesel fuel 
into wells. But our investigation showed this practice has been 
continuing in secret and in apparent violation" of the Safe Drinking 
Water Act, said Waxman, a former chairman of the House Committee on 
Energy and Commerce, and currently the panel's ranking Democrat.

Diesel fuel contains toxics, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, 
and xylenes. The Department of Health and Human Services, the 
International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency have determined that benzene is a human carcinogen.

Chronic exposure to toluene, ethylbenzene, or xylenes has been shown to 
cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

While fracking is used in more than 90 percent of natural gas and oil 
wells, not all fracking operations use diesel fuel. Other fracking 
fluids are water-based, but some formations cannot be cracked by these 
fluids because clay or other substances in the rock absorb water.

Last August, more than 25 conservation organizations wrote to Waxman and 
Markey and separately to the EPA, urging probes into the use of diesel 
in fracking operations and its effect on drinking water quality.

The Environmental Working Group is pleased that their prompts have 
yielded information.

"Companies are increasingly drilling in populated areas and using ever 
more intensive hydraulic fracturing in shale formations," said EWG 
Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt. "Reps. Waxman, Markey and DeGette deserve 
credit for pursuing this important investigation and working to ensure 
that drilling is conducted carefully and in compliance with our laws."

See earlier ENS coverage of this issue: EPA Subpoenas Halliburton, 
Seeking Fracking Secrets 

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved. 

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