Hydraulic fracturing is a process associated with deep natural gas extraction. Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and opens fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well.
Typically, 80 to 300 tons of chemicals may be used.
In 2005, the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Companies do not have to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, but independent scientists have identified volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. As such, the wastewater can be toxic and may cause various chronic health issues and contaminate the air, water wells or surface water.
The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (H.R. 2766), (S. 1215), introduced in 2009, aims to close this loophole by repealing the exemption and require the disclosure of the chemicals involved with hydraulic fracturing. This bill has not yet been passed.