Feds: Inspections a Must after Fracking

Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 06:02 PM gHale

Natural-gas drillers should inspect their wells after hydraulic fracturing on public land to ensure the safety of drinking-water supplies, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. New rules to that effect will soon be coming down the pike.

The agency in coming weeks will propose standards under which companies must disclose the chemicals in the mixture injected underground to free trapped gas, demonstrate the well isn’t leaking and check the work after fracking, Salazar said in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland.

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“To me, those rules are common sense,” Salazar said. “You have some people say that this will kill the natural gas-industry — that’s very far from the truth.”

Republicans in Congress and energy trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute oppose the agency’s rules, saying compliance will increase production costs and slow the development of the resources.

Interior also will require that drilling on federal land meet guidelines for handling fracking water so it returns to the surface after injection into the rock to make sure streams do not suffer from contamination. Fracking opponents say the process leads to tainted water and may cause cancer among people living near the wells.

In fracking, companies blast shale-rock formations with water, sand and chemicals under high pressure thousands of feet underground to break up shale-rock formations and release trapped gas. The process sees use in more than 90 percent of natural-gas wells drilled on federal land, Salazar said.

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