Fossil Fuels EPA asks gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking brine

Published on September 12th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


EPA Asks Natural Gas Drillers to Disclose Chemicals in Fracking Brine

September 12th, 2010 by  

EPA asks gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking brine
In a long overdue measure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that it has asked drilling companies for information on the 200-plus chemicals routinely pumped into the ground during a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, the practice has touched off a firestorm of concern over groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania and other states.

The operative word here is “ask,” because compliance with the request is voluntary. However, considered the decades-long immunity that drilling companies have enjoyed from scrutiny – and EPA’s aggressive rediscovery of its intended mission under the Obama administration – this “voluntary” request could soon turn into an enforceable demand.

Fracking and Environmental Protection – a Brief History

Over the past 30-plus years, fracking has been exempted from major federal laws intended to protect the environment, including the Clean Water Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, and parts of the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act.  Companies are not required to disclose the chemicals in fracking brine because they claim the information is proprietary, and in recent years their exempt status was reaffirmed under the Bush administration – what a surprise.

Fracking and Trucking

Currently, just about the only thing about fracking that can be agressively regulated is the trucks. Fracking operations can involve a great number of trucks, not only to haul heavy equipment but also for hauling fracking brine and wastewater.  The trucks can wreak havoc on local communities that were not designed to accommodate them, by disrupting traffic, destroying roads, and creating air and noise pollution. In a recent crackdown, Pennsylvania inspectors uncovered widespread road safety violations by tanker trucks hauling fracking-related liquids.

EPA is So Fracking Serious

Though the initial request for disclosure is voluntary, the EPA has made it clear that it intends to pursue the issue all the way.  In last week’s press release announcing the request, the agency stated that because the industry has already made these disclosures separately to Congress, cooperation is expected. If the drilling companies are not forthcoming, “EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information.”

Image: Warning sign for gas operation by Nicholas_T on

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Steve

    There is however an alternative solution people need to be educated about. I did a bunch of research as a student at Westminster College on the issue and in doing so learned of a very interesting company out of Stuart Florida named Ecosphere Technologies. They have proven to be able to do the hydraulic fracturing process chemically free using their very own patented ozonix technology. Visit their website, it is very interesting and educational to everyone. I would highly recommend watching the raindrop video on the right hand side of their page to better understand their going green process.

    • Tina Casey

      Steve: Thank you for your comment. I checked out the website. Unless I’m reading it wrong, the process to which you refer is the treatment of contaminated water from the drilling operation, not the drilling operation itself. Ecosphere does not appear to be a drilling company and their technology does not address the issue of fracking brine or other drilling wastewater that leaches into the earth and is not recovered for treatment, among other issues.

  • This is indeed long overdue. Folks concerned about their drinking water cannot even think about blaming a driller without this disclosure. I am glad the EPA is finally showing some backbone again and doing its intended job to protect the environment and the people living in it. Such a refreshing change from the Bush years and the attitude that business is more important than anything else.

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