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Disclosure of toxic oil and gas chemicals

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Why disclosure is necessary

Full public disclosure of all oil and gas drilling, stimulation and workover fluids is necessary -- at a minimum -- for property owners and the public to:

Unfortunately, that minimum is not met by any state or federal agency. Currently the oil and gas industry is injecting millions of gallons of toxics underground, through groundwater and drinking water -- and the public is largely in the dark.

Why drillers can hide their toxics from the public

At the federal level, the Halliburton loophole prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring public disclosure of hazardous drilling chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Until the federal government acts to require disclosure, state governments must act -- as they aren't barred from doing so. Recently, several states -- Wyoming, Texas, Montana, California, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- have done so. Others -- like New Mexico -- have failed at passing legislative or regulatory proposals.  And industry has come up with its own voluntary disclosure mechanism as well.

However, these initiatives are inadequate.

What disclosure should include

Practical, hard-won experience by communities living with drilling shows that:

Recent disclosure initiatives are inadequate

So far, industry has blocked removal of the Halliburton loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and none of the state disclosure rules have provided full public disclosure.

In particular, the state and industry disclosure initiatives so far are not comprehensive, allow for broad exemption claims and are not publicly accessible on a searchable website.

Federal disclosure initiatives might prove helpful

The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board (established at the request of President Obama) recommends we go beyond just disclosing the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. In addition to fracking chemicals, they recommend companies disclose the composition and character of produced water as well as measure and disclose toxic air emissions.

And the Department of Interior has begun a process to consider whether or not they will require the disclosure of fracking chemicals, or other toxic emissions, on oil and gas operations on public lands (even though the EPA isn't allowed to require disclosure through the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Interior Department, as manager of lands owned by the public -- e.g. Recreation Areas -- can require disclosure on lands that it controls).

In May 2014, the EPA announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on information that could be reported and disclosed for fracking chemicals and mixtures and the approaches for obtaining this information, including non-regulatory approaches.


For more information:

Tagged with: toxics, regulation, halliburton loophole, fracking study, disclosure, chemicals

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