US to set water pollution standards for ‘fracking’

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Administrator Lisa Jackson
© AFP/Getty Images/File Brendan Smialowski

AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government unveiled plans Thursday to set national standards for wastewater discharges from natural gas drilling amid growing concern over water pollution from a technique known as “fracking.”

The EPA said in a statement it would accept comments for new standards over the coming months for shale gas extraction as well as for gas from underground coalbeds.

“No comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities,” the agency said in a statement.

The new regulations come in the face of criticism that the frenzy for natural gas exploration and new horizontal drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking to extract gas from shale formations would lead to contamination of underground water supplies.

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EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement that the administration of President Barack Obama “has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our energy economy.”

“That is why we are taking steps — in coordination with our federal partners and informed by the input of industry experts, states and public health organizations — to make sure the needs of our energy future are met safely and responsibly,” she added.

“We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy,” she added.

EPA noted that production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total US natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades.

Industry analysts say that recent discoveries of shale formations in several regions would make the United States the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.

But there are concerns that wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways.

Critics say the industry has moved too fast with little regulation, and cite concerns about spills, leaks and contamination from chemicals used in the process. Similar debates are ongoing in Canada, France and other countries.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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