In 2011, a large coalition of public health, environmental, and good government groups filed a petition (PDF) demanding that full health and safety information be made available to the EPA 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.
Today’s news is that EPA is issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The EPA will seek public comment on whether it should move forward with a proposed rule. If a rule is proposed, it goes through another period of public notice and comment.
The following is a statement from Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney of Earthjustice's fracking litigation program:
“We’re pleased that the EPA is considering requiring chemical manufacturers and processors to report the chemical substances and mixtures in fracking products. We urge the EPA to do this quickly.
“Three years ago, in response to serious public concern about problems related to oil and gas development, we petitioned EPA on behalf of more than 100 groups in 23 states to require reports of the chemicals used in fracking exploration and production. Since we petitioned the EPA for a rule, we have learned a lot about the chemicals fracking companies are using – but not enough.
“We have learned that many of the hundreds of chemicals used in fracking are toxic and that some are endocrine disrupters, causes of respiratory problems, or known carcinogens. These are just the chemicals we know about. There are many chemicals that are being concealed from us. We can assume that these are just as bad.
“There are two reasons why a reporting rule is necessary.
“First, some states ask the fracking companies, not the chemical manufacturers, to disclose the chemicals in their frack fluids. The fracking companies sometimes say that even they don’t know what chemicals are in the fluids, because the manufacturers make trade secret claims. Disclosure ends there. This information goes to nobody: Not the states, not the EPA, not the fracking companies, and certainly not the public. But the public feels the harms.
“Second, the oil and gas industry has a bad track record on transparency, so we can’t rely on a voluntary system to get full information. We need an enforceable rule that requires reporting from all manufacturers and processors of chemicals used in the development process. At the very least, EPA should know everything. Also, because EPA has one of the better systems for vetting claims that the chemicals are trade secrets or otherwise confidential, required reporting increases the chances that the public will get the information, too.
“We have been waiting a long time for action on our petition. We are glad to see EPA take this step and we urge it to move quickly in issuing a rule to uncover the chemicals used in fracking.”
• The petition filed today can be found at: http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/fracking_petition.pdf
• The groups' press release upon filing: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2011/100-groups-from-23-states-file-petition-for-drilling-and-fracking-chemical-testing-info
• A list of groups, organized by state, that signed onto today’s petition can be found at: http://earthjustice.org/documents/reference/xls/fracking-petition-groups
• Study guides on Natural Gas Extraction from Marcellus shale, Pipelines, and Pooling, are available on the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania website: http://palwv.org/issues/MarcellusShale/index.html.