Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", is a well stimulation process used to extract oil and gas resources. The process involves drilling a vertical well that goes down several thousand feet below the surface and then turns horizontally. A mix of water, sand and other chemicals are pumped down the well under high pressure creating fractures in the formation allowing natural gas to flow into the wellbore and be collected at the surface.
Many of the concerns about hydraulic fracturing have centered on the chemical composition of fracturing fluids, the location of drilling in or near underground sources of drinking water, and the potential health impacts resulting from these activities.
The New York Times recently published an investigative report suggesting a high incidence of radioactive materials and other contaminants in wastes produced as a result of hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the Energy and Commerce Committee found that oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into wells, despite the fact that this practice is an apparent violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Natural Resources Committee has initiated an investigation into the practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.
In response to The New York Times article, Ranking Member Markey immediately questioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its oversight of these drilling practices and sent a letter to the Department of Interior (DOI), which regulates drilling activities on federal lands. Furthermore in January 2011 Rep. Markey, along with members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, released the results of an almost year-long investigation into hydraulic fracturing, which concluded that fourteen oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into gas wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009, despite the fact that this practice is an apparent violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. We also found that between 2005 and 2009, these companies used 866 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products that contained 750 chemicals and other components, including toxic substances such as lead and benzene. In some instances, the companies were unable to identify the complete chemical makeup of the fracturing fluids that were used, because they were deemed proprietary or trade secrets.