Energy & Commerce Committee Investigates Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing
Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey today sent letters to eight oil and gas companies that use hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas from unconventional sources in the United States. The Committee is requesting information on the chemicals used in fracturing fluids and the potential impact of the practice on the environment and human health.
"Hydraulic fracturing could help us unlock vast domestic natural gas reserves once thought unattainable, strengthening America's energy independence and reducing carbon emissions," said Chairman Waxman. "As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems. This investigation will help us better understand the potential risks this technology poses to drinking water supplies and the environment, and whether Congress needs to act to minimize those risks."
"Natural gas can play a very important role in our clean energy future, provided that it is produced in a safe and sustainable way," said Subcommittee Chairman Markey. "By getting more information from the industry about hydraulic fracturing practices, Congress can help ensure that development of this important resource moves forward in a manner that does not harm the environment."
As Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the last Congress, Rep. Waxman requested and received information from the largest hydraulic fracturing companies - Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger - on the chemicals used in their fracturing fluids. According to this data, two of these companies used diesel fuel in their fracturing fluids between 2005 and 2007, potentially violating a voluntary agreement with EPA to cease using diesel. Halliburton reported using more than 807,000 gallons of seven diesel-based fluids. BJ Services reported using 2,500 gallons of diesel-based fluids in several fracturing jobs. Halliburton and BJ Services also indicated that they used other chemicals - such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene - that could pose environmental risks in their fracturing fluids.
Today Chairmen Waxman and Markey sent letters seeking additional information from Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger on these and related issues. The Chairmen requested similar information from five smaller fracturing companies that comprise a growing share of the market: Frac Tech Services, Superior Well Services, Universal Well Services, Sanjel Corporation, and Calfrac Well Services.
In addition, the Chairmen sent a memo to Members of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment detailing the background on the issue, including EPA's recent work on hydraulic fracturing, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's investigative findings, and the need for additional oversight and investigation.
Update: Chairmen Waxman and Markey sent letters to six additional hydraulic fracturing service companies on May 6, 2010: Basic Energy Services, Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, RPC, Trican Well Services, and Weatherford International.