Go to any public hearing on drilling and sooner or later someone in the audience will express worry about what drillers are putting deep underground. Members of Congress attending a House subcommittee hearing in Steubenville, Ohio, in February were told by witnesses they strongly object to fracking because they believe it poses a serious threat to their water supplies.
Matthew Watson, senior energy policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, told a Washington, D.C., conference hosted by the American Chemical Society recently that the industry has made good progress in making information available about frack fluids.
But it's not enough. He said industry must include all the chemicals used in fracking when posting information to fracfocus.org, not just chemicals regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fracfocus.org is a registry of well-by-well chemical use established by the state-based Ground Water Protection Council, and industry's choice for fracking fluid disclosures.
"I have had Halliburton and others tell me that probably half of the chemicals used in fracturing aren't these OSHA-regulated MSDS chemicals," he noted. "There is more than likely some nasty stuff in there but it is just not called hazardous per OSHA."
"That is why it is important that all the chemicals be disclosed," he insisted. "That is the first step for having a rational conversation about risk. It's also an important way to speed up the natural incentive to move toward less toxic alternatives in hydraulic fracturing fluids."
It should be noted that the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), unlike many national environmental organizations, does not oppose the use of hydraulic fracturing or the development of shale reserves.
In a blog published by the New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera noted EDF President Fred Krupp doesn't want to shut down fracking. "Rather, (the EDF's) goal is to work with the states where most of the shale gas lies and help devise smart regulations that would make fracking environmentally safer," Nocera wrote.
If the industry wants to avoid unnecessary political battles and litigation, then perhaps it might be in its best interest to listen very carefully to what Watson and Krupp have to say.
Rodney White, Platts