AUSTIN – Today the Texas House of Representatives voted to approve one of the nation’s first requirements on oil and gas companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”). Hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling – a form of natural gas and oil extraction rapidly spreading across Texas – poses serious potential for harm to our environment and our health. Oil and gas companies inject water, sand and chemicals at high pressures deep beneath the earth, fracturing the underground shale rock formations to extract the gas trapped within. Blowouts and fires can occur at well sites, and drilling and extraction can contaminate the state’s air and water. However, the companies have largely failed to disclose what chemicals are used, in what amounts and at what sites.
“The dramatic growth of drilling using the fracking technique – often right in the middle of major populations – has caused many Texans to fear for the health of their families,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “This bill is a first step in addressing these concerns. Texans have a right to know exactly what we’re being exposed to.”
Anecdotal reports suggest that living near gas extraction sites can cause health impacts, although little formal scientific study has been completed to date. For example, residents of Texas communities near hydraulic fracturing gas extraction operations have reported strange odors and health problems including nose bleeds, rashes, burning eyes, breathing difficulty, asthma, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, severe headaches and blackouts. Several residents have developed rare cancers. In Dish, Texas, tests have found a variety of hazardous pollutants related to gas extraction and processing in the air, in well water and in samples of residents’ blood.
HB 3328 (Keffer) requires drillers of natural gas and oil to publicly disclose each chemical ingredient used in hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) on each well. Drillers will have to disclose on a public website all chemicals, including their volume and concentration, regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as hazardous materials. All other chemicals will have to be disclosed, but not the amount used.