Indiana has new rules for hydraulic fracturing that go into effect on July 1. Improving the regulation of fracking – which produces natural gas but also is linked to environmental problems – should be of interest to all Hoosiers.
According to a recently released survey from the University of Texas, 63 percent of Americans dont know what hydraulic fracturing is. So, its highly likely that a good number of Hoosiers wont be all that fired up about the recent change in state law or the expanded reporting rules from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. But they should be.
The new rules increase the reporting requirements. But it remains to be seen if the new rules go far enough in protecting the public and the environment.
Here are the answers to some questions about hydraulic fracturing:
Q. What is hydraulic fracturing?
The practice, also known as fracking, involves pumping some combination of water, sand and chemicals into deep underground wells to release pockets of oil or gas trapped in the layers of rock and then capturing it for use.
According to the DNRs Division of Oil and Gas there are typically between 250 and 300 new wells in Indiana each year and 20 to 25 percent of the new wells use hydraulic fracturing.
Q. What are the environmental concerns related to fracking?
Critics of the practice are concerned about fracking fluids leaking from drilling wells and contaminating water supplies.
A 2011 study from the National Academy of Sciences found evidence that the controversial drilling technique is contaminating drinking water. It found dangerous levels of methane gas in water near drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Fracking in inappropriate areas also destabilizes the earths crust and prompts earthquakes. Seismologists with Columbia Universitys Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., determined disposal wells for wastewater from a hydraulic fracturing operation was connected to alarming seismic activity in Ohio last year. The Youngstown area experienced about a dozen earthquakes – one that reach a 4.0 magnitude on the Richter scale – because fracking wastewater was injected near a fault line.
Scientists suspect hydraulic fracturing is also responsible for quakes in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Environmentalist are also worried because the practice often produces millions of gallons of wastewater that needs to be carefully disposed of or treated.
Another cause for concern with hydraulic fracturing is with the unknown chemicals that are being used in the process. Companies have refused to make public the proprietary blends used, and some of the ingredients can be toxic.
Q. If its so bad, why allow it at all?
The practice has already greatly expanded the nations supply of natural gas, helping lower prices to consumers. And plentiful natural gas is a relatively clean source of generating electricity, as opposed to coal, which has its own environmental problems –
Q. Why did state lawmakers toughen the fracking regulations?
Previously companies using hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil wells werent required to disclose the chemicals they were pumping into the ground. But during the last legislative session, Indiana lawmakers took needed steps to address the concerns about the unknown chemicals being used during fracking.
The new temporary rules on hydraulic fracturing expand the reporting requirements for all hydraulic fracturing wells in Indiana. Previously, only coal bed methane wells were required to report the specific products used. Well operators will need to provide detailed information on the types and amount of fluids and chemicals used in the drilling wells. The information will be available to the public on the DNRs website. The website will also include Material Safety Data Sheets for each of the reported chemicals.