Department of Energy Calls for Greater Frack Fluid Disclosure
The advisory board President Obama created to look into the safety of shale gas drilling says the public should know more details about the chemicals used to extract natural gas. The gas industry has never been required to disclose the chemicals used in the drilling process, saying the ingredients were proprietary. But the board disputes that claim, while also stating that the chance of those chemicals contaminating drinking water supplies is “remote.”
From the D.O.E.’s press release:
“While the committee agrees with the prevailing view that the risk of leakage of fracturing fluids through fractures made in deep shale reserves is remote where there is large separation from drinking water, the report finds that there is no economic or technical reason to prevent public disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids.”
The board released its draft recommendations to Energy Secretary Steven Chu today, after spending three months studying the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The President established the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Shale Gas Production Subcommittee to advise Chu on how to make shale gas drilling safer.
The subcommittee members spent a good amount of their time in Pennsylvania, touring Marcellus Shale drill sites and holding a public hearing in Washington County, Pa. Much of the public concern over fracking has centered in Pennsylvania, where some residents say natural gas drilling has polluted their well water with both methane and frack fluid chemicals.
Some gas companies have voluntarily disclosed chemicals used in the drilling process. But scientists say details needed to assess the toxicity and danger are often missing from those lists. For many Pennsylvania residents who can no longer drink their tap water, and are now using trucked in water, it’s been difficult to trace the source of contamination. One way to solve that problem would be to require baseline testing. The subcommittee does recommend testing private drinking water wells before any drilling begins. It’s not clear who would be responsible for paying for those tests.
But the advisory board does encourage the use of fees and severance taxes to pay for increased enforcement of new regulations. It also encourages regulations that would limit the cumulative effects of drilling. You can read the entire report by clicking here. The recommendations are now available for public comment.