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Fracking Chemicals Will Be Disclosed, Drilling Companies Say

EPA requests information on composition and potential hazards, ready to flex muscle if rebuffed

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 13, 2010

The Obama administration urged gas companies to voluntarily disclose the toxic chemicals they inject in the ground in a type of natural gas exploration that uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

If companies rebuff the request — a seemingly unlikely event — environmental regulators could get tough.

In sent Thursday to nine leading providers of fracking services, the (EPA) said it is seeking data for the first time on the "chemical composition" of the drilling fluids and their hazards to human health.

The information is vital to the success of the agency's scientific review of fracking's impact on drinking water. Currently, there is no federal regulation of the poorly understood practice and a series of patchy state laws.

Full cooperation from gas firms is expected, EPA to the press.

"If not, EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study," it said.

Fracking giant , a recipient of one of the letters, told SolveClimate News that it "will of course fully cooperate with the EPA's request."

A spokesperson for , a drilling-services contractor, said it, too, "will cooperate."

"We look forward to working with the agency to help ensure that this study draws on the best science and data," Stephen Harris told SolveClimate News.

Likewise, , the oilfield services company, said it will comply: "We support what they're trying to do in terms of a fact-based, scientific study of hydraulic fracturing," Gary Flaharty, vice president of investor of relations, told SolveClimate News. 

Some in the industry welcomed the EPA disclosure as a way to give fracking a credibility boost.

"We believe the EPA study presents an important opportunity to demonstrate once again that fracturing technology is safely managed, efficiently used, and well-regulated by the states," said Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the (IPAA), a national trade association.

The controversial process pumps millions of gallons of water, chemicals, sand or plastic beads at high pressure deep into horizontal wells to pry loose gas from shale rock.

The chemicals used in the drilling fluids, developed by Halliburton in 1949, are exempt from regulation under the federal . The industry has been permitted to protect the list of chemicals as trade secrets.

Fracking fluids are known to contain human carcinogens, including benzene and naphthalene, as well as neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors.

Drilling Fluids

This is all facilitated by a drilling rig which contains all the necessary equipment to circulate the , hoist and turn control tubes through the hole pressure, remove cuttings from the drilling fluid, and generate electricity on site for these operations.

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