A large coalition of public health, environmental, and good government groups filed a petition today demanding that full health and safety information be made available for all of the chemicals used in oil and gas development, including the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracking is when oil and gas companies blast millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals into the ground to force oil and gas from hard-to-reach places deep inside the earth. Along with a fracking-fueled gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, and sick families.
“The more information we have about the chemicals used in fracking and drilling, the easier it will be to keep people safe and healthy,” said Earthjustice Associate Attorney Megan Klein. “But EPA needs to move quickly—we learn of new problems related to this industry almost daily.”
Earthjustice filed the petition on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, The League of Women Voters and more than 100 other groups from across America including those with national membership and others with membership from among 23 states (view list). The petition asks the EPA to draft rules that—for the first time—would require manufacturers and processors of drilling and fracking chemicals to conduct testing and produce health and safety data needed to evaluate the health and environmental risks of their substances and mixtures.
“The complications linked to the chemicals used in oil and gas development are emblematic of a larger problem in this country—in which we allow dangerous or untested chemicals to be used in everyday consumer products and, in this case, mixed with water and pumped underground,” said Richard Denison, Senior Scientist with Environmental Defense Fund. “Ultimately, the goal of this petition is to encourage companies to do the right thing. If health impacts associated with their products are widely known, it will serve as a powerful incentive for companies to act more responsibly.”
Little is known about many of the chemicals used in drilling and fracking. What information is available is sobering: 78 percent of known fracking chemicals are associated with serious short-term health effects such as burning eyes, rashes, asthma-like effects, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, tremors, and convulsions. Between 22 and 47 percent of those chemicals also are associated with longer-term health effects, including cancer, organ damage, and harm to the endocrine system.
“People are understandably concerned about the potential health impacts posed by fracking. Here in Pennsylvania and across the region, as the pace of drilling has skyrocketed, so too have reports of illness and pollution,” said Roberta Winters of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “The League of Women Voters is deeply concerned about this national issue that threatens the environment and public health. The state Leagues of New York and Pennsylvania are working hard to educate the public about the environmental, public health, and economic impacts associated with fracking. As we continue to advocate for public participation and transparency, we encourage citizens to make their voices heard to regain necessary environmental protections. Our nation’s leaders are on notice that our organization, and more than a hundred others nationwide are pressing for swift action on this petition.”
The petition also asks the EPA to require Halliburton and 8 other fracking chemical companies to provide any documentation these companies have of environmental or health problems associated with the chemicals they manufacture, process, or distribute.
“Here in Pavilion, we’re surrounded by fracked gas wells. The EPA told us over a year ago not to use our well water anymore for drinking or cooking,” said John Fenton of Pavilion (WY) Area Concerned Citizens. “The way the rules work right now, it’s easy for companies to sidestep responsibility. I don’t think we should stand for it any longer, which is why I’ve signed onto this petition.”