On the House Energy and Commerce Committee Hydrofracking Report

This past Saturday, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a new report on the hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”) products used by oil and gas service companies. The report found that from 2005 through 2009, hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals were injected into wells in more than 13 states.

As part of the investigation, the Committee asked 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types, volumes, and chemical contents of the hydrofracking products that they used from 2005 through 2009. This report is the first to contain a comprehensive national inventory of chemicals used by hydrofracking companies during the drilling process.

“Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, but we must ensure that these new resources don’t come at the expense of public health,” said Representative Henry Waxman, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, including known carcinogens. I urge EPA and DOE to make certain that we have strong protections in place to prevent these chemicals from entering drinking water supplies.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • The 14 leading oil and gas service companies used more than 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products, not including water added at the well site. Overall, the companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 different chemicals and other components.
  • The components used in the hydraulic fracturing products ranged from generally harmless and common substances, such as salt and citric acid, to extremely toxic substances, such as benzene and lead. Some companies even used instant coffee and walnut hulls in their fracturing fluids.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
  • The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – are SDWA contaminants and hazardous air pollutants. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five-year period.
  • Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, was the most widely used chemical between 2005 and 2009. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under SDWA. Isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol were the other most widely used chemicals.
  • Many of the hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemical components that are listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret.” The companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to identify these “proprietary” chemicals, suggesting that the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.

You can read the full report at House.gov.

MYD’s Environmental Issues Committee has launched a campaign to fight for the regulation of hydrofracking in New York. There is currently a ban on hydrofracking in New York State, but this ban expires on May 15th, which gives us a very short window of time to ensure that the necessary regulatory steps are taken to protect New York’s water from the potential hazards of hydrofracking. To learn more, and to join the campaign, please visit: SaveOurDough.com.