The Environmental Protection Agency subpoenaed energy giant Halliburton Tuesday, seeking a description of the chemical components used in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.
The EPA said it issued the subpoena after Texas-based Halliburton refused to voluntarily disclose the chemicals used in the controversial drilling practice, also known as “fracking.” Halliburton was the only one of nine major energy companies that refused the EPA’s request.
The agency said the information is important to its study of fracking, in which crews inject vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals underground to force open channels in sand and rock formations so oil and natural gas will flow.
The EPA is studying whether the practice affects drinking water and the public health.
“Homeowners near some shale field developments say fracking has made their tap water toxic for their families and that in some cases flammable gases have escaped through their spigots,” Reuters reports.
“Halliburton has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study,” the agency said in the statement. “As a result, and as part of the agency’s effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided.”
A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company was disappointed by the EPA’s action.
“Halliburton welcomes any federal court’s examination of our good faith efforts with the EPA to date,” said spokeswoman Teresa Wong.
Wong said the agency’s request, made in September, was overly broad and could require the company to prepare about 50,000 spreadsheets.
“We have met with the agency and had several additional discussions with EPA personnel in order to help narrow the focus of their unreasonable demands so that we could provide the agency what it needs to complete its study of hydraulic fracturing,” Wong said. Halliburton turned over nearly 5,000 pages of documents last week, she said.
Drilling companies have largely sought to protect their chemical formulas, calling them proprietary. Environmentalists are concerned that the chemicals, some of them carcinogens, will taint underground water supplies.
The EPA is taking a new look at fracking as gas drillers swarm to the lucrative Marcellus Shale region in the northeastern United States and blast into other shale formations around the country.
Fracking is exempt from federal regulation. The process is touted as the key to unlocking huge reserves of clean-burning natural gas.
Supporters say the practice is safe, noting that it is done thousands of feet below ground, much deeper than most water sources. They also point out that authorities have yet to link fracking to contaminated drinking water.
The EPA said in March it will study potential human health and water quality threats from fracking.
Source: AP News
With additional reporting by Raw Story.
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