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PA List of Fracking Chemicals Includes Possible Carcinogens, Other Toxins

Jun 30, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A list of chemicals used in Pennsylvania natural gas drilling operations has been assembled by the state’s environmental regulator. According to the Associated Press, the list is believed to be the first complete inventory of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plans to post it online this week.

Hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. Critics of fracking have long been concerned about the chemicals used in the process. Because the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, shale gas drillers don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use. According to the Environmental Working Group, fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

States, not the federal government, are largely responsible for regulating hydraulic gas drilling. There are concerns that cash-strapped states like Pennsylvania, which are desperate for the revenue and jobs promised by fracking operations, are not doing enough to regulate the industry.

According to the Associate Press, many of the 80 chemicals on the Pennsylvania list include some associated with cancer, neurological problems and other health risks. Many are used consumer products, such as gasoline, salt, glues, paints and tobacco smoke.

The chemicals include naphtahlene, a compound classified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen. Another, xylene, has been linked to central nervous system depression.

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region has seen a boom in fracking over the past several years. The Marcellus Shale region is a formation rich in natural gas that lies beneath parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Maryland. This month alone, gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia involving hydraulic fracturing have been the site of accidents.

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