“We recognize the need for alternative energy sources to power our nation, and natural gas plays a critical role in that effort, particularly in Colorado. However, it is deeply disturbing to discover the content and quantity of toxic chemicals, like benzene and lead, being injected into the ground without the knowledge of the communities whose health could be affected," said DeGette. “Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year period studied, fracking fluids used in Colorado contained some of the highest volumes of carcinogens in the country, and some of the most toxic.”
The report was issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which DeGette serves in leadership as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and it found that:
· 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.
· In Colorado, between 2005 and 2009, oil and gas companies conducting fracking across the state used over 1.5 million gallons of fluids containing known carcinogens. That puts Colorado second only to Texas in the highest volume use of fluids containing carcinogens in the nation.
· 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.
· The study found that between 2005 and 2009, companies operating in Colorado injected into the ground over 375,000 gallons of fracking fluids that contained chemicals required to be regulated under the SDWA. And the vast majority of those chemicals were the BTEX compounds – known carcinogens that can damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys.
· 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.
“This report makes clear that, unfortunately, voluntary industry disclosure is not enough to ensure the economic benefits of natural gas production do not come at the cost of our families' health. The FRAC Act I have introduced would provide common-sense safeguards like required disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process, and subjecting fracking activities to be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. We know natural gas is an important economic driver and a critical bridge fuel, but we must ensure the process for extracting it is done safely and responsibly.”
During the last Congress, the Committee launched an investigation into the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the United States, asking the leading oil and gas service companies to disclose information on the products used in this process between 2005 and 2009. This report reveals the results of those findings, and summarizes the types, volumes, and chemical contents of the hydraulic fracturing products used by the 14 leading oil and gas service companies.
The complete committee report is available online here.