A congressional report finds that chemicals used in
'hydrofracking' to extract natural gas are known or possible human
carcinogens, regulated under federal environmental laws.
Chemicals used to extract natural gas from vast areas of the
United States include "extremely toxic substances, such as benzene
and lead," according to a new report released by members of the
House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Twenty-nine of the chemicals are known or possible human
carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for risks
to human health or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the
Clean Air Act, according to the report.
"This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of
gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals,
including known carcinogens," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of
California, senior Democrat on the committee.
Oil and gas industry officials deny that hydraulic fracturing -
known as "hydrofracking" - is a threat to the environment or public
"This report uses the same sleight of hand deployed in the last
report on diesel use - it compiles overall product volumes, not the
volumes of the hazardous chemicals contained within those products,"
Matt Armstrong, an attorney representing companies involved in
natural gas drilling, told the New York Times. "This generates big
numbers but provides no context for the use of these chemicals over
the many thousands of frac jobs that were conducted within the
timeframe of the report."
Still, this latest evidence seems likely to accelerate study and
possibly regulation of an industrial technique that has become
increasingly controversial, particularly through the 2010
documentary film "Gasland."
Fracking involves pumping a slurry of sand, water, and chemicals
deep underground at high pressure - cracking open shale deposits and
allowing the natural gas embedded there to emerge. The process has
been hailed as a boon for US energy supplies and has boosted US
natural-gas reserves in recent years.
But a growing number of residents in Texas, Pennsylvania,
Colorado, and other states say the technique has fouled their
drinking-water wells and even caused the tap water coming out of
their faucets to smell like industrial chemicals.
As shown in "Gasland," some people's tap water has flared up when
lit with a match.
Joining Rep. Waxman in releasing the report were Edward Markey of
Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee,
and Diana DeGette of Colorado, senior Democrat on the oversight and
investigations subcommittee. …