The Obama administration was served with a stark reminder Tuesday that its embrace of natural-gas drilling is being met with heartfelt resistance by some.
During an event in Ohio, a man who said he was a “victim of federal gas drilling” confronted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“I have two neighbors who have now been diagnosed with cancer because of our toxic water,” the man said, as he began to cry. “It’s not being done safe; we need help. Can you help us?”
Before the man spoke, Salazar touted fracking, a natural-gas drilling method in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to gain access to valuable natural-gas supplies.
“Hydraulic fracking can be done safely and in fact is being done safely in most cases,” Salazar said during remarks at the City Club of Cleveland.
Responding to the man, Salazar said the administration is working to ensure that fracking is done safely. “[Y]ou need to have safeguards to protect the people and the environment,” he said.
The Interior Department is preparing new regulations for fracking on public lands that require full disclosure of chemicals used; ensure the integrity of the wellbore; and prevent flow-back water contaminating streams.
Salazar said the new regulations will be unveiled in several weeks.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study on the public health effects of fracking, a practice that industry officials strongly maintain is safe from a health and ecological standpoint.
Separately, EPA released a narrow draft report late last year that said the drilling practice likely caused groundwater contamination in Wyoming, conclusions that have come under attack from natural-gas advocates that call the report sloppy and inaccurate.
But while the administration is working to address the potential effects of fracking, President Obama has endorsed expanded natural-gas drilling.
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,” Obama said during his January State of the Union address.
He added: “I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”