• Public Affairs

  • ACOEM Supports Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act

    The Honorable Diana DeGette
    United States House of Representatives
    2335 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20515

    Dear Representative DeGette:

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) would like to thank you for your efforts to establish safeguards to protect the public from the potential health risks associated with the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing. We specifically applaud your role in the introduction of H.R.1084: the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act. As you know, the rapid expansion of shale gas wells, in conjunction with increasing numbers of reported health and environmental concerns, has led many to question whether the practice of fracking is safe in its current form. We believe your legislation takes the appropriate steps forward in addressing many of the concerns raised by those impacted by drilling in their communities.

    ACOEM, an organization of more than 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. In this vein, our members especially welcomed the language contained in the FRAC Act that would require proprietary chemical formulas to be disclosed to treating physicians, the State, or EPA in emergency situations where the information is needed to provide medical treatment. Additionally, we fully support the bill’s intent to repeal the provision that exempts the natural gas industry from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    While ACOEM on the whole supports the goals of this legislation, we do encourage you to consider the following:

    • ACOEM is concerned with the limitation of the disclosure provision to emergency medical situations only. Because of the very large number of people who will potentially be impacted by fracking, it is vital that a national priority be placed on studying its potential health and environmental dangers. To do this, occupational medicine and public health professionals need access to full disclosure in non-emergency situations as well.

      To achieve this end, ACOEM recommends that you consider an amendment to the Safe Water Drinking Act to include language similar to that which is found in Section 323(c) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III. The section is titled “Preventive Measures by Local Health
      Professionals” and it outlines a process by which “physician, toxicologist or
      epidemiologist” can request and obtain confidential information for preventive health purposes, i.e., not just for emergencies.

    • ACOEM would like to also raise an issue of practicability, specifically the requirement to provide “a list of chemicals intended for use in any underground injection during such operations, including identification of the chemical constituents of mixtures…” Our concern is that unlike OSHA, which sets minimum limits for listing chemicals on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) list, there is no indication outlined in the FRAC Act of the minimum presence the natural gas industry would be required to disclose. By no means do we favor secrecy, but a requirement for disclosure of de minimis levels of contaminants, etc. may not be practicable.

    Again, thank you for your leadership on this very important issue. It is our hope that we can work together to protect our communities by limiting their exposure to potential environmental hazards caused by hydraulic fracturing. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Pat O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs at 202-223-6222, should you have any questions regarding the concerns outlined above or this matter in


    Karl Auerbach, MD, MS, MBA, FACOEM
    ACOEM President