EPA Reviews Fracking Chemical Disclosure

Monday, November 28, 2011 @ 04:11 PM gHale


Natural gas is a much needed commodity throughout the U.S., and the world for that matter, and fracking is becoming a more popular method to extract the energy source from the ground.

But do we really know if the chemicals used in the process are detrimental to the environment or people?

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To that point the Environmental Protection Agency said it will weigh rules requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic-fracturing fluids.

Companies such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd., which supply oil and natural-gas producers, should reveal substances used in fracking, according to a petition filed with the EPA by the environmental group Earthjustice. In a response, the EPA said it will begin gathering that data.

The EPA will try to provide “aggregate pictures of the chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing,” Stephen A. Owens, an assistant administrator at the agency said. “This would not duplicate, but instead complement, the well-by-well disclosure programs of states.”

Fracking has led to a natural-gas boom in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas, producing opposition among some residents and environmental groups that say the technology may contaminate drinking water and add to air and soil pollution. Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals inject under high pressure underground, cracking rock to free trapped gas or oil.

Earthjustice, an environmental-law firm based in San Francisco, was among groups petitioned the EPA in August under the Toxic Substances Control Act to require makers of fracturing fluid to release the ingredients in their products, data on health and environmental effects and reports of adverse reactions.

The EPA turned down another part of the organizations’ request, telling the groups on Nov. 2 that it wouldn’t mandate toxicity testing for each of the chemicals. It also denied a request that chemicals used in all types of oil and gas exploration and production undergo disclosure as well.

Extraction from shale formations has grown to about 15 percent of U.S. natural-gas production and this share should triple by 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Houston-based Halliburton already discloses on its company website the chemicals in its fracking mixtures, said spokeswoman Beverly Stafford.

“The site also includes educational material that describes the hydraulic-fracturing process,” she said.



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