ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The oil and gas industry is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to keep a narrow focus in its study of how a drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water into the ground may affect drinking water — while environmental groups want the study to cover everything from road-building to waste disposal.
The issues will be aired Monday in two-minute speaking slots at an EPA hearing twice postponed last month because of security concerns over rallies and crowds anticipated in the thousands.
The hearing, the last of four around the country, will be held in two sessions on Monday and two more on Wednesday at The Forum in Binghamton, 115 miles southwest of Albany. The EPA is taking comment on how broadly to construct its study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique for releasing natural gas from rock formations thousands of feet underground by injecting at high pressure millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand.
Congress directed the EPA to take a new look at fracking as gas drillers swarm to the lucrative Marcellus Shale region beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio and other shale reserves around the country. Concerns that the process can poison private wells and water aquifers have driven opposition, while the industry insists there’s no evidence linking fracking to any contaminated water sources.
In Wyoming, which also has large shale reserves, the EPA has told residents in Pavillion, a farming and ranching area, not to drink water from about 40 nearby wells. Residents speculate their water supplies have been polluted by fracking, but the EPA’s tests have been inconclusive.
Just last week, the EPA asked nine major gas drilling companies to voluntarily disclose the chemicals used in fracking. Drilling companies, calling their chemical formulas proprietary, have largely sought to avoid that disclosure.