Greens weigh in on EPA fracking guidance

Environmental organizations are telling the Obama administration how it should write guidance for some hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.

Ahead of Thanksgiving last week, representatives from five environmental and government watchdog groups met with White House and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to discuss the new guidance for fracking efforts that involve diesel.

The meeting is the first the White House has held on the guidance in months, and could be a sign of new work on the effort.

Officials from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, Food and Water Watch, Clean Water Action and the Center for Effective Government attended the Nov. 26 meeting, according to a record.

Some of the groups have urged the EPA to ban energy companies from using diesel fuels in their fracking activities, since it could pose risks to human health and the environment.

In a comment submitted to the agency last summer, after the guidance was first proposed, the organizations joined a coalition saying that a ban “will allow EPA to fully and efficiently achieve its agency goals of improving regulatory certainty, improving compliance and protecting the environment.”

Fracking involves shooting high-pressure jets of water, sand, and other chemicals into rock formations. Environmental groups have worried that some of the fluid can leak into the groundwater.

In 2005, Congress exempted most fracking activities from laws to protect clean drinking water. The rules still apply to fracking that involves diesel as part of the  chemical mix injected to release energy, however.

The EPA unveiled draft guidance last year. Since September, a final version has been under an interagency review at the White House’s regulations office.

Though the White House office has a 90-day deadline when it reviews regulations, there are no similar rules for reviewing guidance.