The oil industry has tried to hide the toxic soup of chemicals it uses for fracking, using the excuse that the formula is a trade secret. But California law has finally pierced that flimsy shield, and as a result we now know just how bad this stuff is for all of us.
For years, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California, and other oil industry representatives have claimed that fracking is “safe” and causes no environmental harm.
However, a report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on Wednesday, August 12, strongly disputes these unfounded claims. The report reveals that the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing of oil wells in California contain dozens of chemicals that “are hazardous to human health, including substances linked to cancer, reproductive harm and hormone disruption, an EWG analysis of state data shows.”
Your can read the report and executive summary here: http://www.ewg.org/…
According to the report’s Executive Summary, “Under a 2013 California law (SB 4) requiring disclosure of all chemicals used to boost production from oil wells by fracking or similar methods, drilling companies reported using 197 unique chemicals in 691 oil wells from December 2013 through February 2015. The fracking fluids typically contained two dozen or more different chemicals.”
EWG’s analysis1 found that they included:
- 15 listed under California’s Proposition 65 as known causes of cancer or reproductive harm
- 25 likely to contain impurities of Proposition 65-listed chemicals
- 5 that the European Union has associated with an increased risk of cancer
- 6 associated with reproductive harm
- 3 linked to clear evidence of hormone disruption
- 12 listed under the federal Clean Air Act as Hazardous Air Pollutants known to cause cancer or other harm
- 93 associated with harm to aquatic life.
Fracking fluid is a mix of water, chemicals and sand that is pumped into underground shale rock formations under great pressure to free up trapped oil and gas, according to the group. After a well is “treated” in this way, some of the fluid flows back to the surface, usually picking up additional chemicals that occur naturally in the shale.
“In California, most of the wastewater is disposed of in underground injection wells or in unlined pits, some of them dangerously close to potential sources of drinking or agricultural water. An earlier EWG analysis found that fracking wastewater contains numerous hazardous substances, some at levels much higher than state drinking water regulations allow” (EWG 2015).
Nationwide, a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found nearly 700 fracking chemicals in use (EPA 2015a).
But the group pointed out that EPA relied on data from FracFocus. org, an industry-funded voluntary database that – unlike the California law – allows companies withhold information they consider trade secrets. FracFocus.org has repeatedly come under criticism for inaccuracies and lack of transparency (Hass et al 2012).
“Comparing the state and EPA data shows that some of the most hazardous chemicals are used less often in California than nationwide, but the typical California job uses about twice as many distinct chemicals as the national average. And because fracking in California tends to use less water than in other states, the concentrations of chemicals in fracking fluids are sometimes higher,” EWG stated. (CCST 2015).
The group noted, “All citizens, and especially those living near fracking operations, have a right to understand the risks posed by fracking chemicals. In the absence of a moratorium or ban on fracking, California should make public safety its primary goal, not increasing the production of hydrocarbons”
To accomplish this, the group urged California regulators to take the following actions:
- Assess whether less harmful alternatives can replace the toxic chemicals currently used
- Immediately halt the injection of wastewater into potential sources of drinking or agricultural water
- Support recommendations for groundwater monitoring in oil and gas areas and properly enforce the model criteria developed under the disclosure law.
Yet the Brown administration, just weeks after the recent Santa Barbara County oil spill by the Plains All American Pipeline Company, approved nine new offshore fracking operations off Southern California.
How is this possible? It’s possible because Big Oil is the largest, most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento and, along with corporate agribusiness and other corporate interests, has captured the regulatory apparatus.
No industry has done a better job of capturing the regulatory apparatus than Big Oil. The oil industry exerts inordinate influence over the regulators by using a small fraction of the billions of dollars in profits it makes every year to lobby state officials and fund political campaigns.
Big Oil spent an amazing $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by StopFoolingCA.org, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to “mislead and confuse Californians.”