Image: Tom Corbett
Matt Rourke  /  AP
Mounted State Troopers watch fracking opponents as they protest during Gov. Tom Corbett's inaugural ceremony in Harrisburg, Pa., on Jan. 18.
updated 4/16/2011 10:04:46 PM ET 2011-04-17T02:04:46

Millions of gallons of potentially hazardous chemicals and known carcinogens were injected into wells by leading oil and gas service companies from 2005 to 2009, a report by three House Democrats said Saturday.

The report said 29 of the chemicals injected were known or suspected human carcinogens. They either were regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act as risks to human health or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Methanol was the most widely used chemical. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report was issued by Reps. Henry Waxman of California, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

The chemicals are injected during hydraulic fracturing, a process used in combination with horizontal drilling to allow access to natural gas reserves previously considered uneconomical.

The growing use of hydraulic fracturing has allowed natural gas production in the United States to reach levels not achieved since the early 1970s.

However, the process requires large quantities of water and fluids, injected underground at high volumes and pressure. The composition of these fluids ranges from a simple mixture of water and sand to more complex mixtures with chemical additives.

The report said that from 2005 to 2009, the following states had at least 100,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids containing a carcinogen injected underground: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and Utah.

States with 100,000 gallons or more of fluids containing a regulated chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act were: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Dakota.

The report said many chemical components were listed as "proprietary" or "trade secret."

"Hydraulic fracturing has opened access to vast domestic reserves of natural gas that could provide an important stepping stone to a clean energy future," the report said.

"Yet, questions about the safety of hydraulic fracturing persist, which are compounded by the secrecy surrounding the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. This analysis is the most comprehensive national assessment to date of the types and volumes of chemical used in the hydraulic fracturing process."

Online: House Energy and Commerce Democratic site

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Ruffalo speaks out against fracking

  1. Transcript of: Ruffalo speaks out against fracking

    MADDOW: the "Don't 'Sperse Me, Bro" t-shirt? "Don't 'sperse me, Bro !" One of the most frustrating things about the debate about chemical dispersants that we used on the BP oil spill was that no one knew exactly what the dispersants were. Even when we visited the LSU lab where the chemicals are being studied, monitoring their effect on the oil, in the lab, they were only labeled with letters and numbers. They had codes. Even the scientists were not allowed to know what was in the dispersants while they were studying them because it was proprietary information. It was some company's trade secret . The total amount of dispersants dumped into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP crisis was on the order of 1.8 million gallons and we still have no idea what that stuff actually was. Trade secret . Mama's secret recipe 11 herbs and spices and cancer, which brings me to the problem of lighting your own tap water on fire. This is video from " GasLand ." Watch this. Watch. Oh, geez. Yes. " GasLand " is recent HBO documentary about the process of hydraulic fracturing a.k.a. "fracking." If "Don't Frack Me, Bro" t-shirts do not already exist on one, I'm sure they're getting the printing press ready. Like BP dispersants, we have no idea why this guy's water catches on fire. At least, in a chemical sense, we don't have a 100 percent idea about it. Fracking is the process by which companies drill for natural gas by pumping a whole lot of water really, really hard into the ground. Included in that water is some magical, unknown, proprietary potion of chemicals that we're not allowed to know about. On an average fracking site, they're pumping this mystery stuff, like, 8,000 feet underground, a typical aquifer from which people their drinking water is about 1,000 feet underground. Any chance of things getting mixed up, poisoned and contaminated there? This brings us to the sight again of people lighting their drinking water on fire. Don't frack me, bro. Joining us tonight for the interview is someone who is known as an actor and a director and, increasingly, as an environmental advocate on the subject of fracking, Mark Ruffalo . Hi . Thanks for coming in.


    MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong about in the description of fracking there. You sort of know a lot about it.

    RUFFALO: No. You've pretty much covered it beautifully.

    MADDOW: Why are you interested in this issue?

