December 29, 2012

Do you trust your drinking water?

You might not sip your tapwater so nonchalantly if you live in certain areas in America. A drilling boom made possible by fracking has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over possible contamination of our drinking water. In fact, a Gallop poll this year identified quality of drinking water the top environmental concern of Americans.

So we now eagerly await a major EPA research project into fracking's effects on water supplies, as well as final rules on the disposal of wastewater and the use of 'diesel' chemicals used in fracking. But it will not arrive until 2014--if then.

Thanks to Dick Cheney's "Halliburton Rule," diesel fuel, which is used in fracking, was exempted from regulation. The EPA published a draft definition of just what constitutes diesel fuel in May, but it was met with criticism from the industry and some legislators. So it will fall to the new EPA administrator to set a final definition.

Under Lisa Jackson, the EPA said it would begin to regulate the millions of gallons a day of wastewater that is withdrawn from wells after the fracking process, probably in 2014. This wastewater is usually trucked offsite and re-injected elsewhere, although increasingly it is being reprocessed for further use.

It will be very interesting to see who President Obama appoints to succeed Lisa Jackson to head up the EPA.

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