A large coalition of public health and environmental groups has launched a campaign to regulate chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other exploration and production (E&P) processes at the source, petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require disclosure from chemical manufacturers and processors.
Earthjustice, which focuses on the legal aspects of environmentalism, said more than 100 organizations with broad membership across the country had signed onto its petition to have the EPA require that the chemical mixture and substance manufacturers and processors conduct toxicity testing and disclose, maintain and submit various records related to E&P chemicals, including all existing health and safety studies related to those chemicals. The requirements would apply to "drilling muds and fracturing fluids, which include proppants, acids, breakers, bactericides, biocides, clay stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, crosslinkers, friction reducers, gelling agents, iron controls, scale inhibitors and surfactants."
The groups claim that regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act Sections 4 and 8 is necessary to protect public health. The study of the impact of hydraulic fracturing currently being conducted by EPA and other federal and state investigations is inadequate, they said.
For instance the petition said EPA sent informational requests to nine hydraulic fracturing service providers, yet only five of those service providers also manufacture or process E&P chemicals. "By relying largely on service providers to relay second-hand information from manufacturers, EPA's requests fail to reach many of those responsible for introducing E&P chemicals into commerce in the first place. Because manufacturers of E&P chemicals often disclose minimal information about product compositions to their customers, any responses submitted by the service providers are likely to be incomplete."
"The complications linked to the chemicals used in oil and gas development are emblematic of a larger problem in this country in which we allow dangerous or untested chemicals to be used in everyday consumer products and, in this case, mixed with water and pumped underground," said Richard Denison, senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund. "Ultimately, the goal of this petition is to encourage companies to do the right thing. If health impacts associated with their products are widely known, it will serve as a powerful incentive for companies to act more responsibly."