In September, the Environmental Protection Agency requested that natural gas drillers hand over information about the substances they are using in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method that uses a high-pressure blast of chemical compounds, sand, and water to fracture rock and access natural gas reserves. The EPA asked nicely in its letter to nine companies, but said they were prepared to be less polite: "EPA expects the companies to cooperate," the letter said. If they don't, "EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study."
Well, eight of the companies have complied, leaving just one—Halliburton, the oil field services giant that everyone loves to hate—that has not turned over its fracking data. Yesterday, the EPA followed through on its threat to subpoena the companies data. Halliburton, the EPA said Tuesday, "has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study."
Halliburton said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that they are "disappointed" by the EPA's decision:
Halliburton has been working in good faith in an effort to respond to EPA's September 2010 request for information on our hydraulic fracturing operations over a five-year period. Because the agency's request was so broad, potentially requiring the company to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets, we have met with the agency and had several additional discussions with EPA personnel in order to help narrow the focus of their unreasonable demands so that we could provide the agency what it needs to complete its study of hydraulic fracturing. We have turned over nearly 5,000 pages of documents as recently as last Friday, Nov. 5, 2010. We are disappointed by the EPA’s decision today. Halliburton welcomes any federal court’s examination of our good faith efforts with the EPA to date.
Halliburton's reticence is perhaps related to the fact that, according to data released earlier this year, the company admitted to using 807,000 gallons of diesel-based chemicals in its fracking fluids, in violation of an agreement drillers had with the EPA.
The industry successfully lobbied to have fracking fluids exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005, meaning they aren't required to disclose the chemicals they use. But Congress asked the EPA to conduct a through review of the potential impacts of the fluids on drinking water, which the EPA is supposed to complete by the end of 2012.