Growing List of States Requiring Disclosure of "Fracking" Solutions
On February 1st, Texas will join a growing list of states that require drilling operators to disclose the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing processes. The pending rule by the Texas Railroad Commission mirrors other states like Montana, Louisiana, Colorado, and North Dakota which require disclosure of well-by-well data on the website FracFocus.org.
Since the shale gas boom began in 2007 and 2008, many major natural gas companies began to voluntarily disclose the ingredients used in their "fracking solutions" after public concerns that the chemicals used in the process were harming drinking water supplies. Hydraulic fracturing is performed after a well is drilled and involves injecting large volumes of water, sand or “propping agents”, and specialized chemicals under enough pressure to fracture the formations holding the oil or natural gas. According to the Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council, approximately 99.5 percent of the fracking solutions used to develop shale formations are comprised of freshwater and sand. The chemicals used that make up the remainder of a fracking solution have specifically designed and engineered purposes that are varied depending on the formation. For example, some are used to prevent bacteria from corroding well structures or can contain friction-reducing additives for proppants to more effectively target a particular deposit.
Yesterday the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story noting that the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, requires its members to submit their well data to FracFocus yet Pennsylvania law limits public access through their Department of Environmental Protection (although chemical ingredients are listed at well sites to assist emergency responders). This limitation has prompted some environmental groups to push for a national disclosure standard that sets up uniform requirements across each state, in addition to more federal oversight of a process that is historically regulated by states.According to the Pennsylvania DEP's website, all ingredients used in a solution are part of the permit approval process, are kept on file, and available to landowners, local governments and emergency responders that wish to view them in person. Advocacy groups in the state find this process frustrating and time-consuming because it requires scheduling appointments and other arrangements. States without an online database of industry fracking solutions will very likely encounter increasing expectations from the public of what constitutes "disclosure" in the Internet age, where access and information are constantly in demand.