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Environmental Protection Agency To Collect Health And Safety Information On Fracking Fluids

by Cheryl Hogue
December 5, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 49

EPA plans to require makers and processors of hydraulic fracturing fluids used in natural gas extraction to provide the agency with privately held health and safety data on their products.

The action would eventually give the public more information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, this technique is used to reach natural gas trapped in shale formations by injecting water, sand, and various chemicals under high pressure to extract the gas. Environmental and public health groups have been seeking information on fracking fluids, which some assert contain chemicals that can contaminate underground drinking water supplies. Industry claims the mixtures are benign.

EPA announced on Nov. 23 that it would start rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act to collect unpublished health and safety data on fracking fluids from manufacturers and processors. The move comes in response to an August petition from some 120 public health and environmental organizations.

In a letter to the petitioners, EPA said it will consult with industry, states, and activist organizations before issuing the rule. The agency’s goal, the letter said, is “to develop an overall approach that would minimize reporting burdens and costs.”

The planned regulation would complement state programs for disclosure of the identity of chemicals in fracking fluids used at specific wells, the letter said.

EPA denied parts of the petition asking for toxicity tests on all chemicals used in oil and gas exploration.


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