A bill introduced in both houses of Congress on March 15 - Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 587, H.R. 1084) would remove the exemption from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for hydraulic fracturing due to increasing concerns over surface water contamination. The legislation would amend the SDWA’s underground injection program by including hydraulic fracturing, a process that was previously exempted under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is used by oil and gas companies to create fractures in geologic layers of shale and coal to allow natural gas to flow to a well. It typically involves forcing water, sand, and chemical additives into a rock layer at high pressure. The issue has risen in prominence as shale gas drilling has become more common in the U. S.
In addition to regulating hydraulic fracturing under the federal drinking water law, the bill also would require natural gas and oil companies to publicly disclose chemical additives they use with water for fracking. It would further require oil and gas companies to disclose proprietary information about those additives to medical professionals if that information is needed for emergency medical treatment. Drinking water utilities are concerned because fracking operations near Pennsylvania rivers have led to higher levels of disinfection byproducts, such as bromides, in violation of existing rules.