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EPA May Require Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracking Chemicals

May 12, 2014

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on the question of requiring drilling companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

In developing the best approach for obtaining data on fracking chemicals, the EPA said it would consider both mandatory and voluntary measures under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), according to Law360. “This mechanism could be regulatory (under TSCA Section 8(a) and/or Section 8(d)), voluntary, or a combination of both, and could include best management practices, third-party certification and collection, and incentives for disclosure of this information,” the agency notice said.

Organizations including Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the EPA in 2011 to issue TSCA rules that would require toxicity testing for fracking chemicals. The EPA issued a Federal Register notice in July 2013 announcing its intention of publishing an ANPR and this is what was issued last week. The EPA wants to make sure information about fracking chemicals are “provided to the public in a transparent fashion,” the ANPR states. The data required to be disclosed could include identity, quantities, types and circumstances of use of chemical substances and mixtures used, as well as health and safety studies, according Law360.

In fracking, large amounts of highly pressurized water, sand, and chemicals are injected underground to fracture the shale layer and release natural gas and oil. Fracking is controversial because the process itself carries the risk of air, water, and soil contamination. Fracking makes heavy demands on the local water supply, and drillers must arrange for the safe disposal of the used water, the EPA explains.

The NRDC is calling for full mandatory disclosure, arguing that the ANPR should be the first step toward nationwide rules, Law360 reports. “For too long, the oil and gas industry has been allowed to keep their chemical cocktails a secret, while injecting them underground alongside drinking water sources, storing them in families’ backyards and transporting them through neighborhood streets,” an NRDC attorney said, adding, “Even emergency room doctors have been refused answers necessary to treat patients who have been exposed to fracking chemicals.”

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