More Frac Fluid Fears

While the oil and gas industry is attempting to rebrand some of its fracked gas as being more ‘green,’ and to spin ‘unnatural gas’ in a more positive light, yesterday’s newspaper stories reminded those of us who follow fracking of their long- running, and well substantiated fears about secret frac chemicals, while delivering a ‘gut punch’ of new worries and concerns.

We’ve known for over a decade that a large percentage of frac chemicals, ones which can be clearly identified by a CAS number (or chemical ‘fingerprint’) are endocrine disruptors and/or carcinogenic substances. Endocrine disruptors have led modern day civilization to situations like one fish with both sexes. Weird. Bizarre. And most families have been touched by cancer. Yet the oil and gas industry still gets away with loopholes that prevent full disclosure on ALL frac fluids, by hiding them under the “proprietary” label of secrecy. The groundwork for this ‘hall pass’ was laid back in 2005 with the so- called “Frac Act” or “Halliburton Loophole” we see here:

Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows: ‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION. The term ‘underground injection:’ ‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and ‘‘(B) excludes: ‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and ‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’. END QUOTE

Meantime, the industry leads people to believe that whatever toxins they inject into the ground, or those that return from the ground as frac waste, are nothing to worry about. We’ve seen repeated and ongoing spills, communication with old unplugged wells during fracking, and streams of fracking waste in volumes that most people can’t even get their heads around. We now learn, that even beyond the endocrine disruptors, radionuclides, carcinogenic chemicals, and a long list of secret frac formulas, those large volumes of fluids have contained “Forever Chemicals.”

In an earlier blog, “Artificial Turf,” I wrote about the concerns surrounding this family of forever chemicals that many people recognize as “P- fas” or simply the letters PFAS. As in non- stick cookware, and the movie starring Mark Ruffalo titled, “Dark Waters.” This group of chemicals has been earmarked not only by their persistence in the environment, but also by reports about their presence in most Americans’ bodies. Forever!

Just think how the term “non- stick” and the phrase “slick water fracking” combine into a ‘perfect’ marriage. It all makes fracking sense now!

For Pennsylvanians, these sorts of concerns become even more troubling when you learn how much fracking waste is going into public landfills, with the ability to gradually leach this PFAS and a host of other toxins into waterways that are public water sources. You can learn more about this ongoing concern in my blog, “Pennsylvania Fracking Reform.” Additional new concerns for groundwater are covered in the blog “4 Million Reasons.”

And to think, Pennsylvania Republican so- called “leaders” like Gene Yaw and Daryl Metcalfe continue their work to further relax environmental regulations for the fracking industry. Unconscionable!

So just what did the group “Physicians for Social Responsibility” (or PSR) learn from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request? You can read their full 34-page PDF report here.

The PSR Press Release begins with this:

Washington, DC
“A new report, released today by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), presents evidence that oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron have used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and/or substances that can degrade into PFAS, in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas in more than 1,200 wells in six U.S. states between 2012 and 2020. The report also notes that, due to the lack of full disclosure concerning chemicals used, PFAS could have been used in additional states and in drilling and other extraction techniques that precede the underground injections known as fracking. PFAS have been linked to cancer, birth defects, pre-eclampsia, and other serious health effects. Toxic in minuscule concentrations, they accumulate inside the human body and do not break down in the environment – hence their nickname, “forever chemicals.” Evidence related to the use of PFAS or PFAS precursors in oil and gas operations has not been previously publicized.” END QUOTE. You can find this in its entirety here.

  • Fluorinated benzoic salts
  • Fluoroalkyl Alcohol Substituted Polyethylene Glycol
  • Meta-Perfluorodimethylcyclohexane
  • Nonionic fluorosurfactant (and multiple misspellings of the same term)
  • Perfluoro-1,3-dimethylcyclohexane A variety of evidence shows that these chemicals are or could be PFAS and/or PFAS precursors.

I looked through an 8- page list of “Trade Secret/CPI Chemical Codes” for Pennsylvania which are further defined as “The following codes have been assigned by the organizations listed below for chemicals that they have registered with the PADEP Office of Oil & Gas Management as trade secret/confidential proprietary information pursuant to form 8000-FM-OOGM0132” but most of the names are so generic, or preceded by the word “Proprietary” that it was impossible to identify any specific PFAS chemicals.

It did, however, remind me that we really don’t know what the hell they are using in Pennsylvania, which is totally unlike the restrictions placed on every other industry in our Commonwealth.
We need more leaders in Pennsylvania who live and abide by their oath of office. For your sake, and for your family’s sake!

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