Halliburton Co. made a big show yesterday announcing a new website where it will disclose the chemicals that make up its hydraulic fracturing fluids. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which subpoenaed Halliburton last week for similar information, is less than impressed, and still wants Halliburton to respond to its summons. Environmentalists also said Halliburton’s disclosures don’t go far enough.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. Thanks to the 2005 Energy Act, hydraulic fracturing is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (ironically dubbed the “Halliburton Loophole”). As a result, drillers are not required to disclose the chemicals that make up fracking fluids. Some studies have found that fracking fluids contain toxic chemicals, including benzene glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols.
Yesterday, Halliburton announced it will publicly disclose detailed information on its website about the chemicals used in its fracturing fluids. According to a report in The New York Times, the website lists both benign chemical, as well as dangerous ingredients, such as the petroleum distillate called naptha, which is used in cleaners, car wax and paint thinner. There are also several chemicals, sometimes considered hazardous, used in household cleansers and others used in agriculture as microbiocide agents.
For now, Halliburton said its disclosure is limited to fluids used in drilling activities taking place in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, but that it is “committed to continuing to provide hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure information for every US state in which Halliburton’s fracture stimulation services are in use.”
Halliburton’s announcement comes about a week after the EPA issued the oil-field services company a subpoena, after Halliburton failed to provide it with information on its fracking fluids. In September, the EPA asked nine companies, including Halliburton, to provide such info as part of a congressionally mandated study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Halliburton is the only firm that did not respond to the EPA request.
In response to yesterday’s announcement, the EPA said Halliburton still must respond to the subpoena. The agency is seeking very detailed information, such as chemicals in the solutions that might not be found on publicly accessible material safety data sheets; operating procedures that determine which and how many chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing jobs and the locations of jobs Halliburton has undertaken and is planning.
“Halliburton itself has said publicly that their announcement today was not intended to satisfy EPA’s request,” agency spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara stated in a press release. “As we announced last week, Halliburton has 30 days to respond to our mandatory request for information that is necessary to carry out our congressional mandated study on the potential impact of fracking on drinking water.”
Environmentalists also complained yesterday that the information disclosed by Halliburton does not go far enough. “The public wants to know what chemicals are being used near drinking water sources,” Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council told The New York Times. “While it’s nice to see Halliburton acknowledging that desire, it’s not meaningful or sufficient unless this information is fully disclosed on a site-by-site basis.”
She said it is unclear on the Halliburton website whether the list includes all chemicals being used or only some.
Help filing claims and other legal assistance for victims of water contamination due to fracking is available at the Water Contamination Center.