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Hackman writes: "Despite a report that links practice to contaminated drinking water, list of more than 1,076 chemicals used during fracking process remains unknown to public."

What's in the water being pumped into the ground? Some of it falls under the auspices of confidential business information and therefore is not subject to public release. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
What's in the water being pumped into the ground? Some of it falls under the auspices of confidential business information and therefore is not subject to public release. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


Secrecy Over Fracking Chemicals Clouds Environmental Risks, Advocates Say

By Rose Hackman, Guardian UK

06 July 15

 

Despite a report that links practice to contaminated drinking water, list of more than 1,076 chemicals used during fracking process remains unknown to public

he fracking industry must be compelled to provide far more detailed information to regulators if the public is to be accurately informed of any risks to the environment, advocacy groups say.

A report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month found that hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas can lead, and has led, to the contamination of drinking water. It was the first time the federal government had admitted such a link.

The study, based on “data sources available to the agency”, found levels of any contamination to be small compared to the number of wells across the country, the EPA said.

But Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists, told the Guardian that the EPA’s study – which is now open for comment – was nothing “more than a literature review” and called for the industry to be required to divulge greater data.

Goldman says the EPA backed down from its initial promise to undertake prospective studies, which would have involved following a well site and testing its waters before, during and after fracking activities had begun. Such a study would have shed objective light on the fracking process and pushed scientific knowledge forward, she says.

Information shared by the industry for the report was very often done on a voluntary basis, the authors reveal, and even when companies were forced to share information through state regulations, they were still allowed to withhold details deemed crucial to their business.

One of the most notable elements of fracking that continues to be shrouded in secrecy, for instance, is the identity and mixture of chemicals that are injected into the ground through wells, together with water, at high intensity to fracture underground rocks and release oil or gas.

The chemical composition of such injections appears to vary from company to company and well to well.

Even if the EPA was able to compile a list of 1,076 chemicals used in the fracking process, the list is incomplete, with businesses involved in fracking able to cite some components as amounting to confidential business information, and therefore not subject to release to the public, the report indicates.

This means that the report is not void of influence from the oil and gas industry, Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

In the 998-page draft, the word “limitation” is used 76 times, “uncertainty” 43 times and “insufficient” – as it relates to insufficient information, data or evidence – is used seven times.

The EPA declined requests for interview about the fracking report.

Despite opposition from some groups, fracking is largely supported by the Obama administration. President Barack Obama has repeatedly described fracking as a transitional fuel, bridging a path away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future – something environmentalists say is both inaccurate and naive.

In 2005 lobbying efforts by the oil and gas industry proved successful, with hydraulic fracturing activities exempted from certain sections of the Safe Drinking Water Act, including permit application.

Last week another federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management, was temporarily blocked by a US district judge from putting into effect a new set of rules for fracking on federal public land.

The rules, which would have come into effect on 24 June, would have required oil and gas companies to reveal the chemicals they inject into the ground for fracking purposes, to meet construction standards when drilling wells, and to dispose of contaminated water safely.

But on Tuesday, judge Scott Skavdahl granted a stay to the new rules until 22 July, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), which said the judge’s decision on a preliminary injunction sought by IPAA and other opponents of the rules was now expected in mid-August, Reuters reported.

IPAA and the Western Energy Alliance were joined by Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and Utah in seeking to stop the new rules from taking effect.


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+13 # Dust 2015-07-06 09:33
Well, of course!! Can't have people knowing what you are putting in their drinking water.

What kind of insanity decides to pollute a limited resource (fresh water) in order to extract more of a resource that generally screws up the planet?

Sometimes I think the biggest obstacle to the replacement of fossil fuels is the necessity to completely redesign and re-invent our ideas of transportation and our cities. Those with sufficient resources can avoid waste dumps, dirty parts of town, contaminated water and such simply by driving away. The issue isn't just finding a different fuel for that driving away - it's to dispense with the idea that we can f*ck things up and simply sweep them under the rug and ignore them.
 
 
+12 # tedrey 2015-07-06 09:49
Why not call fracking managers into court and ask them "Does the water you use contain *any* of the above: cyanide over x parts per billion, mercury over . . . etc." listing chemicals which are known poisons. Since they don't have to say which or in what combination, there is no question of divulging "confidential business information". But if they answer "Yes," then their license to frack is cancelled at once. Simple. And if they say "No," any whistleblower can put them in jail for perjury and fraud without further drawn out litigation. All in favor, say aye.
 
 
+2 # Bruce Gruber 2015-07-06 12:13
Why should 'poor, hard working, civic minded petroleum entrepreneurs be required to divulge profitable secrets. People cloning and and combining chemicals and compounds in our foodstuffs don't have to disclose ... just like tobacco product companies and factory work environments, or the military in its 'disposal' of depleted uranium munitions via our volunteer 'army'. Gosh, there's important profit to realize here.
 
 
+4 # Merlin 2015-07-06 13:06
tedrey 2015-07-06 09:49
“Why not call fracking managers into court and ask them…”
Snark ahead.

How dare you propose such a simple and realistic solution!

Don’t you understand that even reporters are not allowed to ask direct questions? That any reporter who dares to “follow up” another reporter’s unanswered question gets banned from future news conferences?

Yes, really! So OK then! How about swearing to tell the truth to Senators in front of the committee and the whole world. That should do it, right?… And then Clapper said… No consequences followed.

Then we have this utter horsepucky
From the article:
“President Barack Obama has repeatedly described fracking as a transitional fuel, bridging a path away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future.”

And everyone nods in assent saying, “brilliant, Mr. President! a transitional fuel! Yes, sir! Bridging a path away from fossil fuels. What a man of vision! What futuristic thinking! What courage to speak power to those oil companies!”

Of course, no one is allowed, or would dare to ask the difference between the fossil fuel coming from the Gulf of Mexico and the fossil fuel coming from fracked wells.

This is all total insanity! Meanwhile, everyone cheers the emperor’s new clothes.
 
 
0 # tedrey 2015-07-07 06:46
Snark acknowledged, Merlin. I think you know we're on the same side.

But an unanswered question does have an effect. Everybody now knows that Clapper lied under oath to Congress; that both Congress and the executive let him get away with it; and much of the truth of what he lied about. We're that much closer to one of the most important of our goals -- that the people know that their government intentionally and consistently lies to them.

Clapper may or may not be thrown to the wolves one day. But there's no sword hanging over the necks of the fracking perps; if they refused to answer my question, there would be.

If we cease to dare to propose such simple and realistic solutions, knowing that we will be stonewalled, we are choosing not to use a valuable tool in our struggle, aren't we?

Thus sayeth your first reporter. As second reporter, what is your response?
 
 
+1 # tomp 2015-07-06 20:46
This page provides links to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's 43 page document pertaining to the ban on HVHHF (High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing) for petrochemicals.

http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html

The "proprietary" smoke screen of the industry is merely a ploy to obfuscate the reality of the risks.
 

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