There is more fallout from the most recent investigation on hydraulic fracking. “Fallout” is an appropriate word in this case because Ian Urbina’s investigation in the New York Times, included all sorts of juicy details about radioactivity coming from fracking wastewater. This has spurned less outrage than one might expect on Capitol Hill, but two lawmakers have made their moves.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) both spoke up in the wake of the report. The former called for increased inspection of possible radioactivity from fracking fluids in waterways. The latter wrote to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson asking for a response from the agency, as well as a set of steps that should be taken to test drinking water supplies that are downstream from fracking wastewater treatment plants.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette quoted Markey taking a hard line on the EPA over the fact the agency knew about the radioactivity issue. "I am outraged that state and federal regulators were evidently well aware of the risks that the wastewater might pose, but instead chose to adopt a 'see no evil, hear no evil approach' to regulation by ignoring them."
While it is certainly harder to see evil when the natural gas industry has remained exempt from disclosing the contents of their fracking fluids, it seems that this wastewater issue is a whole different kind of evil. The millions of gallons of wastewater that come out of a fracked well, which almost always go down over a mile actually comes back to the surface with more unknowns that when it was initially pumped down at high pressures. And that is saying something.
Fracking fluids, which to the best of the public’s knowledge, are a combination of sand, chemicals and water, are not required to be disclosed by the federal government through a regulatory gap known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” This couldn’t be made up, and has a well-documented history.
Perhaps it is wise that along with figuring out why the EPA -- as well as state regulators and the natural gas industry -- turned a blind eye to what was going in fracking fields across the country, that we also remove the onerous blinders the agency already has. If we can’t stop problems we see, the loopholes aren’t exactly making things easier.
It would be hard to think that our leaders in Washington won’t seriously consider any steps to making sure there isn’t radioactivity in people’s drinking water. But it would be hard to think they would ignore this in the first place, or secondly, that the industry would be doing this at all.