EPA considers stricter disclosure on fracking fluids

EPA considers stricter disclosure on fracking fluids

A fracking site in Ohio. Image from archives.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a major step Friday towards demanding disclosure of the chemicals and mixtures of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and gas production.

In an effort to enhance transparency, the agency announced it would solicit comment on whether companies should publicly list the chemicals used to extract fuels out of the ground.

EPA said its "advanced notice of proposed rule-making" doesn’t mean it is committing to new regulations. Rather, it said, the agency is seeking feedback from the energy industry, the public, health-care organizations and environmental groups about possible disclosure.

The agency’s move comes in response to an environmental group submitted a petition to EPA pushing for full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking under a section of the Toxic Substances Control Act.  Earthjustice has also requested that companies disclose information on health and safety studies related to the fluid mixes.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to break the rock and free the natural gas.

The new extraction method has led to a natural-gas boom in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, unlocking also oil reserves not commercially viable in the past. But it has sparked opposition among some residents as well, as they claim the technology may contaminate drinking water and add to air and soil pollution. Fracking companies and other proponents say it can be done safely and creates jobs for local communities.

Many operators have been reporting their fluid contents voluntarily since 2011 when FracFocus.org, an industry-funded site where companies disclose where they drill and, to a certain extent, what they put in their wells. became operational.