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Report: Federal Law Lets Oil and Gas Companies Hide Data on Chemicals

A new study faults federal law for allowing oil and gas companies to conceal the chemicals they use in drilling and fracking.(metaphortagraphy/iStockphotos)
A new study faults federal law for allowing oil and gas companies to conceal the chemicals they use in drilling and fracking.(metaphortagraphy/iStockphotos)
April 11, 2016

HELENA, Mont. – Montana has about 4,400 oil wells and 6,700 gas wells – and a >new report says companies are hiding basic data on the chemicals they use – under the guise of confidentiality – and it's completely legal.

The report, by the nonprofit advocacy group the Partnership for Policy Integrity, says EPA records show that the agency often expresses concern about the health effects of certain chemicals used in drilling and fracking, but still allows their manufacture and use and does not make the testing data public in the vast majority of cases.

Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel with the Partnership for Policy Integrity, blames deficiencies in the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

"The law was passed in 1976 and allows chemicals to be reviewed by EPA with no requirement that there be any health testing on these chemicals before they're manufactured and used commercially," he points out.

The report says companies can claim as confidential the chemicals' name, the expected production volume and how people might be exposed to them, which makes it hard to determine where they are being used.

The EPA says exposure can have toxic effects on the kidneys, liver and brain.

Oil and gas companies say they comply with the law and are within their rights to claim proprietary information as confidential.

Horwitt says current EPA testing fails to take the real risks of fracking into account.

"The agency generally assumes that the chemicals never leak, spill, migrate underground or get into the air,” he states. “And those assumptions fly in the face of information documented about oil and gas drilling operations."

Congress is considering two bills to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act. But Horwitt says neither bill requires public disclosure of data on the chemicals or the health tests.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT