The Obama administration has proposed regulations which would require companies that drill oil and natural gas using hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands to disclose the chemicals used in the process. The proposal would also set guidelines for wastewater disposal and well construction.
Though hydraulic fracturing has been a boon for drilling companies, the practice has had a questionable impact on drilling sites’ surrounding residents and the environment, in part due to the hazardous chemicals used in the process.
What is Hydraulic Fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of extracting oil and natural gas from shale rock thousands of feet below the surface of the Earth. The practice involves injecting chemicals, water and sand under high pressure into the shale rock to fracture it and release the oil and natural gas trapped inside.
Proposed Federal Fracking Regulations
The federal regulations would require companies to disclose what chemicals are used in their hydraulic fracturing processes. Common fracking chemicals include toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene and xylene. All may cause health problems in large quantities.
The proposed regulations would only apply to fracking on public and Indian lands. Drilling on private lands would not be affected. Most hydraulic fracturing occurs on private lands. Popular sites in the United States include the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachia regions of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio; the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana and sites in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Opposition to Federal Regulations
Not surprisingly, fracking companies have voiced concerns about the proposed federal regulations. When details of the proposal were leaked early this year, companies balked at the original requirement to disclose what chemicals they would be using before fracking began. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar conceded, and the proposal now requires companies to disclose chemicals after-the-fact.
Companies also claim that state and local regulations are sufficient to protect residents and the environment, since state and local governments are more familiar with the specific needs of each region. Companies warn that federal regulations will create more red tape and hinder drilling progress.
Would Federal Regulations Help Protect Residents, Workers and the Environment?
Though proponents of fracking claim that the practice is not responsible for contaminated drinking water and sick families, residents who live near drilling sites believe the practice has had an impact on their health. Residents have been exposed to tap water contaminated by common fracking chemicals and well caps that have been blown off by pressurized methane gas trapped in pipes.
Hydraulic fracturing also poses threats to workers employed by drilling companies. Common fracking hazards for workers include gas leaks, explosions, exposure to hazardous chemicals, large machinery, confined spaces and electrical hazards.
The environment is also negatively impacted by the fracking process. Environmental groups have reported polluted water, polluted air, sick families and unhealthy livestock at fracking sites across the country.
Additionally, environmental groups are skeptical that federal regulations will actually protect the environment and local residents, since disclosure of chemicals would only occur after fracking is complete and damage has been done.
Concerned citizens should consider contacting their legislators to encourage more sweeping regulations which would better address these concerns and affect public health and safety on private lands. In addition, citizens should also consider urging legislators to ban the use of chemicals which negatively impact drinking water and threaten public health.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers Helping Victims Injured by the Drilling Practices of Fracking Companies
If the new regulations go into effect, they will provide a little transparency into the practices of hydraulic fracturing companies, but little protection for the health and safety of residents, workers and the environment. Drilling companies may be held responsible for any illness or injury that may occur due to the chemicals they use in the fracking process. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by the drilling practices of a fracking company, please contact an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer to explore your legal options. Call McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC today at 215-569-8488, or 302-888-1221, to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team. You may also contact us online. We provide representation to injured victims and families in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.