Suzanne Potter / California News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California has almost 50,000 oil wells and more than 4,100 gas wells – and a new report says federal law allows companies to use chemicals for drilling and fracking with virtually no health testing and then use confidentiality claims to hide basic information on what’s being injected.
The report, by the nonprofit advocacy group the Partnership for Policy Integrity, reviewed EPA records and found that health information was made public in only two of 99 cases.
Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel with the Partnership for Policy Integrity, says the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is too lax.
“Companies can claim the chemicals’ name confidential, same thing with the expected production volume, how people might be exposed to the chemical,” he states. “And that prevents people from identifying in some cases where the chemicals are used.”
The EPA has expressed concern about many of these chemicals, saying exposure can cause skin and eye irritation and be toxic to the brain, liver and kidneys.
Oil and gas companies say they comply with the law and are within their rights to claim proprietary information as confidential.
Horwitt says the EPA tests don’t take into account the possibilityof leaks or spills, and adds that researchers found that two of the chemicals of concern have been used in .
“We think it’s important that someone from the state of California or an independent researcher go to these well sites and make sure that these chemicals aren’t migrating into groundwater or otherwise getting out into the environment where they can come into contact with people,” he states.
Two bills are making their way through Congress that improve the rules on confidentiality and make it easier for the EPA to request more health tests.
But Horwitt notes that the bills still don’t require public disclosure of information about the chemicals or the health testing.
California does have a fracking disclosure registry called FracFocus, but companies’ participation in it is voluntary.