Texas law requires disclosure of drilling cocktails

February 2, 2012 12:00 am

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Fracking is only one part of the drilling process, and disclosure of the chemicals used doesn't account for other possible sources of contamination, such as surface-level spills or poor casing on the drill that allows fluid to seep into underground water supplies.

Pennsylvania wells can be researched on FracFocus by county, well name and operator. A PDF file lists the ingredient breakdown of fracking fluid used at each site.

A Chesapeake well on Robert Smith's property in Washington County, for example, shattered the shale rock with a cocktail that was nearly all water and sand. The chemicals listed -- from gelling agents to friction reducers -- compose a minuscule percentage of the total fluid concentration.

Critics in Texas are especially interested in a provision in the legislation that requires disclosure on how much water is used at a drilling site. The state has been in a severe drought since 2010.

Mr. Smith's site in Washington used about 5.96 million gallons of water alone, or enough to fill about nine Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Meanwhile, the House Science Committee met in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to hear testimony on an Environmental Protection Agency draft report that concluded fracking to be the cause of groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo.

Jim Martin, who oversees the agency regional office that includes Wyoming, defended the EPA report but said the link between fracking and water contamination "should not be assumed to apply to fracturing in other geologic settings."

Besides, the focus on just chemicals or just fracking can obscure other concerns, one local expert told the committee.

Narrowing the focus to fracking's potential dangers can confuse a general audience that thinks "fracking" is a word used to mean an entire drilling cycle, testified Bernard Goldstein from the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

"To the public, however, hydrofracking is a general term that encompasses what the public is truly interested in -- which is any problems beginning with the time the land is leveled for a drill pad, until decades from now when the land, hopefully, is restored," said Mr. Goldstein.

Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.
First Published 2012-02-11 01:47:33
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