By MARK DRAJEM
The US Environment
al Protection Agency
took the first formal step toward requiring oil and gas
drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking.
The agency on Friday announced the start of a process that
could result in companies being forced to report to the
government, and possibly the public, the chemicals they add
to sand and water to break apart shale rock and release oil
and gas trapped deep underground. The government also said it
is considering ways to encourage the development and use of
safer chemicals in fracking.
Todays announcement represents an important step
in increasing the publics access to information on
chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, James Jones,
the EPAs assistant administrator for chemical safety,
said in a statement. Rules worked out with state and local
agencies will complement but not duplicate existing
reporting requirements, he said.
Environmental groups have been pressing the agency to collect
information on the fluids injected into the underground
rocks, saying they may be a danger to human health or the environment
. Some drillers have
opposed such a step, saying their recipes are trade secrets.
We want to be sure that there is some agency that
actually is collecting this information about what is being
used in these shale plays across the country, said
Deborah Goldberg, a lawyer at Earthjustice, which asked the
agency in 2011 to require more data on the chemicals.
The disclosure we are getting right now is
The agency said in 2011 that it would consider gathering the
information under a provision of the toxic substances act.
The agency is today taking the next step.
Fracking has led to a natural-gas boom in Pennsylvania, Ohio
and Texas, sparking opposition among some residents who say
drinking water and add to air and soil pollution. Many
drilling companies are disclosing chemical information on the
industry website FracFocus.org. Some states require drillers
to submit data to the site.
Critics say the website allows too many exemptions that keep
ingredients secret and doesnt permit easy aggregation
Baker Hughes, the worlds third-largest oilfield
services provider, in April said it will disclose all the
chemicals used in fracking fluids after negotiating with
suppliers and customers, Melanie Kania, a spokeswoman for the
Houston-based company, said.
White House adviser John Podesta said this week that the
administration of President Barack Obama would let the states
keep the primary responsibility for regulating fracking.
I think were trying to work with the states to
ensure that people can be reassured, Podesta said at a
forum. The issue around particularly fracking fluids is
largely managed at the state level.