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New analysis shows companies use secret fracking chemicals in most wells

Matthew McFeeley

Posted November 19, 2012

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A recent investigation by EnergyWire found that when companies provide information on the chemicals they use to frack wells, most of the time they keep at least one chemical secret.  Sixty-five percent of disclosures made by oil and gas companies leave out information about one or more fracking chemicals that the company claims to be confidential, according to the article

Many of the chemicals that fracking companies admit to using are toxic, carcinogenic, combustible, or all of the above.  But those are just the chemicals we know about.  Unfortunately, we currently have no way of knowing the risks posed by the chemicals they are keeping to themselves.  The public deserves to know about the chemicals that are being trucked through their neighborhoods, stored near their homes and schools, and injected at high pressure near their drinking water sources. 

Keep in mind that the article only looks at the wells where the companies have disclosed chemicals in the first place.  There are many more wells where we know nothing about what’s being used.  In some states, disclosure is entirely voluntary and it is left to companies to decide whether to disclose any of the chemicals they use.  Fourteen states require at least some disclosure of fracking chemicals.  But an NRDC analysis released in July found that, while there was fracking in at least 29 states, only two states require companies to provide factual justification to keep a chemical secret.  (See map below)  Most states leave it up to the company to decide if a chemical should be kept confidential.  That’s a loophole big enough to drive a truck through – a truck full of fracking chemicals.

These loopholes are just one reason why federal rules regarding fracking disclosure are so important.  The Bureau of Land Management has proposed a rule that would require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking that takes place on federal and Indian lands.  But the proposal must be strengthened to ensure full public disclosure of fracking chemicals.  For more on our take on BLM's draft fracking rule, check out the tag blmfrackingrule – we will be posting more in the coming days about how the rule should be improved.

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Vera ScrogginsNov 25 2012 12:32 PM

all loopholes and exemptions need to go for this industry. and transparency must prevail...

D TrahanNov 25 2012 06:05 PM

Just a thought on this. Many of the oil & gas operators do not have a clear base of information on the products beyond what OSHA requires. The service providers who supply the chemicals hold the keys to the information. The example in the article is for a product supplied to BJ Services who in turn supplies the product to the oil & gas operator. So there is a chain of information. Given the "trade secret" is for a surfactant its likely a non-haz sort. The two other chemicals listed, 2BE and MeOH are the elements in the product that create the haz classification from low flash point.

Just saying there is a gaping hole in the administration of the product. Having independent testing of a set number of criteria would help. In the example you gave it would not be needed since the two components listed are flammable and toxic to ingestion. The methanol is not an issue in the environment as its very biodegradable and actually injected in POTW systems to help metabolize waste.

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