Thursday, February 11, 2010

EPA sets up program for public to play watchdog on natural-gas drilling in Marcellus Shale

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a citizens' watchdog program to track water pollution and waste disposal related to natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale (which underlies the area shown on map). The program, Eyes on Drilling, "encourages people to report suspicious activity related to federal officials through a toll-free hotline," Tom Wilber of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reports.

EPA wants information including location, time and date of problems; materials, equipment and vehicles involved; and observable environmental impacts. The agency lacks direct oversight of drilling, which is handled by states, but does have authority over waste disposal and water pollution, of increased concern because of the hydraulic and chemical fracturing used to break up the deeply buried shale and release its gas.

"EPA wants to get a better understanding of what people are experiencing and observing as a result of these drilling activities. The information collected may also be useful in investigating industry practices," David Sternberg, a spokesman for EPA Region 3, which will run the program, told Wilber. The hotline will also take complaints from residents and forward them to appropriate officials for follow-up. More information about the program is available from its Web site or the toll-free hotline at 877-919-4372. (Read more)

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