Report: Frackers Use Diesel Fuel Illegally
[imgbelt img=Screen+Shot+2014-08-14_thumb.jpg]An analysis by an environmental group finds hundreds of cases in which drillers used diesel fuel without obtaining permits and sometimes altered records disclosing they had done so.
The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit. The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations. As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures. Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.
FracFocus is an online registry that allows companies to list the chemicals they use during fracking. At least 10 states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, mandate the use of the website for such disclosures.
The report asserts that the industry data shows that the companies admitted using diesel without the proper permits. The Integrity Project's analysis, the report said, then showed that in some 30 percent of those cases, the companies later removed the information about their diesel use from the database.
"What's problematic is that this is an industry that is self-reporting and self-policing," said Mary Greene, senior managing attorney for the environmental organization. "There's no federal or state oversight of [filings with FracFocus]."
The FracFocus website currently has no way to track changes to disclosures. The Integrity Project noticed the changes when it compared newer disclosures to those in older FracFocus data purchased from PIVOT Upstream Group, a consulting firm in Houston.
Energy In Depth, the communications and research arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, published a lengthy response to the Integrity Project's report and criticized it for including diesel use that occurred prior to a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency rule clarifying the types of chemicals considered "diesel fuels."
Energy In Depth said the Integrity Project was "retroactively changing the definition of diesel fuel in order to malign more operations for engaging in an activity (a "diesel frack") that did not occur."
The industry groups then shifted their argument, declaring that they could not be in violation of federal regulations in their use of diesel fuels because the EPA had never adequately spelled out exactly what exact kinds of fuels were barred.
Indeed, in a 2011 email to ProPublica, Halliburton, a company listed in the congressional investigation as having used 7.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, said it had not violated any laws "because there are currently no requirements in the federal environmental regulations that require a company to obtain a federal permit prior to undertaking a hydraulic fracturing project using diesel."
The EPA then acted to make its enforcement authority explicit, and earlier this year finalized more detailed regulations governing the use of diesel fuels in fracking operations.
"Halliburton is working with state regulators and customers to be sure all [FracFocus] reports are accurate," said Emily Mir, a spokeswoman for the company. Mir would not comment on whether Halliburton informs drillers that purchase its products that they are required to obtain a permit before diesel fuel can be used for fracking.
This story was originally published on the ProPublica website.