    RUFFALO: Well, I happen to live in an area where this is going to be done, pretty mass industrial rollout in upstate New York . I am raising a family in Callicoon , New York . And I 've heard about this about two or three years ago. I started studying it. My study took me to Dimock , PA , where people had their wells poisoned. And you know, I saw it for myself and I saw that people really didn't have a voice. There was no one backing these people up. The local governments had turned their back on them and the state government. And I decided, you know what, for my family, this is my life . These are my neighbors. These are my people . I have to be involved.

    MADDOW: In upstate New York , like portions of Pennsylvania , any place where there is natural gas that's potentially locked up in shale, locked up in rock, that's why companies use this process.

    RUFFALO: That's right .


    RUFFALO: It's actually small pockets of gas that are locked up in the shale. And they crack the shale with such high pressures of water and chemicals that they allow the gas to percolate to the surface. And like you seen, these chemicals are ending up in people's wells . Gas is ending up in people's wells . And today, in Dimock , PA , where we see this happening, they have to build a seven-mile pipeline through the municipally because the entire aquifer in the seven-mile radius has been poisoned.

    MADDOW: Wow.

    RUFFALO: They have been using that water for 100 years.

    MADDOW: And this is the way the companies are getting access to the shale that they're doing to is by offering people money for the mineral rights on their land.

    RUFFALO: That's right .

    MADDOW: They're approaching like farmers and people who own any land of any amount, even small amounts of land.

    RUFFALO: That's right . That's right . And the desperation of the farmers who a big constituency is dairy farmers up there. They have been losing their farms. There's been 100 suicides of farmers, dairy farmers , in the last two years in America . We've lost 150,000 dairy farms in the last 10 years. So they can't make a living wage farming.

    MADDOW: Yes.

    RUFFALO: And because of that, they're being forced to lease their lands. And you know, no one loves water and land more than a farmer does. And so I see it as a two-pronged problem. So I've been working to you know, I love it for Tom Vilsack just to sign a $20 per 100 weight of milk, which is they make $14 a hundred weight of milk. That's $14 for 8.6 gallons of milk. It's crazy. It's $1.10 gallon.

    MADDOW: Yes. And so if that was if farmers were able to make more of a living off of the farming, then they wouldn't be selling out.

    RUFFALO: Exactly.

    MADDOW: Are you finding political allies on this. Are you hopeful that something will be done on this?

    RUFFALO: Yes. You know, Maurice Hinchey , who is the congressman of my area has been all front on this. He has the FRAC Act which is in Congress right now. And what it's doing is it closes the Halliburton loophole which has basically said that there's no regulation for this industry. They do not have to tell us, the 590 chemicals that they're putting in the ground.

    MADDOW: And that was passed in the Bush administration .

    RUFFALO: The 2005 Energy Act , Dick Cheney 's legacy to our country.

    MADDOW: Pump whatever you pump whatever you want in the ground. It's fine. You don't have to disclose it.

    RUFFALO: Pump it down there. Just pump it down there. And you know, I say you know, if gas drilling is so safe and there's no problems with gas drilling, how come there are so many problems with gas drilling? If you, people, think that what you're putting in the ground is so safe, then why don't you come into regulation under the Clean Water Act

    MADDOW: Yes.

    RUFFALO: And the Safe Drinking Water Act ? They've been fighting it tooth and nail.

    MADDOW: Would it matter I mean, in terms of the companies disclosing what they're doing with this stuff, to me, that's the most incredible thing about it, that they don't have to tell us and it is our drinking water . It's everybody's drinking water . I mean, really, it's one big aquifer out there. And all comes to all of us.

    RUFFALO: Hey, where I live, in the Delaware River basin that is the watershed for 19 million people. We have the cleanest water in the country coming into New York , Philadelphia , and parts of New Jersey . Five percent of our population. It could have their water poisoned or contaminated by this process and there's no way of regulating it.

    MADDOW: Amazing.

    RUFFALO: The Delaware River Basin Commission , who has been charged with keeping the Delaware River watershed safe, is on the fast track to begin drilling ASAP . They want to put 30,000 wells in there.

    MADDOW: You hollering about it may stop them from doing that. I'm getting the sense here.

    RUFFALO: Don't make me mad. You wouldn't like me when I'm mad.

    MADDOW: Mark Ruffalo , actor, director, and big-time activist on this.

Interactive: How 'fracking' works


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