Fracking Disclosure Efforts Breed SkepticismJun 21, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
The natural gas industry appears to be warming to the idea of fracking fluid disclosure. Recently, some companies have vowed to voluntarily disclose the chemical make-up of the fluids they use in hydraulic fracturing on an industry-sponsored website called Fracfocus.org. And just last week, the governor of drilling-friendly Texas signed a law requiring fracking fluid disclosure that actually had the backing of the state's politically powerful energy industry.
So what gives? Are frackers really coming around to the idea of fracking disclosure? Or is this new leaf just an attempt by the energy industry to head off tougher regulations at the federal level?
Because of a loophole in the federal Clean Drinking Water Act, frackers have no federal obligation to come clean on their fracking fluids. But as concerns over the environmental and health impacts of fracking have grown, some states, including Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and now Texas, have enacted disclosure regulations. The industry will no doubt claim that such state laws, plus their voluntary disclosure, make federal regulation unnecessary.
But environmental groups are saying not so fast. They claim that none of these disclosure efforts go far enough, and a national registry is still needed.
"Regardless of what state you live in, we think you deserve to know,” Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, recently told The Wall Street Journal.
The Environmental Defense Fund, for example, which at one time supported the Texas bill, did an about face after various changes were made that favored the industry. A senior policy manager for that group told the Journal that while the law is significant, it "is not the national model we'd hoped for."