Watchdog: EPA should do more on fracking chemicals

Watchdog: EPA should do more on fracking chemicals
© Getty Images

The EPA’s internal watchdog recommended Thursday that it improve oversight of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Specifically, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said the agency needs to crack down on the unlicensed use of diesel fuel in fracking and figure out whether to mandate public disclosure of fracking chemicals.

ADVERTISEMENT
A 2005 federal law greatly limits the EPA’s authority over fracking, but the OIG’s report focuses on two areas where it says the agency can do more under the Safe Drinking Water Act: regulating the use of diesel fuel and considering mandating chemical disclosure.

The EPA lets some states regulate diesel use if their programs are up to federal standards.

“There is evidence that the EPA and primacy states have not been fully successful in their efforts to effectively control the use of diesel fuels for well stimulation,” the OIG said in its Thursday report.

Hundreds of wells have been fracked with diesel fuel, often without the proper permitting, the OIG said, although the EPA has taken steps to crack down.

The EPA has also taken action to allay public fears about chemicals used in fracking, but the OIG said it should do more, including following up on its pledge last year to determine whether it should mandate disclosure of chemicals.

The agency received hundreds of thousands of comments on its public notice last year saying it would look into the issue.

“To date, however, the agency has not addressed the comments or developed a plan of action for the next steps,” the report said, adding that the EPA “needs to develop an action plan with a timeline to address the public comments and determine whether to propose a rule to obtain information on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing.”

In response to the report, Ken Kopocis, who heads the EPA’s water pollution office, said the agency would release a report by March 2017 on diesel permitting.

As for chemical disclosures, Kopocis said the EPA is still reviewing last year’s public comments to determine the next step.

In a report last month, the EPA concluded that it found some instances of harms to drinking water from fracking, but they were neither “widespread” nor “systemic.”