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November 6, 2009

Environmental Scrutiny

EPA will assess impacts of black carbon and drilling chemicals for hydraulic fracturing

Glenn Hess

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Congress has approved legislation that directs EPA to study the environmental impact of black carbon and to assess whether the chemicals used in a controversial oil and natural gas drilling technique pose a threat to drinking water supplies.

The provisions are part of a $32.2 billion fiscal 2010 spending bill for the Interior Department, EPA, and several independent agencies. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law on Oct. 30.

The black carbon amendment, which Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) added to the bill, calls on EPA to determine the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions to improve public health and reduce global warming.

Black carbon is due to incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, and the emissions contribute to serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems. The particles are also thought to be a major contributor to global warming. “This black carbon study will help us find the most cost-effective approach to reduce a harmful air pollutant,” Carper said in a statement.

The legislation also requires EPA to determine whether hydraulic fracturing is contaminating water supplies. The drilling technique involves the pressurized injection of thousands of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into solid rock formations to open cracks and release trapped oil or gas (C&EN, Aug. 17, page 28).

Environmental activists are concerned that industrial solvents and other chemicals are being pumped underground near drinking water sources, but the industry insists the practice is safe and well regulated.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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