From Jargon Watch: Fracking
One would think that a process that pumped all kinds of chemicals into the ground would be subject to environmental scrutiny, but it isn't; in 2004 the Bush Administration "concluded that the process was safe and didn't warrant further study, because there was "no unequivocal evidence" of health risks, and the fluids were neither necessarily hazardous nor able to travel far underground."
As John noted earlier in Hydraulic Fracturing For Natural Gas Development Gets Added Regulatory Scrutiny, the current congress is taking a different stance.
According to the Globe and Mail,
The investigation is being conducted by the House subcommittee on energy and environment, amid growing calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the drilling industry. The subcommittee is chaired by Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey, who is acting with Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who heads the full House energy and commerce committee.
Markey and Waxman note that the development of shale gas is
"one of the most promising trends in U.S. energy supplies," with the potential to meet American gas demand for decades. But as the use of these [drilling] technologies expands, there needs to be oversight to ensure that their use does not threaten the public health of nearby communities."
Of course, the industry says it is safe, going to far as to say that fracking "has been used for more than 60 years in more than one million U.S. wells without a single confirmed instance of groundwater contamination." Perhaps, they do a lot of fracking in Canada and could not make the same claim there.
TreeHugger is in favour of any technology that helps get us off coal; Natural gas power plants dial up and down quickly and produce half as much CO2 per unit of power than coal, so it is a great interim measure as we move to renewables. But surely the EPA should be ensuring that it is safe; In Alberta, after gas wells were fracked, people had natural gas coming out of their kitchen taps. Conditions may be different there than in the shale fields in the States, but they are using the same technology.
More on Fracking:
Hydraulic Fracturing For Natural Gas Development Gets Added Regulatory Scrutiny
US Congress May Undo Cheney's "Fracing" Exemption
Tracer In The Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid: Accountability For ...