Dieselicious! The continuing saga of diesel in our drinking water
By Lauren Pagel
February 9, 2011
Last week, ProPublica reported on the continuing saga of the use and regulation of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.
Now that a Congressional investigation has revealed that 32 million gallons of diesel fuel were used to frack wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas industry is backtracking on their past claims that they were no longer using diesel fuel. In fact, they are changing their tune entirely and saying that not only are they using diesel to fracture oil and gas wells, but that it s perfectly legal for them to do so.
Here on the Energy in Depth website (which is the mouthpiece for much industry rhetoric), it says, in relation to diesel use, the truth is, you won t find any of it in the solutions used during the hydraulic fracturing process...
Lee Fuller, the Executive Director of Energy In-Depth, previously told ProPublica that the use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing would trigger federal oversight by EPA under the SDWA.
But now Lee, and others in the industry, have declared that the EPA hasn t written specific regulations for the use of diesel so it s fine for it to be used despite the law? And the companies that have been pumping the roughly 6 million gallons of diesel a year underground without getting any sort of permit shouldn t be punished?
It looks to me as if the industry is changing their message based on the audience.
When faced with communities angry about water contamination from oil and gas production, their message is that they are done with diesel, and phasing out its use is not only a response to the 2005 Energy Policy Act, but is also part of their role as good corporate citizens.
When faced with a potential lawsuit for what is clearly a flagrant violation of the law that was passed by Congress in 2005, not only do they use diesel, but they are well within their rights to do so.
We all know what the letter, and spirit, of the law is in this situation: use diesel in hydraulic fracturing fluids, get a Safe Drinking Water Act permit. There is a regulatory system that currently exists that allows industry to get the permits they need. When each company decided to use diesel fuel without getting a permit from the EPA, they were breaking the law.
If the oil and gas industry were really the good corporate citizens they claim to be, and they were unclear about the status and regulatory regime surrounding the use of diesel fuel, there was much they could have done back when the law changed in 2005. They could have approached the EPA and said to them The law has changed, and now we need to get permits and be regulated by the SDWA when we want to use diesel. How is that going to work? Let s work together to make sure regulating diesel fuel goes smoothly.
That s not what the industry did. And the EPA, sadly, fell short in their duties by not making this issue clearer, earlier.
Now that the truth about the use of diesel in fracking has finally come out, the industry should embrace the regulation of this very toxic substance and work with EPA to make sure that drinking water is protected.