We told you so. Voluntary disclosure by fracking drillers of the chemicals they pump into underground formations that may impact people's drinking water wells is not good enough — especially with mile-wide exemptions for "trade secrets."
But now a Harvard study says it: the FracFocus registry designed and operated by the drilling industry (and its close friends) fails to meet the public's rightful need for complete disclosure and accountability.
Today's technology can release huge amounts of previously unrecoverable gas and oil. Well bores are drilled horizontally into hydrocarbon-bearing shale formations, and then a cocktail of fluids are pumped into the well under tremendous hydraulic pressure, fracturing the rock. When wells are drilled and sealed properly, drinking water aquifers above the fracking zone may be unharmed. But lack of effective regulations, inadequate enforcement, and frequent blackouts on what chemicals are used leave at risk the health and property of people nearby.
The study, released April 23, 2013, by Harvard Law School's Environmental Law Program, concludes that the industry's FracFocus database "fails as a regulatory compliance tool" because it is incomplete and opaque. The study's authors say FracFocus hides the identity of chemicals used and lists chemicals that do not exist. The industry, with support from many states, has put forth the voluntary FracFocus system as a solution to public concerns even as it has lobbied against legal requirements that fracking fluid ingredients and records be publicly disclosed.
- "FracFocus Fails as Fracking Disclosure Tool, Study Finds,"  Bloomberg Businessweek, April 23, 2013, by Jim Polson.
- "Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws: Why the Voluntary Chemical Disclosure Registry FracFocus Fails as a Regulatory Compliance Tool,"  Harvard Law School Environmental Law Program, April 23, 2013, by Kate Konschnik, with Margaret Holden and Alexa Shasteen.
- "Fracking Disclosure Site Has ‘Serious Deficiencies,’ Study Says,"  Dallas Morning News, April 23, 2013, by James Osborne.
- "Fracking Trade Secrets Case Headed to Wyoming Supreme Court,"  Casper Star-Tribune, April 17, 2013, by Adam Voge.
- "Colorado Fracking Database Questioned by Harvard Study,"  Denver Post, April 23, 2013, by Mark Jaffe.
- "Fracking Hazards Obscured in Failure to Disclose Wells,"  Bloomberg, August 14, 2012, by Benjamin Haas, Jim Polson, Phil Kuntz, and Ben Elgin.
- "Bloomberg Finds Holes in FracFocus’ Database,"  NPR/StateImpact Pennsylvania, August 14, 2012, by Scott Detrow.
- "Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing,"  House Energy and Commerce Committee Minority Staff, April 2011.
- "EWG’s FracFocus Principles,"  Environmental Working Group, March 8, 2013, by Dusty Horwitt and Briana Dema.
- "State Hydraulic Fracturing Disclosure Rules and Enforcement: A Comparison,"  Natural Resources Defense Council, July 2012, by Matthew McFeeley.
- SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database. 
- FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. 
- Previous Stories: SEJ WatchDogs of February 13, 2013  and November 28, 2012.