US oil and gas drillers must get permits to use a range of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing, EPA says.
WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas drillers must get permits to use a range of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. environment regulator said on Tuesday, in its first clarification of laws restricting the use of the fuel considered harmful to water supplies.
The 2005 Energy Policy Act signed by then-President George W. Bush contained a provision limiting federal regulation of fracking under safe drinking water law unless drillers were using diesel in fracking fluids.
Drillers use diesel to increase production from wells and as a kind of anti-freeze in cold regions. But the exact definition of the diesel fuel to be regulated was unclear until Tuesday when the Environmental Protection Agency outlined what variations of the fuel are subject to permitting.
The EPA defined 5 chemical variations of the fuel including types of jet fuel, kerosene and products known in the industry as diesels No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4.
U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who has fought to control the use of diesel in fracking, was pleased by the EPA action.
"The Safe Drinking Water Act is intended to prevent underground injection that could endanger drinking water sources," Waxman said in a release.
He said the EPA has taken "an important step" toward helping existing federal laws to prevent underground injection of diesel from harming water supplies by clarifying the existing requirements.
An energy industry group said the EPA move does not have much impact because drillers have already slashed use of diesel fuel voluntarily.
"This appears to be a solution in search of a problem: Based on actual industry practices, diesel fuel use has already been effectively phased out of hydraulic fracturing operations," Lee Fuller, a government relations official with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a release.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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