Sep 9, 2010 9:25 PM by Alison Haynes
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency asked nine
natural gas companies Thursday to voluntarily disclose the chemical
components used in a drilling technique called hydraulic
The agency said the information is important to its study of the
controversial drilling practice, also known as "fracking." Crews
inject vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals underground to
force open channels in sand and rock formations so oil and natural
gas will flow.
The EPA is studying whether the practice affects drinking water
and the public health.
Drilling companies have largely sought to protect their chemical
formulas, calling them proprietary. Environmentalists are concerned
that the chemicals, some of them carcinogens, will taint
underground water supplies.
The EPA is taking a new look at fracking as gas drillers swarm
to the lucrative Marcellus Shale region in the northeastern United
States and blast into other shale formations around the country.
Fracking is exempt from federal regulation. The process is
touted as the key to unlocking huge reserves of clean-burning
Supporters say the practice is safe, noting that it is done
thousands of feet below ground, much deeper than most water
sources. They also point out that authorities have yet to link
fracking to contaminated drinking water.
The EPA said in March it will study potential human health and
water quality threats from fracking.
"By sharing information about the chemicals and methods they
are using, these companies will help us make a thorough and
efficient review of hydraulic fracturing and determine the best
path forward," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "Natural gas
is an important part of our nation's energy future, and it's
critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does
not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities."
Letters were sent to nine leading national and regional
hydraulic fracturing service providers, including Halliburton,
Schlumberger and Key Energy Services.
Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a
Washington-based group that advocates for the energy industry, said
the EPA study offers an important opportunity to demonstrate that
fracturing technology is safe, efficient and well-regulated by the
"If EPA believes it needs specific information to ensure its
study draws on the best science and data available, we're hopeful
the agency can coordinate with our members to ensure it has
everything it needs, and uses that information in an appropriate
way," Tucker said.
The EPA requested the information within 30 days and asked the
companies to respond within seven days whether they will provide
all of the information. If not, EPA said it is prepared to use its
legal authority to force the companies to provide the information.
In Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale is being pursued in a
modern-day gas rush, state legislators and environmental regulators
are pushing for a law to require drilling companies to disclose
what's used at the well sites.
"We have broad right to know about the use of chemicals and
discharges of any sort into the environment," said John Hanger,
Pennsylvania's environmental protection secretary.