Fracking Companies Use “Trade Secret” Loophole to Avoid Chemical Disclosures

Monday, October 01, 2012

Whenever a company reveals what it has been injecting into the earth as part of hyrdraulic fracturing, it’s safe to assume that they have left something out of the disclosure.


In fact, about 60% of the time that fracking chemicals are revealed, a company has withheld some details, according to a review of disclosures by EnergyWire.


The publication found drilling operators kept at least one chemical a secret in 65% of fracking disclosures, citing the need to protect trade secrets.


Among states where fracking is widespread, Utah, which does not require disclosures at all, had the highest rate of companies withholding at least one ingredient (94%). Second was New Mexico, which does have some mandates on publishing fracking chemicals, at 84%, followed by California at 80%.


Companies with the highest tendency to kept chemical details secret were BP America Production Co. and Howell Oil & Gas of Texas, each of which refused to disclose every ingredient used in all of the cases they reported.


“It’s outrageous that citizens are not getting all the information they need about fracking near their homes,” Amy Mall, who tracks drilling issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told EnergyWire. “Companies should not be able to keep secrets about potentially dangerous chemicals they’re bringing into communities and injecting into the ground near drinking water.”


The disclosure of chemicals used in fracking has been the subject of an ongoing dispute, with the Obama administration trying to balance the concerns of residents who live near hydraulic fracturing operations and the lure of increasing the domestic production of energy. In May, for example, the Obama administration issued a proposed new rule requiring energy companies that engage fracking on public lands to reveal the toxic chemicals they inject into the ground…but only after drilling is completed.


Some of the more dangerous chemicals used in fracking are hydrofluoric acid (lethal dose: 1.5 grams), sulfuric acid (lethal dose: between one teaspoonful and one-half ounce) and formaldehyde (lethal dose: one ounce.)

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Hydraulic Fracturing: Two-thirds of Frack Disclosures Omit 'Secrets' (by Mike Soraghan, E&E Publishing)

D-FRAC Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Disclosure Database (Pivot Upstream Group)

Doctor Challenges Fracking “Trade Secrets” Medical Gag Rule (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Says Frackers Must Reveal Chemicals Used on Public Lands…but only after Drilling is Finished (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

What Chemicals are Used in Fracking? (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


Pedra 11 years ago
Jack is spot on about the impracticability of solar and wind power. I have a sbaaloit and we obviously love clean water and air. At first glance it looks like a great idea to have a wind turbine or a solar panel to power the batteries. Unfortunately they are just not cost effective. It is roughly twice as expensive to generate electricity for the grid via solar power contrasted with traditional electricity plants. Natural Gas is very clean and cost effective. It has the additional benefit of creating a lot of jobs. Solar power is not very clean when you look at the total picture. This is obvious when you see what it takes to produce solar panels, install then, and then see how little electricity they generate.I too was pretty concerned about the pollution however it seems that the issues were early ones that have been mostly solved. The issue is the drilling and securing of the well. If the well isn't properly done then some pollution can escape from the well casing. This is however not a problem unique to fracking wells. All wells, even water wells, must have proper casings or there is the possibility of cross contamination. Once the fracking is done the area that held the gas is well below the water table so there is no contamination from that. Lisa Jackson of the EPA, an enemy of fossil fuels, recently told Congress that there have been NO proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water. There was a study by Duke University and even though it had a bit of a negative spin, it noted that in Pennsylvania there are over 20,000 water wells drilled every year and regardless of drilling operations nearby, there was no contamination from fracking fluids found in any of them.Contamination is a valid concern but it seems that the impact is extremely small. Proper oversight is important but we can look to artic drilling as an example. They companies have taken extraordinary efforts to negate their impact and keep their footprint small. The record is good with very little impact. Sure, we can use the false analogy of the Exxon Valdez but that was one blemish and it had nothing to do with drilling. It was a drinking on board a ship issue. Natural Gas doesn't pollute if leaked and the fracking process itself is so far looking very safe.
K. Morgan 11 years ago
I have spent quite a bit of time researching the chemicals used in fracking and it seems like the only way to get any data in bulk form on fracking chemicals disclosures is from (D-FRAC). I tried the Frac Focus site but it will only let you have info one well at a time... and there are just too many well frackings for this. Some of the chemicals used seem benign, like guar gum, but others are known to be very toxic to the environment.

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