A list of toxic chemicals used by Ohio shale drillers must be available locally to governments, first responders and residents under a new state directive.
Ohio officials notified companies that a federal chemical disclosure law trumps a 2001 state law requiring producers to only file the information with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The state gave companies until Sept. 21 to begin complying with the federal law.
The guidance affecting the state’s growing hydraulic fracturing industry follows an April letter in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made clear Ohio’s chemical-reporting laws don’t supersede federal right-to-know requirements.
The letter came in response to a complaint by a coalition of environmental and community groups involving a January chemical emergency near St. Marys in Auglaize County.
The reporting change will benefit residents in areas of Ohio where fracking is much more frequent, said Teresa Mills, whose Center for Health, Environment and Justice spearheaded the complaint.
“They can go to their local emergency planning commission and ask for these records,” she said.
Her group, Progress Ohio and the Buckeye Forest Council have also called on the federal government to consider suspending Ohio’s authority to oversee deep wells used for disposal of the chemically laced wastewater that results from using the hydraulic fracturing method to drill for oil and gas. They cited a Youngstown-area businessman’s federal indictment for Clean Water Act violations and a spate of eastern Ohio earthquakes tied to deep injection.
The technique helps extract gas from the Marcellus Shale, which lies deep underneath parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.
The federal right-to-know law allows oil and gas companies to shield some chemicals from the inventories it releases as trade secrets. Among chemicals used in the process that may end up listed are: ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, a possible carcinogen.
A leader of Ohio’s oil and gas association said the meaning behind the state chemical disclosure law was to centralize and ease access to information about the chemicals used in drilling.
Ohio Oil and Gas Association vice president Tom Stewart said the new directive will make it more difficult for firefighters to learn what chemical hazards they might encounter at a shale well fire.
“We changed the law so fire departments could rely on the annual reports we make to (Natural Resources), which would be inserted into an emergency response website,” Stewart said.