Processing Magazine

EPA Moves Drilling Hearing, Expecting Crowds

August 19, 2010
In anticipation of as many as 8,000 people at a public hearing on natural gas drilling, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was moving the hearing from Binghamton University to a Syracuse convention center 65 miles north, reports Bloomberg. The hearing is the fourth and last by the EPA around the country to get public comment on its study of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Previous hearings were held in Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania. Critics say the technology, which blasts chemical-laced water into the earth, could poison water supplies. The industry says it''s been used safely for decades. The EPA said 300 people have signed up to speak at Thursday''s sessions. Advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, significantly increased yield from shale gas wells and led to the current natural gas boom. The technology has drawn intense scrutiny since the focus of gas drilling companies has shifted in recent years to the Marcellus Shale, a massive rock formation underlying New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Environmental groups, residents and civic leaders fear potential contamination of watersheds in the densely populated region if fracking isn''t more tightly regulated. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005 after an earlier EPA study declared fracking wasn''t a threat to water supplies. That study has since been criticized as flawed. The new EPA study, to be completed in 2013, could lead to new federal regulations. However, the industry says state regulation is sufficient and has worked well.