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A Study By the EPA of Oklahoma's Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals Is Continuing

Jay F. Marks
September 16, 2010

Q&A with Mike McDonald
Hydraulic fracturing chemical study by the EPA continues.

The process was determined to pose no risk after a 2004 study and the results are expected by the industry to remain the same this time.

Q: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked for information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, just like a Senate committee did earlier this year. Are these inquiries making it any easier to silence drilling opponents?

A: The inquiry is part of the EPA's study to determine whether hydraulic fracturing has an impact on drinking water and the public health of Americans living in the vicinity of hydraulic fracturing wells. The EPA has already studied hydraulic fracturing once before, determining in 2004 the process poses no risk to drinking water. The EPA should reach the same conclusion in this study, providing a definitive answer that the process of hydraulic fracturing does not threaten underground drinking water supplies.

Q: What do you think it is going to take to convince people the process is not a threat to their drinking water?

A: Education. In Oklahoma, people understand the importance of the oil and natural gas industry. Those of us in energy-producing states understand and depend on the impact this industry has on jobs and the overall economy, both locally and nationally. The use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has opened vast new resources of oil and natural gas in areas of the country that have traditionally seen little to no energy exploration. A lack of understanding in those areas about the drilling process and the industry as a whole leads to confusion and, in many cases, fear. The oil and natural gas industry must increase its efforts to educate all Americans on the importance of our industry and the vital role independent oil and natural gas producers play in providing the energy our country needs now and for many years in the future.

Q: Do you expect these inquiries to lead in increased federal oversight of the industry?

A: Hydraulic fracturing opponents want to see the process put under federal oversight. In Oklahoma, hydraulic fracturing is already regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency charged with oversight of the oil and natural gas industry. In other energy-producing states, similar state agencies ensure the process is regulated. The EPA's new study will prove the process is a sound, safe and well-regulated practice and, hopefully, put an end to public and political efforts to add costly and unneeded federal regulations on the oil and natural gas industry.