Asking nicely didn't do the trick.
That’s what the Environmental Protection Agency found after it requested voluntary data in September from Halliburton and eight other companies for a study about hydraulic fracturing - a process for extracting natural gas that has triggered concerns about drinking water contamination.
According to the EPA, all the companies complied – except Halliburton. Today, the “voluntary” request became mandatory as the EPA issued a subpoena to force Halliburton to produce the information.
“Halliburton has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study,” according to an EPA press release. “The agency is under a tight deadline to provide initial results by the end of 2012 and the thoroughness of the study depends on timely access to detailed information about the methods used for fracturing.”
Halliburton in a written statement called the EPA’s demands “unreasonable” and said the “request was so broad, potentially requiring the company to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets.”
The company said it was “working in good faith in an effort to respond” and has already turned over nearly 5,000 pages of documents. “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.”
It’s the latest skirmish in a long-running battle over hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
Hydraulic fracturing is a process used to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. It involves blasting the formations with water, sand and chemicals to fracture the rocks and release the gas.
The EPA is concerned about what impact the blasting fluids may have on drinking water as the chemicals seep into underground aquifers.
As a result of the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the EPA was stripped of its authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Companies have also not been required to disclose exactly what chemicals they use in the blasting process. Some that may be used, like benzene and arsenic, are known carcinogens.
Congress in a FY 2010 budget report directed EPA to carry out a study on the “relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, using a credible approach that relies on the best available science, as well as independent sources of information.”
The EPA is asking the companies for information related to the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted.