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Marcellus Shale

Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Thompson) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Rep. Glenn Thompson

legislator photo

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak about an incredible opportunity which is in the northeastern part of the United States, and that is the Marcellus shale natural gas. The Marcellus shale describes a natural gas play in Pennsylvania that has created jobs and economic growth, even in the most difficult of economic times. It is one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, and much of it is located in my district. However, the play is deep down and requires a process called fracking, in which water, sand, and approved chemicals are pressured into the play to fracture the shale to release the gas. Now it is this process that has come under criticism and has been the subject of a great deal of inaccurate information both in the media and a so-called documentary called ``Gasland.''

Fracking has been used for 100 years, hydro-fracking for 60 years. The safety is documented with zero confirmed cases of groundwater contamination in 1 million applications over that 60 years. The director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Oil and Gas Management said that he has never seen an impact to fresh groundwater directly from fracking.

Another piece of incorrect information is that no one knows what goes into fracking fluid. Well, first of all, more than 99.5 percent of the fluid is sand and water. For the remainder, Pennsylvania law requires companies to disclose all chemicals used in the fracking process, just not the specific formula. A complete list of those chemicals is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Web site. They include materials that help deliver the water down the well bore and position the sand in the tiny fractures created in the formation.

One of the more prominent substances is guar gum, most commonly used as an emulsifier in ice cream.

You know, there are contentions that fracking is not well regulated. To the contrary, eight Federal and 11 Pennsylvania acts or laws regulate the impacts of drilling. The film ``Gasland'' goes so far as to assert that ``the 2005 energy bill pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney exempts the oil and natural gas industries from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Super Fund law, and about a dozen other environmental and Democratic regulations.''

Well, that is patently false. It must comply with all of these laws with the caveat that the hydraulic fracturing process was never regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act in its 60-year history, and that particular energy bill was supported by 74 ``yes'' votes in the Senate, including those at the time of Senators Obama and Salazar.

Most alarmingly, ``Gasland'' has a stunning scene of a man who is turning on a tap, sticking a lighter under it and watching it ignite. ``Gasland'' blames natural gas development for the flaming faucet, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission wrote: ``Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic.'' Madam Speaker, that means naturally occurring in origin. ``There are no indications of oil- and gas-related impacts to well water.''

Though perhaps the most telling repudiation of this film comes from John Hanger, Secretary John Hanger of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who for 10 years was president and CEO of the environmental organization called Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future. He appears briefly in the film. John Hanger said the film was ``fundamentally dishonest'' and ``a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.'' He called the producer a ``propagandist.''

Now, I am 100 percent behind producing natural gas in a safe and environmentally sound way. If there are violations of the rules or laws, either State or Federal, we rely on the good offices of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to do whatever is necessary to bring enforcement to the situation. They have proven to be capable and aggressive.

Gas drilling creates jobs and economic growth and contributes to our energy security in this country. It needs to be done right with environmental protection. It doesn't deserve a propaganda film which doesn't educate but which serves to simply demonize an industry for personal gain and political reasons.