Sunday, April 17, 2011

House Democrats release study of hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking

Democrats in the U.S. House released a study yesterday detailing how "Oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009," Ian Urbina writes for The New York Times. The report notes that some chemicals used in fracking, including salt and citric acid, were harmless, others, including benzene and lead, were "extremely toxic."

Earlier this year a separate report found 32.2 millions of gallons of fluids containing diesel, considered an especially hazardous pollutant because it contains benzene, were injected into the ground by fracking operations from 2005 to 2009, Urbina writes. Matt Armstrong, an energy attorney from Bracewell & Giuliani that represents several companies involved in natural gas drilling, took issue with the report's methodology, noting it "uses the same sleight of hand deployed in the last report on diesel use -- it compiles overall product volumes, not the volumes of the hazardous chemicals contained within those products." (Read more)

"Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee described their report as the first comprehensive national inventory of chemicals used by companies that engage in a process known as hydraulic fracturing," generally called fracking, Stephen Power writes in The Wall Street Journal. "It is deeply disturbing to discover the content and quantity of toxic chemicals, like benzene and lead, being injected into the ground without the knowledge of the communities whose health could be affected," said Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette who released the report along with California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman and Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Edward Markey.

A spokesman for Energy in Depth, a Washington-based group that represents oil and gas producers, told Power that while fracturing fluids "contain things you would never want to drink ... the only way that'd be relevant in a public-health context is if those materials were somehow finding their way into potable water supplies underground. Naturally, Waxman has no ability to show that, precisely because they aren't, don't, and according to regulators, never have." (Read more)

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