The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the first formal step toward requiring oil and gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The agency could require companies to give the government details on what’s being used to break apart shale rock and release trapped oil and gas, according to a notice today on Reginfo.gov. The agency said it isn’t committing to a specific regulatory outcome.
Environmental groups have been pressing the agency to collect information on the fluids injected into the underground rocks. They say the chemicals may be a danger to human health or the environment.
“We want to be sure that there is some agency that actually is collecting this information about what is being used in these shale plays across the country,” Deborah Goldberg, a lawyer at Earthjustice, which asked the agency in 2011 to require more data on the chemicals. “The disclosure we are getting right now is spotty.”
The agency said in 2011 that it would consider gathering the information under a provision of the toxic substances act. The agency is today taking the next step. The agency is scheduled to provide more information later today.
Fracking has led to a natural-gas boom in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, sparking opposition among some residents who say the technology may contaminate drinking water and add to air and soil pollution. Many drilling companies are disclosing chemical information on the industry website FracFocus.org. Some states require drillers to submit data to the site.
Critics say the website allows too many exemptions that keep ingredients secret and doesn’t permit easy aggregation of information.
White House adviser John Podesta said this week that the administration of President Barack Obama would let the states keep the primary responsibility for regulating fracking.
“I think we’re trying to work with the states to ensure that people can be reassured,” Podesta said at a forum. “The issue around particularly fracking fluids is largely managed at the state level.”
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