One critical part of the process for producing shale gas in the United States, including shale gas, is called “fracking.” It involves pumping water and other materials under high pressure deep into rock formations that hold gas. The process fractures the rock and holds open the fissures to allow the gas to flow to the surface more efficiently. This process can employ toxic chemicals such as benzene and has the potential to pollute deep aquifers, groundwater, and surface waters. Natural gas production can also release methane, which is a very potent greenhouse gas.
As a first step, the EPA must undertake a comprehensive scientific analysis of the air, land, water, and global warming impacts from natural gas production, including a lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis. It should review the effectiveness of federal and state programs at protecting people, air, land, and water from gas production side effects. The EPA should also review new and emerging technologies to reduce this pollution. Based on the science, the analysis should recommend best management practices for companies and additional government safeguards that require pollution reductions.
Medium and large natural gas producers should also publicly disclose the chemical constituents (but not the proprietary chemical formulas) used in natural gas production. This “right to know” requirement would enable communities and citizens to better know about the chemicals used and released near their homes.
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