EPA moves to regulate diesel in fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued guidance Tuesday governing the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.

Regulation of the drilling practice commonly known as “fracking” is primarily the province of the Interior Department. However, a 2005 law gives the EPA power over permitting for operations that use diesel.

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The guidance identifies five different chemical variations of diesel and outlines new guidelines for their use, along with “technical recommendations” for meeting those standards.

“Decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances of the specific injection activity and applicable statutes, regulations and case law, and will not cite this guidance as a basis for decision,” the EPA said.

The agency is choosing to clarify its authority over diesel in fracking via guidance, as opposed to a formal rule.

However, the agency released a draft version of the guidance in May of 2012 and held a 105-day public comment period to inform the final version.

The 2005 statue exempts EPA from regulating non-diesel fracking operations under its underground injection control (UIC) program.

Still, green groups, who say the controversial drilling practice could pose environmental and public health dangers, lauded the move.

“The EPA has made a small step toward curbing one of many threats from fracking,” said Environment America’s Clean Water Program director Courtney Abrams. “And while EPA lacks the authority to stop fracking entirely, the agency can and should bar the use of diesel fuel in fracking fluid, once and for all.”