Environmentalists to Seek EPA Rules on ‘Fracking’ Chemicals


Related Topics: Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) US Environmental Protection Agency

By Geof Koss, CQ Staff

Environmentalists and public health groups will urge the EPA on Thursday to write first-time regulations requiring industry to release health and safety data on the chemicals used in the oil and gas production method known as hydraulic fracturing.

More than 100 groups from 23 states will file a petition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (PL 94-469) seeking rules to require manufacturers and processors of drilling chemicals to test the substances and “produce health and safety data needed to evaluate the health and environmental risks” associated with the process, according to an advisory by Earthjustice.

The method, also known as “fracking,” involves injecting a high-pressure cocktail of sand, water and chemicals deep underground to release natural gas and petroleum embedded in rock seams.

Critics say the process threatens groundwater supplies and contaminates the high volumes of water used, sometimes overwhelming water treatment facilities and causing untreated waste water contaminated with naturally occurring radionuclides and drilling chemicals to be dumped.

Under a 2005 energy law (PL 109-58) the EPA is blocked from regulating most of the chemicals used, but congressional critics of the practice have repeatedly called for greater controls, including the disclosure of chemicals used in the process. Industry backers in Congress have opposed efforts to compel disclosure.

An investigation released by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year found widespread use of diesel by drilling companies in many states — activity that critics say should require special permits from the EPA.

Fracking supporters have resisted calls for greater regulation in large part because of fears they might slow down the ongoing boom in natural gas produced using the technique.

Legislative efforts are largely on hold until the EPA completes a congressionally mandated review of the safety of fracking that the agency’s web site says is expected to be completed in 2014.

Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said Wednesday he expects the study will confirm the practice’s safety.

“I have no objection with EPA doing the study,” he told reporters at a media breakfast sponsored by Energy Daily. “I think the more information we have about it the better.”

Upcoming Events