Obama Administration Issues Guidelines on Using Diesel in Fracking

Association of Construction and Development
February 14, 2014 — 2,363 views  
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The Obama administration recently made its first foray into the issue of potential water contamination caused by the controversial technique of fracking. The administration stated that it will be exerting more control over this injecting of diesel deep into the ground for extracting natural gas as well as oil.

The Environmental Protection Agency has limited authority over the regulation of fluids that are used for hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. This method involves pumping of water into the ground by lacing it with chemicals for unlocking gas or oil that is trapped underneath. While the agency has been allowed to look into the use of diesel in this technique since 2005, it has not done so.

Companies are required to obtain permits before going ahead with fracking. They need to apply for a permit either with the state or federal authority and can begin fracking only after receiving approval by these authorities. However, EPA hadn’t defined as to what exactly it considered diesel, as it comes in various formulations, which in turn complicated the efforts taken to regulate its use.

Latest guidelines by EPA

According to EPA's latest guidelines, five substances have been defined as diesel. The use of any of these will require the company to obtain a permit before fracking may begin. But this action by the agency will not have much impact, since only 2 percent of gas and natural oil fracking operations are utilizing diesel.

It is not exactly a rule but more a guidance as to how the law needs to be interpreted by the officials who review the fracking permits and grant them. Among the other recommendations, officials need to obtain detailed information about the construction of wells and also have the power to request additional testing of the wells before the use of diesel.

What do the environmental organizations have to say?

Though environmental organizations have been asking for stricter regulations and supervision of fracking, most of them have welcomed this latest initiative. Director of Environment America’s Clean Water Program, Courtney Abrams, said that the environmental organizations are aware of the threat that diesel has on drinking water, when used for fracking. But the small step taken by EPA will help in solving at least one of the issues regarding fracking. 


Association of Construction and Development