Environment America Says DOE Panel Offers Good First Steps on Fracking, But Concludes Moratorium Still Needed to Protect Environment and Health

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. – The report released yesterday by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production includes good first steps to reduce some of the harms of hydraulic fracturing, but the group concludes that a moratorium is still necessary to protect the environment and public health.

“In the recent rush for gas, fracking has now become one of the fastest-growing threats to land, air, and water in America,” said John Rumpler, Environment America’s senior attorney.  The environmental and health impacts of gas extraction have been wide ranging – including thousands of gallons of toxic fluid spilled, millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater, countless clear cuts, and air pollution rivaling that of cars and trucks in the Dallas metro area. These and other problems were recently documented in a report by Pennenvironment, our Pennsylvania affiliate.

While six of the DOE subcommittee’s seven members have ties to the oil and gas industry, even its 90-day report urges some added safeguards to curb gas extraction impacts, including:

  • Standards to reduce a wide range of air pollutants from both new and existing sources – a step that is significantly more comprehensive than the rule proposed by U.S. EPA on July 28, 2011.
  • “Eliminating the use of diesel fuel as an additive to hydraulic fracturing fluid” 
  • Cradle-to-grave tracking systems for, and public reporting of, all water used for drilling and wastewater.

If implemented by the Obama administration, the subcommittee’s recommendations would mark important first steps toward addressing some environmental damage done by fracking.  Yet to truly protect our environment and public health from the full scope and scale of fracking impacts will require a moratorium on using the procedure in combination with horizontal drilling.

At a minimum, the Obama administration should expand on the DOE subcomittee’s recommendations to include the following two principles:  1) our nation’s bedrock environmental statutes should apply to hydraulic fracturing, removing the widespread exemptions won by the oil and gas industry; and 2) our ecology, natural heritage, quality of life, and health demand that our forests, parks, and areas that supply drinking water remain permanently off-limits to this inherently polluting practice.