EPA weighs rule requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals


The Environmental Protection Agency is taking the first steps toward regulations that could require companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations.

The EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rule-making Friday in response to a petition filed in 2011 by the environmental group Earthjustice and more than 100 other green organizations pressing for mandatory testing and reporting rules.

The groups have raised concerns over various chemicals used during the fracking process, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground in order to fracture rock and unlock trapped oil and gas.

The EPA, still in the early stages of the process, said it had made no decision whether to issue regulations, call for voluntary disclosure or some combination of the two.

Rather, the agency stressed in a notice filed with the Office of Management and Budget that it is merely putting out a call for feedback from those involved and interested parties and “is not committing to a specific rulemaking outcome.”

“EPA anticipates that States, industry, public interest groups, and members of the public will be participants in the process,” the agency said. “The stakeholder process will bring stakeholders together to discuss the information needs and help EPA to ensure any reporting burdens and costs are minimized, ensuring information already available is considered in order to avoid duplication of efforts.”

In particular, the EPA is looking at how disclosure rules might be reconciled with trade secrets or data deemed to be proprietary or confidential business information.

The agency is also asking for ideas about possible incentives or recognition programs that could support the use of safer chemicals in fracking, which, while contentious, is helping to usher in a domestic energy production boom.