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Congressional report examines fracking mixtures


Washington, DC – A new report takes a look at the chemicals used by oil and gas companies in the process of hydraulic fracturing. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry has more on the lengthy Congressional report, released in recent days...

The report details chemicals used by 14 leading companies in the drilling industry. It breaks down the composition of the chemical mixtures used to fracture rock in order to extract gas from below the earth. The report was released by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Using statistics from 2005 to 2009, committee members say they found a range of ingredients in the chemical fracking mixture. Salt, coffee, and walnut hulls, just to name a few. However, the concern is over the use of things like benzene and lead.

John Conrad is the President of the Poughkeepsie-based geologic and environmental consulting firm Conrad Geosciences. He says in some ways, there has been an inordinate focus on the chemicals used in hydrofracking.

The criticism among those opposed to the process, particularly in New York, has been that industry officials are reluctant to disclose the mixtures they use at well sites. Industry officials have previously said that the only thing that varies between the operations of companies is the composition of that mixture.

The Congressional report, which first gained headlines this past weekend, cites 29 known or potential human carcinogens, which are regulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey called the report "the most comprehensive look yet at the composition of the chemicals used in the fracking process." He added that the findings should help the industry, the government, and the American public push for a safer way to extract natural gas."

Speaking last week with WAMC, Stu Gruskin, the former Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said that the biggest concern is not necessarily when the chemicals are used in the ground, but how they are disposed of.

Those calling for even more studies of the process of hydraulic fracturing have focused their attention in recent days on the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is preparing to finalize regulations for drilling within the boundaries of the basin. Commission officials recently received 30-thousand comments from those against the process of hydraulic fracturing within the basin. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday that he would pursue a lawsuit against the DRBC, if the Commission does not agree to a full environmental review itself within the next month.

House report on hydraulic fracturing products