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Past deadline, EPA can’t confirm companies have sent fracking info

Posted: Thursday, Oct 14th, 2010




Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked nine hydraulic fracturing companies to voluntarily provide information on chemicals contained in their fracturing fluids.

The companies — BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services and Weatherford — had 30 days to provide the information. That deadline has passed, but the EPA has not said whether or not any of the companies have complied with the agency’s request.

“EPA expects to receive responses from the companies soon,” the EPA stated in an email to the Roundup Tuesday.

“Many of the companies have indicated that they intend to comply with our request,” the email statement continued.

The EPA said through a spokesperson it would not confirm it had not received any information from the fracturing companies yet. When more information becomes available, the spokesperson said the EPA would provide it to the public.

The EPA requested information on chemicals used in the fracturing fluids blasted down wells to break up hard rock formations in the earth, as well as the companies’ “typical practices” and locations of wells where they provided services in the past year. The information, according to the EPA, would be used as part of the agency’s broad study to determine if the fracturing process is contaminating the nation’s drinking water.

The EPA has not said what specifically it would do with the information.

“Once EPA receives all the formal responses, we will consider next steps,” Tuesday’s email stated.

In a Sept. 9 press release, the EPA said it would first ask the companies to voluntarily provide the chemical information and expected the companies to cooperate. “If not,” the press release states, “the EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study.”

Also last month, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) began requiring companies operating in the state to disclose the chemicals they use in fracturing fluids. The rule was approved by WOGCC in the summer and went into effect on Sept. 15.

WOGCC Supervisor Tom Doll said operators have been complying with the new rules and, for the most part, are making sure they provide the WOGCC with all the necessary information. Operators understand they need WOGCC approval before they can hydraulically fracture a well, he said.

“So far, so good,” said Doll. “The compliance is there.”

In the past month, there have been applications that have been denied by the WOGCC because not every chemical was identified. Doll said when that happens, the application is typically returned to the operator and given a second chance. The WOGCC asks for the name of the chemical and the chemical’s concentration used in the fracturing fluid. Doll said the WOGCC stresses to operators that they must identify all chemicals they plan to inject into a well.

“We’re making sure ‘all’ means all,” he said.

Operators have argued against disclosing the information in the past for “proprietary” reasons. There is a “very narrow window” that would allow a company to define a chemical as a trade secret and keep it off an application, Doll said, adding the operator would have make a good argument why it should remain a “trade secret.”

“That definition for a trade secret is pretty tight,” Doll said.

For the complete article see the 10-15-2010 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-15-2010 paper.









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