The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act would close loopholes in the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. If the bill becomes law, the EPA would regain the ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing and companies would once again be required under federal law to report the chemicals they are injecting into the ground.
The FRAC Act would do the following:
- Require disclosure of the chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction, but not the proprietary chemical formula. Disclosures would be made available to the public online.
- Protect proprietary chemical formulas– much like the way Coca-Cola must reveal the ingredients of Coke, but not their secret formula; oil and gas companies would have to reveal the chemicals, but not the specific formula.
- Enact an emergency provision requiring proprietary chemical formulas to be disclosed to a treating physician, the State, or EPA in emergency situations where the information is needed to provide medical treatment.
- Repeal a provision added to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting the industry from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), one of our landmark environmental and public health protection statutes.
Most states have primacy over these types of natural gas wells, and the intent of the FRAC Act is to allow states to ensure that our drinking water is safe. EPA would set the standard, but a state would be able to incorporate hydraulic fracturing into the existing permitting process for each well, and so this would not require any new permitting process.
Passage of the FRAC Act will face an ever rockier road ahead than it did in the last Congress. However, it is essential that the exclusions and loopholes for oil and gas are removed from all environmental legislation to ensure our rivers and communities are protected. The FRAC Act would be a good first step towards that goal.
Restoring the Safe Drinking Water Act's authority over hydraulic fracturing would help to protect groundwater supplies and the nation's fisheries by requiring the disclosure of substances used in hydraulic fracturing fluids and federal regulation of fracturing injections.
Hydraulic fracturing is a commonly-used method to extract natural gas in which a solution of water, sand and chemicals is injected into underground rock formations at high pressure.
Over the past year, we have been reminded of the toxicity of these solutions by multiple fish kills in Pennsylvania following fluid spills. Contaminated water wells have been found near drilling operations in Alabama, Wyoming, and other states.
In light of the risk associated with hydraulic fracturing, and the importance of protecting America's drinking water supplies and maintaining the quality of our water resources, it makes little sense to exempt this practice from the very law created to safeguard against such impacts.
“The fundamental problem with the bill is that it’s based on fundamentally incorrect information. Its backers say it’s meant to ‘restore’ EPA regulation over hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act, even though SDWA has never in its 37 years been used for that purpose. Its backers say it’s about forcing companies to disclose the composition of the 0.05 percent of the solution that’s not water and sand, even though just about every state regulatory agency in the country will attest that such information is already available. And its backers say that EPA itself won’t be directly involved in the permitting process, even though states such as Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan don’t even enjoy primacy under SDWA.
“Hydraulic fracturing is one of the most critical processes that occurs at the wellsite; it’s also among the most stringently regulated. With this technology, it’s possible that literally quadrillions of cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas can be rendered available for American consumers in the future, resources that would otherwise be too deep and diffuse to access. It’s a technology that’s been around a long time, stretching all the way back to the Truman administration. But it’s also a technology that’s never been more important to our nation’s economic and environmental future than it is today. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, it became a victim of its own success. If hydraulic fracturing weren’t as patently effective as it is, it’s tough to imagine it’d be as strangely controversial as it has become.”
"The natural gas community is committed to the safe and responsible development of this abundant American energy source. That is why ANGA, along with other leading industry trade associations, has stepped forward to support disclosure on a well-by-well basis on both public and private lands. This disclosure will be occurring through an online public registry that is being developed by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. We do not support pre-empting their important effort with new federal regulations."