Report Suggests Some PA Well Operators Are In Violation Of Federal Law

Aug 14, 2014

Dozens of oil and gas companies across 12 states, including Pennsylvania, are using prohibited diesel fuels in hydraulic fracking, according to a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

The study, “Fracking Beyond the Law,” suggests that 351 wells across the country, including 57 in Pennsylvania, have disclosed diesel use over the last four years. Greene County has 33 of these wells.

Mary Greene, EIP senior managing attorney, said drillers use diesel products to stimulate wells and open shale formations, but without the proper permits, these wells are in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Diesel moves quickly through groundwater,” she said. “So, it can travel and get to an underground source of drinking water quickly. Diesel also contains chemicals that are known to cause cancer and that are known [neurotoxins] in very small doses.”

According to Greene, permits would add an extra level of transparency to the fracking industry.

“The driller would have to submit an analysis of the chemical composition of the proposed injection fluid,” she said. “That’s significant. No trade secrets. No not disclosing contents of the fracking base fluid.”

Over the last 10 years, drilling companies have claimed to no longer use diesel fuel in fracking, according to the report. To clarify the existing law, the Environmental Protection Agency released diesel fuel guidelines in February listing five commonly used drilling products that contain diesel.

In response, well operators simply changed their disclosures on FracFocus, a privately-run chemical registry that leaves no editing record. So, of the 57 wells in found in Pennsylvania that use diesel products, 25 continue to list diesel on FracFocus.

Greene said companies shouldn’t be able to change their chemical disclosures without a trace.

“FracFocus is the only national clearinghouse for regulators or the public to turn to when they want to know what is being injected in the ground, what kinds of chemicals could be stored in pits or impoundments on different fracking sites, or what chemicals might be migrating into the groundwater.”

There are currently 77,659 wells listed on the FracFocus database.

The EIP recommends the 33 operators responsible for the wells drilled in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act acquire the proper permits, as well as disclose the concentration of diesel and other chemicals in all fracking fluids.