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Sestak calls for EPA oversight of Marcellus gas drilling

Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania wants the EPA to boost its oversight of Marcellus Shale drilling following the blowout at a Clearfield County gas well on Friday.

Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania wants the EPA to boost its oversight of Marcellus Shale drilling following the blowout at a Clearfield County gas well on Friday.

Sestak - the Democratic nominee for Senate - compared the incident, which has initially been linked to a failed blowout preventer, to the circumstances that led to the BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The accident Thursday night, 100 miles east of Pittsburgh, sent a plume of contaminated drilling water and natural gas 75 feet in the air and flowing into the ground for 16 hours before being capped.

Sestak wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to ask that the Marcellus Shale development be monitored by the EPA to ensure that drilling does not harm Pennsylvania's water resources.

"This accident highlights the significant dangers of these drilling operations, which are expanding in Pennsylvania at an unprecedented rate and scale," Sestak wrote, noting that American Rivers has declared the Upper Delaware River the most endangered in the country due to Marcellus Shale development. "Proper regulations are not in place to manage them and protect the public."

He said Pennsylvania must have proper investigation and testing of groundwater and air contamination and the EPA has the technical expertise to do so.

Sestak has co-sponsored the FRAC Act, a companion to a Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, that would repeal the "Halliburton Loophole," a Bush-era deal that allows drillers to avoid compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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