U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey is calling for swift action from the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that a drilling process for extracting natural gas from deep under the earth is not polluting groundwater.
The Malden Democrat fired off a letter over the weekend to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson shortly after The New York Times published a lengthy piece about the process known as “hydrofracking.”
The process involves pounding underground rock with high-pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals to release trapped natural gas. A single well can produce over a million gallons of waste water that contains salts, carcinogens and radioactive elements, according to the Times. The number of hyrdofracking wells has almost doubled since 2000, to almost a half-million in 2009.
Markey, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, warned that the process could turn “our rivers and streams into this generation’s ‘Love Canals,’” a reference to the toxic waste disaster near Niagara Falls, New York in the late 1970s.
“I do not believe that the price for energy extracted from deep beneath the earth’s surface should include a risk to the health of those who live above it,” Markey wrote in his letter to Jackson.
Companies that drill for natural gas say that the process is safe and environmentally sound, but a vocal protest movement has arisen around the drilling process.
Actor Mark Ruffalo recently testified on Capitol Hill against the process, and was expected to wear a protest pin to the Academy Awards on Sunday night. Gasland, a documentary about hydrofracking, was nominated for an Oscar.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.