The Obama administration announced its first steps on Friday toward what could be tighter regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has revived U.S. oil and gas production, seeking public input on whether companies should be forced to disclose the contents of so-called fracking fluids.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would gather public comment for 90 days on whether it should require chemical manufacturers to disclose what is in the fluids that are injected into shale seams to release trapped oil or gas, a technology that has transformed the oil and gas industry.
The so-called "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" came as a response to a petition by the environmental group Earthjustice under a section of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The act enables anyone to petition the EPA to initiate an amendment or repeal of rules requiring chemical testing, imposing regulatory controls and requiring information.
The EPA said its notice may not result in any formal measures at all, and it would consider non-regulatory approaches.
"Today's announcement represents an important step in increasing the public's access to information on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing activities," said James Jones, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
He told reporters Friday that the agency wants to use the process to learn what is happening at the state level and what voluntary mechanisms are available for reporting.