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In Response to EPA Subpoena, Halliburton Releases Website About Chemicals Used in its Hydraulic Fracturing Processes

By: Jessica Albin

On November 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) subpoenaed Halliburton for its failure to answer the agency’s request for information regarding the chemical contents of its hydraulic fracturing processes, and potential human health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

In conjunction with public meetings held from July to September, EPA issued information requests in September to nine hydraulic fracturing service providers for information regarding their hydraulic fracturing processes.  Except for Halliburton, every company timely complied with EPA’s information request or agreed to submit the information by December.

As a result of Halliburton’s failure to respond, and because EPA’s plan is to have initial results by the end of 2012, EPA subpoenaed Halliburton to submit information by December 1, 2010 regarding the hydraulic fracturing fluid it uses; data and studies in the company’s possession regarding: impacts of its hydraulic fracturing products on human health and the environment; process of hydraulic fracturing operations for natural gas extraction; and sites that use its fracturing fluid.

On November 15, less than one week after being issued the subpoena, Halliburton announced that it will publicly disclose information about the chemicals used in its fracturing fluids on a portion of its website it is calling a “microsite.”  The company stated as follows:

Halliburton has just made available new web pages to emphasize our forthright disclosure of the additives and constituents that are used for several typical wells in Pennsylvania. We believe this effort represents an important and substantive contribution to the broader long-term imperative of transparency.

While the initial focus of the additive disclosure pages is limited to activities taking place in Pennsylvania, where development of the Marcellus Shale is already well-underway, the Company is committed to continuing to provide hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure information for every U.S. state in which Halliburton’s fracture stimulation services are in use.

The New York Times has reported the new website shows that many of the fracturing chemicals are benign, such as the food additive guar gum, which is used in as a thickener in ice cream.  However,  several hazardous chemicals, such as microbiocide agents, are also listed.    Some environmental groups, such as the Natural Resource Defense Council, believe that the website is insufficient because it does not fully disclose information on a site-by-site basis.  Id. As of the date of this post, the website only included information on water and foam fracturing formulations in Pennsylvania and foam fracturing formulations in the Northeast.  The site does not include most of the information required by EPA’s subpoena.

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