Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From Gung-Ho to Uh-Oh: Charting the Government’s Moves on Fracking

by Lena Groeger
Feb 7, 2012

Fracking has only recently become a household word, but government involvement with the drilling technique goes back decades. President Obama has championed the potential of natural gas drilling combined with more regulation. While there has been mounting evidence of water contamination, few regulations have been implemented. The graphic below traces officials' moves -- and levels of caution -- over time.

1969 The government detonates a 43-kiloton nuclear bomb deep underground in an effort to get at natural gas deposits in Colorado. The gas unlocked by "Project Rusilon" is deemed too radioactive to use.

1976 In response to energy shortages, the DOE launches the Eastern Gas Shales Project, a joint research project between state, federal, and private industrial organizations to research "unconventional" natural gas resources.

1986 As part of an early federal effort to investigate new methods of extracting natural gas, the Department of Energy sponsors the drilling of a 2,000-foot horizontal well in the Devonian shales of Wayne County, WV.

June 2004 An EPA report concludes that fracking is safe for drinking water. The report, which didn't include a scientific study, has since been criticized as politically motivated.

August 2005 Congress passes a law prohibiting the EPA from regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In most other cases the law dictates what chemicals can be injected underground.

August 2005 The Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research Program is established to develop technologies to increase national oil and gas production and reduce dependency on imports.

January 2007 A Bush administration memo effectively loosens the limits on air pollution from many natural gas wells.

June 2009 Congress introduces the FRAC Act, a law that would allow the EPA to regulate fracking and require companies to disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground. The bill never came to a vote.

June 2009 The Department of Energy funds AltaRock, a project to extract renewable energy from hot bedrock by using fracking to drill more than two miles deep. The test, which was the Obama administration's first major geothermal venture, is cancelled quickly due to concerns about causing an earthquake.

August 2009 In response to complaints of drinking water contamination, the EPA begins investigating wells in drilling areas of Pavillion, Wyoming. Initial testing finds at least three water wells that contain a chemical used for fracking.

October 2009 The Obama administration rescinds the 2007 memo that loosened restrictions on air pollution caused by drilling.

DecemberIn a controversial decision, the Bureau of Land Management approves gas drilling within a three mile buffer zone of a radioactive Colorado site, the home of the 1960's nuclear test Project Rusilon.

February 2010 The House Committee on Energy and Commerce launches an investigation into the potential environmental and health impacts of fracking.

March 2010 The EPA launches a study looking at the impacts of fracking on drinking water nationwide. The final report is due out in 2014.

December 2010 The Department of the Interior holds a forum to discuss the impact of current drilling practices and to consider a policy requiring companies to disclose the chemicals they use for fracking. President Obama has spoken in support of such a policy, but no official rules have been implemented.

March 2011 The FRAC Act mandating more oversight is reintroduced into the House and Senate. It is still in committee.

April 2011 Continue to ProPublica to review more...

May 2011

July 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

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