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Rep. Waxman and Rep. DeGette Commend EPA Action to Clarify Safe Drinking Water Act Requirements for Certain Hydraulic Fracturing Activities

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Today Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman and Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for releasing its long-awaited permitting guidance for oil and gas hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels. This guidance clarifies that a company must obtain a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) before using diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing and provides information for permit writers on how to protect underground sources of drinking water.

"The Safe Drinking Water Act is intended to prevent underground injection that could endanger drinking water sources," said Rep. Waxman. "EPA has taken an important step toward that goal by clarifying the existing requirement that oil and gas companies obtain permits before using diesel in hydraulic fracturing and giving regulators more tools to ensure drilling proceeds safely and responsibly."

"Nearly ten years ago, the Republican-led Energy Policy Act of 2005 singled out the potential dangers associated with using diesel in fracking fluid," said Rep. DeGette. "While today's guidance was a long time coming, I am glad to see that the EPA recommends robust oversight whenever diesel fuels are used for fracking. My bi-partisan Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act takes additional steps necessary to protect the health of our communities."

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which contained a provision limiting the application of SDWA to hydraulic fracturing except when diesel is used. Until today, EPA has not issued any regulations or guidance to implement this statutory change, raising questions about how state and EPA permit writers should apply the law. In 2011, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released an analysis showing that oil and gas service companies had continued to use diesel fuels in their fracturing fluids without obtaining permits.

EPA's guidance clearly states that EPA, where it directly implements underground injection control (UIC) program, and states and tribes with primary enforcement authority "must issue a Class II permit prior to the injection of diesel fuels in the [hydraulic fracturing] fluid or propping agents." It provides technical recommendations for how EPA permit writers can mitigate the potential risks of diesel fuel injection during hydraulic fracturing. This guidance applies only to permit writers in states where EPA is the permitting authority for the UIC program, although states and tribes with enforcement authority may adopt the recommendations.

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