EARTHWORKS' Oil and Gas Accountability Project appreciates Chesapeake Energy's recognition that drilling is inherently risky, and that people don't want their drinking water at risk. Welcome and unenforceable declarations aside, the greater issues of permanent protection for the watershed and an under-regulated polluting technology with a checkered history remain.
Hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has opened shale gas deposits across the country to profitable drilling, continues to be exempt from our nation's safe drinking water law because of a loophole included in the 2005 energy bill. This so-called "Halliburton loophole" threatens drinking water far beyond the New York City watershed.
There are a number of cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing -- the injection of toxic chemicals underground at pressure high enough "fracture" the rock formation and liberate the gas it contains -- is the prime suspect in incidences of impaired or polluted drinking water. In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded in which residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes.
Representatives DeGette (D-CO), Hinchey (D-NY) and Polis (D-CO) and Senators Casey (D-PA) and Schumer (D-NY) have introduced Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (H.R. 2776 and S. 1215) to close the loophole and make sure that hydraulic fracturing is regulated to protect drinking water.
There are some places, like the New York City watershed, that should be off limits to drilling. We urge Chesapeake Energy to walk their talk and relinquish their leases in the watershed so that the area can be permanently protected. We also urge them to follow their concession to its logical conclusion: supporting the FRAC Act, so that in areas where drilling is appropriate, the public can have greater assurance that oil and gas drilling is done right."