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EPA Plans To Collect Data On Fracking Fluids

Health And Safety: Agency will draft rules to help make information about hydraulic fracturing mixtures available to public

by Cheryl Hogue
November 28, 2011

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 move 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EPA announced on Nov. 23 that it would start rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to collect unpublished health and safety data on fracking fluids from manufacturers and processors.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.

In their petition to EPA, environment and health groups, led by Earthjustice, also asked the agency to require manufacturers to conduct toxicity tests on fracking fluids and other chemicals used in oil and gas exploration or production. EPA turned down this part of the request.

The agency also denied part of the petition asking EPA to collect health and safety data on chemicals other than those in fracking fluids that are used in oil and gas exploration and production.



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