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Source: The Epoch Times

Disclose Fracking Chemicals, Says Government Report


Posted: August 17, 2011
Originally Published: August 15, 2011

Gas companies may soon be asked to change their policies in favor of transparency. The Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) released a 90-day report with a series of recommendations on Aug. 11, and will hold a public conference call on Monday to discuss the draft.

“The current output of shale gas and its potential for future growth emphasize the need to assure that this supply is produced in an environmentally sound fashion, and in a way that meets the needs of public trust,” said John Duetch, chairman of the Shale Gas Subcommittee, in a statement.

The board was put together by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to present a list of recommendations that can be implemented immediately to reduce the environmental impact of shale gas production.

The draft includes recommendations in four major areas: making information about gas production operations more accessible, immediate and long-term actions to reduce safety risks that affect air and water quality, creation of an organization committed to improving shale gas operating practices, and research and development to improve safety and environmental performance.

“The gas industry needs to change the way it’s been doing business,” Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice president, said in a statement released in response to the report. Earthjustice is a nonprofit law firm with a strong focus on the health of the environment.

Among the subcommittee’s recommendations was that shale gas companies should make the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” public. The report noted that the risk of fracking fluids leaking into drinking water is very low, but there is no economic or technical reason to prevent disclosure.

“We’ve said all along that the public deserves to know the full list of chemicals being used in fracking, that cumulative health and environmental impacts need to be brought under control, and that the full picture of this industry’s climate footprint needs to be understood,” Van Noppen said in the statement.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to increase gas production by four trillion cubic feet in the next 20 years.

Earthjustice filed a petition on behalf of over a hundred organizations across the country early this month to ask that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require oil and gas developers to make public the list of chemicals used for fracking. The EPA has 90 days to respond, and if the petition is denied, Earthjustice plans to seek action in court.

Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, testified in May before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and said, “Increasing America’s natural gas production is a good thing,” because it lowers air pollution. Jackson also said at the time that she was not aware of any proven cases where the fracking process had affected water.

John Fenton of Pavilion Area Concerned Citizens in Wyoming said Pavilion was surrounded by fracked gas wells, in an Earthjustice press release about the petition. “The EPA told us over a year ago not to use our well water anymore for drinking or cooking.”

The petition also asked that Halliburton and eight other companies release a list of environmental and health problems related to the chemicals used. The EPA requested that Halliburton disclose information on its fracking operations last November.

“We fully support the need to disclose these ingredients,” Tara Mullee, a spokesperson for Halliburton, wrote in an e-mail. The chemicals used, along with the constituents and additives used in typical fracturing formulations, are posted on the company’s website.

Mullee wrote that Halliburton was an energy service company, so only the oil and gas companies were allowed to post the data on their online registry.

According to the report, shale gas production is expanding rapidly in both profitability and recognition, and the subcommittee recommends that the federal government support research and development through sponsoring more analytical studies.

Sarah Eckel, legislative and policy director for the Citizens' Campaign for the Environment said the draft was significantly better than they expected.

“If President Obama is going to be focusing on this, this subcommittee [its recommendations] should give him the backbone to close a lot of the federal loopholes,” Eckel said.

For instance, fracking is excluded from the Safe Drinking Water Act unless companies are using diesel, and the recommendations include reducing diesel and disclosing all fluids used in fracking. Many individual wells are also not covered under the Clean Air Act, because they are not considered industrial.

“The better focus should be, now, if the federal government actually adopts any of these recommendations,” Eckel said in a phone interview.