EPA issues subpoena after Halliburton refuses to disclose fracking details

The EPA said it issued the subpoena after Texas-based Halliburton refused to voluntarily disclose the a description of the chemical components used in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, a drilling practice that has been at the center of a controversy in the DFW area.  Halliburton was the only one of nine major energy companies that refused the EPA’s request.

The agency said the information is important to its study of fracking, to see whether the practice affects drinking water and the public health.

Halliburton is claiming the EPA’s request, made in September, was overly broad and could require the company to prepare about 50,000 spreadsheets, but drilling companies have largely sought to protect their chemical formulas, calling them proprietary. Communities near the areas where fracking is taking place are concerned that the chemicals, some of them carcinogens, will taint underground water supplies.

Currently, fracking is exempt from federal regulation. The process is touted as the key to unlocking huge reserves of clean-burning natural gas and supporters are insisting that the practice is safe, claiming  that it is done much deeper than most water sources. They also point out that authorities have yet to link fracking to contaminated drinking water.

From compressor stations emitting known carcinogens such as benzene, to the poor lining of wells after drilling that has led some water taps to literally spout flames, the full set of activities needed to produce natural gas gives rise to a plethora of potential problems that residents of the DFW metroplex have been grappling with during the past year. (see our earlier blog about the focus of a Town Hall meeting regarding the Texas Sunset process and the two agencies in Texas who regulate this process)

In August of this year, one local community had a set of seven samples collected throughout the town which, when analyzed for a variety of air pollutants, found that benzene was present at levels as much as 55 times higher than allowed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  Similarly, xylene and carbon disulfide (neurotoxics), along with naphthalene (a blood poison) and pyridines (potential carcinogens) all exceeded legal limits, as much as 384 times levels deemed safe.  This community is far from convinced that this process is safe.

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