A Toxic Cocktail: Fracking Chemical Disclosure Laws On Today’s Agenda

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Mining and Energy Commission Discuses Chemical Disclosure Laws for Fracking

Environment North Carolina

Raleigh- As the future of fracking in North Carolina hangs in the balance, the Mining and Energy Commission, the regulatory body that will decide how fracking is regulated should it be allowed in the state, met today to discuss rules on disclosing toxic chemicals that are used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

“The use of toxic, and even cancer- causing, chemicals is just the reality of fracking,” said Liz Kazal, field associate with Environment North Carolina. “Disclosing what toxic chemicals used during the process will not do anything to actually protect the people of North Carolina from chemical exposure; the best way to protect our drinking water is to avoid pumping these toxic chemicals into the ground in the first place. That’s why we support a permanent ban on fracking.”

Fracking requires a cocktail of chemicals and water that are injected deep underground to release shale gas deposits. There was large debate among the commission about fracking companies reporting what chemicals they use during the process, including the anticipated concern from the public. Caught in the crosshairs was the tension between having chemical disclosure requirements that promote drilling and also elevate public concern.

“Chairman Womack had it right in this case. North Carolinians have a right to know the chemicals and concentrations of chemicals that are being injected under their homes,” said Kazal, “However, this information will not prevent any actual contamination or spillage that is often associated with fracking.”

This component of the drilling practice is but one concern from environmentalists about drilling in North Carolina. In other states where fracking is already in place, reports of high levels of water contamination and public health continue to surface. Last month, Duke’s Nicholas School released a report showing elevated levels of radioactivity in streams where treated wastewater from fracking is released. Cases like the recent Duke study continue to give environmentalists and other community members strong concerns when considering fracking in North Carolina.

“Will we see similarities in North Carolina if fracking is allowed to begin and the disasters that have happened in other states begin here?” said George Mathis of the River Guardian Foundation. “The Mining and Energy Commission has the power to ask the legislature to not require rapid approval […] Let’s take a more sound approach and make sure we know the facts, which are still being discovered, before we proceed any further down this road.”

In addition to discussion on rules, public comments were also heard from environmental groups, and land owners from Stokes and Anson County. Environmentalists and land owners alike expressed concerns of contamination of water sources, land degradation, and the pollution that fracking could cause.  Among the largest concerns were potential contamination of groundwater and the disposal of the high volumes of fracking wastewater that is produced from the drilling technique.

Due to the heated debate among commissioners, no formal rule on chemical disclosure was adopted. Instead, original drafters of the rule, led by George Howard and Amy Pickle, were instructed to revise.

The Mining and Energy Commission will meet again in early December to further discuss chemical disclosure, and is expected to complete and propose the full rules for the fracking industry for public comment by September 2014.