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Fracking: Congress needs to drill into the issue, says Diana DeGette

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As reported in this space on Friday, a new study from Common Cause tracks how oil and gas interests spent $747 million on lobbying and campaign donations since 2001 to win congressional support for "fracking," hydraulic fracturing drilling methods that involve using toxic chemicals. Which may be why the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has never held a hearing on the environmental consequences of fracking, particularly on water quality -- and why Diana DeGette and two other representatives are pushing for such a move.

Today, DeGette, along with fellow Democrats Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, sent a letter to Fred Upton, the energy committee's chairman, seeking a hearing on fracking issues, prompted by the release last week of a federal report on shale gas production. The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production's report concludes that lawmakers need to take "concerted and sustained action" to address possible environmental risks from drilling operations, including potential threats to air quality and groundwater.

Among the reports' recommendations are a requirement to disclose the composition of fracking fluids and the prohibition of diesel fuel in any fracking brew. Although the EPA has authority to regulate the use of diesel fuel in the process, no energy companies have apparently bothered to obtain permits for its use.

Earlier this year, DeGette, Markey and Waxman released results of a congressional investigation that found that "oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in nineteen states between 2005 and 2009. In addition, the investigation finds that no oil and gas service companies have sought -- and no state and federal regulators have issued -- permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing, which appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act."

The three reps' latest letter states that the SEAB report would be "a good place to start" an inquiry into the energy industry's fracking practices. No word yet on the response from Chairman Upton -- who appears in Common Cause's list of the top hundred recipients in Congress of campaign contributions from the gas industry, clocking in at Number 31 with $153,917, collected from PACs and individuals with an interest in seeing fracking thrive.

More from our News archive: "Fracking: Wyoming jumps ahead of Colorado in regulation of hydraulic fracturing fluids."

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