New Federal Rules To Reveal Ingredients of Controversial Fracking Fluids Blocked By Judge

A federal judge has stepped in and temporarily blocked government attempts to require disclosure of the ingredients included in fracking fluids, which are injected into public land during the controversial gas extraction process. 

A stay was placed on new U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rules calling for data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing wells on public lands by U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl. The stay prevents the rules from going into effect until July 22.

The judge was petitioned by energy industry groups, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Western Energy Alliance, and four states; Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah.

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Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, involves the injection of a mixture of water, chemicals, sand and fluids, which the gas industry has fought to keep secret, into the ground at extremely high pressure, cracking shale deposits and freeing trapped natural gas, which can then be removed. Those fluids are then sucked from the ground and often disposed of in wastewater wells.

The controversial process has come under increasing scrutiny over the last several years, as it has become an increasingly popular method of gas extraction with the development of new drilling techniques and the discovery of large shale reserves.

Critics have linked fracking to a variety of environmental problems, including pollution of from groundwater sources and increased truck traffic, as well as other concerns that can reduce property values and may sicken nearby residents.

The energy industry and states relying heavily on energy industry dollars say the rules are unfair to drillers, while environmentalists and a number of lawmakers say citizens have a right to know what the companies are injecting into public land, and potentially into their water supply.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that some hydraulic fracturing has resulted in polluted water supplies. However, the agency noted that the problem was not yet widespread. It also noted that it lacked sufficient evidence to truly understand how widespread the problem may be.

Fracking Health Concerns

Environmentalists, a number of lawmakers, local communities and consumer advocacy groups have expressed concerns for years that hydrofracking presents a threat to groundwater supplies and the environment.

The state of New York decided to ban some hydraulic fracturing late last year, after a state study found questions and concerns regarding the safety of large-scale extraction wells.

State officials said that a six-year study’s findings indicate dozens of significant potential adverse impacts, and found that the risks of high-volume hydraulic fracturing outweigh any potential economic benefits. That ban is expected to be expanded following a final version of that report released last month.

Last year, a Texas jury awarded $2.9 million in damages to a family who sued a hydraulic fracturing company for being a public nuisance. According to allegations raised in a fracking lawsuit filed by the Parr family, nearly two dozen wells near their property caused a private nuisance, exposing them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered property value.

Recently, a number of studies have shown that there may be a link between fracking and earthquakes, suggesting that the intense pressure from the unidentified fluids can cause ground tremors violent enough to damage property and cause injuries and possibly deaths.

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